A Travellerspoint blog

April 2019

Rome - The Eternal City.

Fountain in the old town. - Rome

Fountain in the old town. - Rome

Italy - My first trip abroad.

Rome holds a special place in my heart because it was the first place outside the UK that I ever went to. I went there in spring 1979, at the tender age of 14, on a school trip. I remember bits but not all of the trip. I remember the pensione we stayed in; I remember studying Italians to try and work out how to eat spaghetti; I remember loving strolling through the forum. I remember the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, I know I was disappointed by Navona Square, I remember visiting St Peter's and getting art drunk in the Vatican Museum. I remember our music teacher being physically assaulted in an attack by a gypsy woman. I remember four students being robbed at the market. I have always been a little wary of going back, because I remember it as magical and did not wish to revisit and be disappointed. For some obscure reason although we went to the Colosseum, I don't remember it at all!!!!!

Visit Two.

I experienced a sort of love/hate relationship with Rome this time. On the one hand it has so much to see and do. Several experiences stand out as wonderful; a visit to the non-­catholic cemetery to see the graves of Keats and Shelley; a stroll along the Tiber; a visit to Mussolini's former residence; the views from Capotiline Hill. On the hate side were the crowds and endless queues. We foolishly thought winter was off season, but Christmas/ New Year certainly is not. While there are many foreign tourists, most are Italians. They seem to flock on mass to Rome over the festive season. As a result the queues for the Colosseum, forum and Palatine Hill were so bad we just did not bother going. We had to exit the metro on one occasion, due to incredible congestion. The queue that snaked back and forth across St Peter's Square was so overwhelming we just looked at the church from a distance, turned round and left. At one stage I even uttered the immortal words, "Take me back to Hong Kong so I can get away from all these people!"

Future.

I would return to Rome; the overall experience was good, but I would choose a few more off the beaten path type sights which could be savoured rather than endured.

The Non-­Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

Rome was very crowded during our visit and one of the quietest, most peaceful and most interesting places we visited was the non-­catholic cemetery. You can get there by taking the metro B­-line to pyramid station. The cemetery contains the graves of several famous people. Two of the most famous are Keats and Shelley. Keats went to Rome when he found out he had TB. One of his brothers had died of this disease and Keats probably contracted it while caring for him. In Rome Keats lived with an artist friend next to the Spanish Steps during his illness, but he could not fight it and died. He requested that the words 'Here lies one whose name was writ on water.' be placed on his tombstone. His friends obliged but added more words to show the anger they felt at the attacks Keats had been subjected to by several critics. The friend who nursed Keats is buried next to him. Shelley died in a boating accident in which he drowned. His ashes were buried in the non­-catholic cemetery. He had apparently visited it before his death and stated what a wonderful, peaceful place it was. The inscription on his tomb comes from Shakespeare.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery. Poets' Graves.

There are several angel statues in the non-­catholic cemetery of Rome. The loveliest was created by an American sculptor, William Storey, on the death of his wife, Emelyn. His work, the angel of grief and despair, is an extremely moving sculpture. If you could take intense grief and turn it into a concrete image this is what you would create. This sculpture almost moved me to tears. I found a second angel of grief, a huge angel and many small angel statues, too.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Angels.

One of the things I liked most about the non-catholic cemetery in Rome was the little figures of people that appeared on or next to graves. Some depicted the deceased person; others I think depicted mourners at their passing.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Non-catholic Cemetery - Statues Of People.

The Pyramid Of Caius Cestius is located next to the non­-catholic cemetery. It was created for a magistrate Caius Cestius who died in 12BC. At the time all things Egyptian were fashionable. This pyramid was built in just 330 day. It is more than 36 meters high and 29.5 meters wide.

The Pyramid Of Caius Cestius.

The Pyramid Of Caius Cestius.

City Walls and Gates.

There is quite an extensive amount of city wall left in Rome. We did not investigate it, just passed stretches of it. This gate is now a museum. It is located at pyramid.

City gate. - Rome

City gate. - Rome

Circo Massimo,

We went to the Circo Massimo after visiting the non­-catholic cemetery. We got there by taking a train to Circo Massimo Station on the b­ - line of the metro. Circo Massimo was once the site of chariot races. Now it is just a big field. The Circo Massimo is one of the best places to view the ruins on the Palatine Hill if you do not want to go in, or as in our case, cannot get in. Address: Via d. Circo Massimo.

Hubbie on the Circo Massimo - Rome

Hubbie on the Circo Massimo - Rome

Circo Massimo looking towards Palatine Hill. - Rome

Circo Massimo looking towards Palatine Hill. - Rome

The Church of Saint Maria of Cosmedin. - Rome

The Church of Saint Maria of Cosmedin. - Rome

The Mouth of Truth - Bocca della Verita.

