“All roads lead to Rome.” – Proverb
We are finally in Rome after a short 2 hour train ride from Sorrento!
Upon arriving in glorious, historical Roma, we check into the hotel. Tomorrow we are moving the hostel across the street, (The Yellow) but for tonight we are solo sleepers. We are in the neighborhood of the Termini Station which doesn’t seem at all sketchy like some paranoid friends suggested it might be. 😉
As became habit, we immediately hit the streets. We browsed our trusty Rick Steves guidebook and opted to do the recommended “Dolce Vita Stroll” self-guided walk followed by the “Night Walk Across Rome.” It seemed like the perfect way to start seeing the city, also it’s recommended to start in the early evening. Perfect, it’s about 5pm. The walks were fantastic! We saw so much more than we were expecting! This really cut down on our agenda for the next day. Rome has many freebie sights, like fountains, so a pleasant walk is a great way to start. I was also surprised how close together they all were!
Starting on the Metro in the gigantic Termini Station we jumped on the A line. I was disappointed to notice that Rome’s Metro doesn’t begin to compare to Paris’ or other cities we’ve been in. Rome only has two lines and while they hit most of the key signs, there are complete neighborhoods you have to transfer onto a bus to reach. So anyway, here we are in the overcrowded Metro (nearly 2/3 or the population loads on at Termini and also departs at Termini…this is also the only stop to connect to the opposite line.) We jump off at Piazza del Popolo and BAM…a live band! We learn it is Earth Day and Ben Harper is having a free concert in the square. We joke that it is because we required it. Yes, I demand a live band to be playing for me immediately upon my arrival in Rome! Ha!
As I look around me I am instantly awe-stricken by the amazing architecture…EVERYWHERE! Amazing churches…amazing obelisks…amazing fountains… amazing statues. Rome, the ancient center of civilization, the eternal city. Rome…is visually overwhelming. After popping into the baroque church of Santa Maria del Popolo (one of many grand cathedrals) we admire Augustus’ Egyptian obelisk and continue our stroll down Via del Corso with a little pep in my step to the beat of the live band playing.
While walking, I notice a modern Hyundai ad covering half of a beautiful cathedral. What?! It seems so wrong to me, but this is of course the modern world blending with the historical past. What else is Rome supposed to do, I suppose, when nearly the whole area consists of historical beauty? I was also appalled at a McDonalds sign directing one to the Pantheon. McDonalds and the Pantheon should never share a sign. It’s horrible! 😉 Strolling down the street filled with high-end retail stores that I can’t purchase anything in, we quickly come to the Spanish Steps. As expected it is filled with people. We take a moment to admire (knowing the next stroll brings us back here in the evening) and head back down the street to the Tiber River and then down to Capitol Hill. I recently read an amazing book, Roma: A Novel of Ancient Rome, so I am constantly aware of the events that happened on the same land I am casually strolling through…only 2-3000 years ago. Wow.
Following the guidebook trail, we step behind the controversial Victor Emmanuel monument made of beautiful, white Greek marble (why not Italian marble…who knows…but I hear it is frowned upon). I learn the eternal flame is still being tended to in this building. Very cool. Up Michaelangelo’s stairway, we admire more grand statues and step around the back. Here we happen across an outstanding panoramic view of the Roman Forum! I wasn’t even expecting this. Sly, sly, Ricky Steves! He barely mentioned that this is what you would see. Or at least barely mentioned how grand the view was. I’m stunned and could even see the Coliseum in the distance. I sat here for ages…imagining the Forum in its day, alive with activity and the daily hustle-bustle of a powerful city! I have dreamed of Rome forever and of seeing this remaining piece of ancient history. I am briefly reminded of a co-workers comments about her trip to Rome. Knowing I’ve dreamed of Rome forever, she still felt it was necessary to say all she saw was “broken stuff.” Stunned…I forbid her from ever again talking to me about Rome! Craziness! Ha!
Finally, we step away and head to the Campo de’ Fiori to start our Night Walk. We got a little lost on the way, but with the trusty map in hand found our way. We enjoyed a nice dinner (mmmm…more delicious pasta. I am eating it everywhere I can since I only have 3 nights left!) watching Rome come alive in the evening. In the center of the piazza, is the controversial statue of heretical Bruno. Nobody seems to remember he was burned alive in the statues exact location and young people gather and socialize around the monument. All around the piazza, people are drinking, eating and chatting in the bars and cafes. Musicians and vendors stroll amongst the crowds. I so wish we had squares like this in California!
After dinner, we continue our stroll, through Piazza Navona, noting Bernini’s glorious Four Rivers Fountain in the center. Piazza Navona is larger, but consist of the same merriment and leisure as Campo de’ Fiori. Across the way a bit, we stumble across the Pantheon in its nighttime glory! I’m stunned. The Palace of the Gods is even more majestic in person and I have admired it greatly in photos. It is so beautiful. I can’t say WOW enough. This building is the best way to really picture the Eternal City in its original marble glory. After staring for a while, not believing I am finally seeing all of this in person, we continue. As we come around the corner, I hear the gushing water of the Trevi Fountain. Shockingly, I didn’t hear the seemingly million people that surround it! The streets were quiet and calm until we turned that corner. (With the exception of a drunken man screaming that someone screwed him over or something. He was interchanging his shouts in English and Italian) Words cannot describe this gigantic fountain. I keep wanting to note the historical significance of all of this, but I must remember we all have WIKI and Google at our fingertips. :)We try to get some good pictures in the gaps of the hoards of people and move along. Back up to the Spanish Steps to end our walk. The steps are even more crowded than the few hours earlier. It seems to be the hangout for young Romans and tourists alike.
Back on the Metro and then the hotel, we are tired from the traveling and walking today, but decide to go out for a little bit. A couple of drinks, a kebab on the way home (apparently gyros and kebabs are the Roman equivalent to San Diego’s late night carne asada burritos and rolled tacos) and we crash while watching Sex & the City in Italian.
A very successful first night in Rome! I still can’t believe we saw so much the first day…unexpectedly!