I have wanted to visit Rome since I was a little girl and first saw Roman Holiday. I wanted to be a princess like Audrey Hepburn was in the film too, but since I married a commoner and being a princess is off the table, I guess I’ll have to settle for visiting Rome (Just kidding, David). Being in Rome was a bit overwhelming. It is steeped in so much history and tradition that you sometimes have to pause for a moment to take it all in. My kids kept asking, “Is this as old as the Bible?” Mat, who is especially well versed in Roman history, was like a little kid on Christmas morning. He was so excited and his enthusiasm was contagious.
We stayed on the Vatican side of the river. David booked a great apartment called Mellini 39 B&B. Their staff was beyond helpful (especially after our car was broken into – more on that in a coming post) and the rooms were extremely comfortable. The boys were very excited about the large upright piano in the living room area. Our balcony faced the Tiber and we loved everything about the apartment other than the parking (which is atrocious everywhere in Rome – actually driving in Rome is pretty terrible. You feel like you are in a no holds barred Mario Kart race with way too many cars on the road, half of which are slipping on bananas).
Our first outing in Rome took us across the river to The Piazza del Popolo, which translates into “The People’s Square.” There had just been a large National holiday and the piazza had been set up for a large outdoor concert, so they were in the middle of cleaning it all up. Not far off of the Piazza was a lovely basilica that caught Dédi’s eye. San Giacomo in Augusta is a gorgeous Baroque style church in the center of Rome. It hadn’t been on our agenda but we’re all glad Dédi insisted that we check it out.
I really wanted to see the Spanish Steps, but they were probably the biggest disappointment on the trip. They’re extremely crowded and you can’t walk two feet without being harassed by bands of people trying to sell you something. The whole area surrounding the Spanish Steps was being renovated so there was scaffolding and caution tape everywhere. I’m glad I got to see it, but it wasn’t as grand as I had expected.
While walking from the Spanish Steps toward the Trevi Fountain, we stopped for a bite to eat. We found a delightful little family run restaurant with a sign that read: “Cucina Vini E Tradizione: Vendita di prodotti tipici.” The people were so friendly (they even let the boys feed their pet turtles) and we loved that we were able to watch the chef make all of our food. The food was so delicious that we decided to order one of each of the desserts on the menu (there were only four and we split them, so it isn’t as bad as it sounds).
The Trevi Fountain is definitely a must see when visiting Rome, especially for a cinephile like myself (what would Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita be without its Trevi Fountain scene?). The fountain is currently undergoing restoration and is surrounded by fencing. We were fortunate to see it without scaffolding, but there would be no throwing coins in the fountain on this trip (I missed getting my Three Coins In the Fountain moment!). We’ll have to save that for the next time we visit Rome.
As I mentioned before Mat gave us all quite the education on Roman history and he was really excited when we came upon Hadrian’s Temple (which he recognized without seeing it in the guide). Today only eleven of the original columns still stand along with part of the original wall. The columns have been incorporated into a building in the Piazza di Pietra which currently houses Rome’s stock exchange, the Borsa Valori di Roma.
And finally, to wrap up part 1, I bring you the Pantheon. You cannot visit Rome without seeing the Pantheon. Originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa and built by the emperor Hadrian it is one of the best preserved of the ancient Roman buildings. Originally built as a temple to all gods, it was given to Pope Boniface IV in 609 and converted into a Christian church. It remains in use as a church today and Catholic Masses are still celebrated there. When we walked up in front of the Pantheon, there were two men playing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” on an electric cello and an electric guitar which they followed with an encore of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven“. Dédi remarked that the songs were absolutely beautiful, which made us all smile since she has absolutely no idea who either Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin are. While we were in the Pantheon we all had one of those, “Oh my gosh! We’re really here” moments. It is something that we have seen in pictures and on film our entire life, but nothing beats being there in person! It is seriously breathtakingly beautiful.