This sculpture is located in the courtyard of the Church of Saint Maria of Cosmedin. It is near the foot of the Circe Maximus. Legend states that the statue will bite the hand of a liar. When we got to the statue, there was a queue of people waiting to have their photo taken with it. Being of an impatient frame of mind, I just leaned through through the bars and took a photo between other people's shots. We also looked inside the church. It was OK, but not one of the more spectacular ones. Address: Piazza della Bocca della Verita.

The Mouth of Truth. - Rome

The Mouth of Truth. - Rome

The Church of Saint Maria of Cosmedin. - Rome

The Church of Saint Maria of Cosmedin. - Rome

Forum Boarium.

This area used to be the cattle market in ancient times. It is located near the Mouth of Truth and has two well preserved temples: the circular temple of Hercules Victor and the rectangular Temple of Portunus. Both are well­-preserved as they were converted from temples to churches.

The Temple of Hercules Victor. - Rome

The Temple of Hercules Victor. - Rome

The Colosseum.

We intended to visited the Colosseum. 12 Euros entrance fee which includes the forum and Palatine Hill, but the queues were so long we did not bother. Probably pre-­booking on line is your best bet for a visit. Instead of visiting we walked all the way round the outside admiring it from different angles. It looks different from different sides. It is also illuminated at night. It is possible to see the Colosseum and forum well without going in. We also walked up the free road on the Palatine Hill but while this gives you good views over the forum, you can see next to nothing of the Palatine Hill remains. Our best view of them came from the Circe Maximus. We had read in advance that it was OK to get tickets for the Colosseum, forum and Palatine from the Palatine entrance. However, at Christmas there were hundreds of people there, too.

The colleseum. - Rome

The colleseum. - Rome

The colleseum. - Rome

The colleseum. - Rome

The colleseum. - Rome

The colleseum. - Rome

The colleseum. - Rome

The colleseum. - Rome

The Forum.

I remember strolling the forum as my favourite part of my first trip to Rome. This time due to huge queues I did not go in. However, if you climb Palatine Hill you get a free view of the forum. You can also see it from Via del Fori and from Capotline Hill. Entry 12 Euro which includes Colosseum and Palatine Hill.

View across the forum. - Rome

View across the forum. - Rome

Looking across the forum. - Rome

Looking across the forum. - Rome

Looking across the forum. - Rome

Looking across the forum. - Rome

Trajan and Imperial Forums.

Sadly Mussolini built a road ­ the Via Del Fori ­ down the middle of the forum. As well as covering over various ancient remains, this split the forum in two. If you walk along the Via Del Fori from the Colosseum the imperial forums are on the right.

Trajan's Column. - Rome

Trajan's Column. - Rome

The Imperial Forum. - Rome

The Imperial Forum. - Rome

The Imperial Forum. - Rome

The Imperial Forum. - Rome

Capitoline Hill.

This beautiful hill is situated behind the monument to King Victor Emmanuel II. The square and buildings on the hill were designed by Michelangelo. The famous Capitoline Museum is located here. There are several statues here such as a replica of Romulus and Remus being fed by a she wolf, the statue of Marcus Aurelius (the originals of these are in the museum). There are also statues of Castor and Pollux and some Egyptian lions. At the back of the hill there are great views over the forum. To the left of the hill up a separates staircase is the beautiful Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli with its lavish golden ceiling. A choir was singing inside when I visited. Exit the church and go right and you are on the free viewing platform of the Victor Emmanuel Monument. Capitoline Hill is the smallest of Rome's seven hills but has always been very important. Several temples were located here. Address: Piazza del Campidoglio 1.

Capitoline Hill. - Rome

Capitoline Hill. - Rome

Statue on Capitoline Hill. - Rome

Statue on Capitoline Hill. - Rome

Statue on Capitoline Hil - Rome

Statue on Capitoline Hil - Rome

Romulus and Remus with the she wolf. - Rome

Romulus and Remus with the she wolf. - Rome

The Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. - Rome

The Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. - Rome

Inside the church. - Rome

Inside the church. - Rome

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II.

This monument has been likened to a giant typewriter and a giant wedding cake. It was built to commemorate the unification of Italy. It is unpopular because building it resulted in destroying several important sights and it changed the shape of the Capitoline Hill. You can go up to the top by elevator for 7 Euro. I got onto the lower free viewing platform from the Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. There were great views from here. The other thing we liked about this sight was it was a great landmark for finding your way. We encountered it every time we got lost and immediately knew where we were.

View from the monument. - Rome

View from the monument. - Rome

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. - Rome

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. - Rome

View from the Monument.

View from the Monument.

The Theatre of Marcellus.

These lovely remains lie across the road from the Capitoline Hill. The idea for the theatre came from Julius Caesar who had just defeated his enemy, Pompey, and wanted a building to celebrate his victory. The theatre was completed by the Emperor Augustus after Julius Caesar's death. it was called after Marcellus the son of Augustus Caesar's sister, Octavia who died young. The theatre was completed in 11 BC. It was more than 30 meters high. It could accommodate more than 14,000 spectators. Apartments are now joined onto the theatre. Behind the theatre is the Jewish area with many restaurants. Address: Via d. Teatro di Marcello.

Theatre of Marcellus at night. - Rome

Theatre of Marcellus at night. - Rome

Theatre of Marcellus at night. - Rome

Theatre of Marcellus at night. - Rome

Theatre of Marcellus. - Rome

Theatre of Marcellus. - Rome

The Spanish Steps.

We got here by taking the metro A­line to Spagna Station. On my first visit to Rome years ago I liked this area. This time I hated it. I hated it purely because it was swarming with people. We could scarcely climb the stairs at all due to the hoards of people sitting on them. Photos, unless taken at an angle, just show a mass of people. I know I cannot expect to have famous sights to myself; I don't expect to, but visiting here was really just a total waste of time. Maybe early morning is the time to come. Personally, I would never bother going here again. Oh and one more thing ­ plonked right in the middle of the sight was the ugliest Christmas tree I have ever seen. It did a lot to obscure the church at the top and generally just make the Spanish Steps even more hideous than they were. On the other hand, my husband claimed he liked the bustling atmosphere of the area, so it takes all sorts. Oh, the house where Keats was ill and died is on the Spanish Steps. It is now a museum. I did not visit, but would probably have been interested in visiting ( since we had earlier been to see his grave) if the Spanish Steps had not irritated me so much. Address: Piazza di Spagna

The least hideous picture I have. - Rome

The least hideous picture I have. - Rome

Nothing like the reality of the place at all. - Rome

Nothing like the reality of the place at all. - Rome

Keats' House. - Rome

Keats' House. - Rome

Fountain of the seahorses. - Rome

Fountain of the seahorses. - Rome

The Trevi Fountain.

We walked here from the Spanish Steps, but the nearest metro is Barberini on A line. Like the Spanish Steps, the fountain was drowning under a sea of people. However, unlike the Spanish Steps you could at least take a good photo of it by fighting your way through or using a zoom. Would never visit this again either, though.

Trevi Fountain. - Rome

Trevi Fountain. - Rome

Trevi Fountain. - Rome

Trevi Fountain. - Rome

Trevi Fountain. - Rome

Trevi Fountain. - Rome

Trevi Fountain. - Rome

Trevi Fountain. - Rome

The Pantheon.

The pantheon went some way to restoring my faith in life and interest in Rome after a very disappointing visit to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. There were lots of people here, too, but the pantheon is big enough to cope with them. Apparently the original temple on this sight was rectangular. The circular structure we see today results from restoration carried out during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 AD. The building was apparently an amazing feat of engineering for its time and should not be able to even stand up at all. The pantheon is a temple to all gods. Inside under the statue of the Virgin Mary lies the grave of Raphael. There is a hole in the centre of the pantheon's dome. Outside the pantheon was my favourite Roman fountain. The faces carved into it were wonderfully detailed and humorous.

The pantheon. - Rome

The pantheon. - Rome

The pantheon Square. - Rome

The pantheon Square. - Rome

The pantheon dome. - Rome

The pantheon dome. - Rome

Faces on the fountain. - Rome

Faces on the fountain. - Rome

Faces on the fountain. - Rome

Faces on the fountain. - Rome

Christmas Market. - Rome

Christmas Market. - Rome

Navona Square.

This busy square hosts a Christmas market during the festive season. There is a central fountain depicting the four rivers. Personally I thought it was rather hideous. I did however like the smaller fountains at either end of the square. There is also a large church here - ­ the Church of St Agnes. On this occasion we did not go inside.

Navona Square. - Rome

Navona Square. - Rome

Piazza Della Minerva – Elephant Review.

The beautiful church of St Mary over Minerva is located on this square. St Mary's church dates from 1280 and is Rome's only gothic church. It was built over a temple to Minerva. The church is stunningly beautiful inside. I especially loved the ceiling. Outside the church is a charming sculpture of a playful baby elephant created by Bernini. Address: Piazza della Minerva.

Bernini's elephant. - Rome

Bernini's elephant. - Rome

Piazza del Popolo.

This lovely square has twin churches and a fountain which is popular with people having their photos taken while sitting on its stone lions. I thought it was very pretty. It is very close to the Borghese Gardens. Get here by taking metro line A to Flamini Station. Enter the square through an arched gate. There is another church to your left as you enter. This was the only place in Rome we encountered rose sellers, but they were not too sticky and seemed to understand the word no.

Piazza del Popolo. - Rome

Piazza del Popolo. - Rome

Piazza del Popolo. - Rome

Piazza del Popolo. - Rome

Piazza del Popolo. - Rome

Piazza del Popolo. - Rome

Borghese Gardens.

These gardens are near Flaminio metro station. They make a nice change from perusing churches and ancient remains and are spacious, green and calm.

Borghese Gardens. - Rome

Borghese Gardens. - Rome

Borghese Gardens. - Rome

Borghese Gardens. - Rome

Borghese Gardens. - Rome

Borghese Gardens. - Rome

Flowers even in December. - Rome

Flowers even in December. - Rome

Largo Argentina.

Some ancient remains were unearthed at this site. You cannot enter them but can look across them. The remains are interesting and the site is also used as a cat sanctuary. The remains are part of an ancient temple and the Theatre of Pompey. Julius Caesar was murdered on the steps of this theatre. Address: Largo di Torre Argentina.

Remains in Largo di Argentina. - Rome

Remains in Largo di Argentina. - Rome

Remains in Largo di Argentina. - Rome

Remains in Largo di Argentina. - Rome

St Peter's Basilica.

Fortunately for me at least I had been to St Peter's Basilica and up its dome and to the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel on my first trip to Rome as a child. I say fortunately because we arrived at St Peter's to find a huge queue snaking and spiraling all the way across the square. It looked as if you may have had to camp out for days to get in. Needless to say, we did not.

part of St Peter's Square. - Rome

part of St Peter's Square. - Rome

My husband outside St Peter's. - Rome

My husband outside St Peter's. - Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo.

I believe it was originally built as the tomb of Hadrian then later became a fortress. There is supposed to be a tunnel to here from the Vatican. At any rate it is a lovely sight on the River Tiber. It was built in the second century and is now a museum.

Castel St Angelo. - Rome

Castel St Angelo. - Rome

Villa Torlonia.

We visited Villa Torlonia simply because it was near our first hotel and we were glad we did. The main house was once inhabited by the wealthy Torlonia family hense the villa's name. During the war the villa was rented by Mussolini. The most interesting site on the grounds of the villa is the Casina Della Civette or Owl House. The nobleman who owned the villa moved out from the main villa when Mussolini moved in. He occupied a building known then as the Swiss Cottage, but he embellished it with several motifs which earned it the name owl house. The house has lovely stain glass windows depicting owls, swans and irises. The rail of the bridge has lovely carvings of snails. There are ceramic owls on the outside of the house and a beautiful snake carving up a corner of the outer walls. We only looked at the outside of the building, but it was wonderful as we walked round we noticed more and more detail. The estate the villa is set on is quiet and non-­touristy. It has several follies. The only other people around were locals out for a jog or stroll. Entry to the grounds is free. There is a charge to go in the buildings which are now museums. Lovely and peaceful.

Villa Torlonia. - Rome

Villa Torlonia. - Rome

My husband outside Villa Torlonia. - Rome

My husband outside Villa Torlonia. - Rome

The Owl House. - Rome

The Owl House. - Rome

Ceramic owls on owl house. - Rome

Ceramic owls on owl house. - Rome

Owl House - snake. - Rome

Owl House - snake. - Rome

Snails at owl house. - Rome

Snails at owl house. - Rome

My husband by a folly - Villa Torlonia. - Rome

My husband by a folly - Villa Torlonia. - Rome

Stained glass window. - Rome

Stained glass window. - Rome

On the grounds. - Rome

On the grounds. - Rome

The Tiber River.

We walked along the River Tiber making a brief visit to Tiber Island with its lovely church then walking down the river towards St Peter's. I thought it was a lovely walk, passing lots of bridges, pleasant river scenes and although there were other people, it was mercifully uncrowded. Bliss. I would strongly recommend it as a way to restore your sanity when in Rome.

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

The River Tiber

Talking Statues.

Romans used to pin political notices onto statues to show their discontent with the ruling government. These became known as talking statues. We found the Madame Lucretia talking statue near the monument to Victor Emmanuel II.

Talking Statues.

Talking Statues.

Fountains.

I loved the little drinking fountains we encountered as we wandered around. Not only do they look nice but they are a welcome sight on a hot day giving you a chance to bathe your face or fill up your water bottle. They are all so different. Some have animal motifs; some depict people.

Fountains.

Fountains.

People Watching.

There were several people posing to collect money and others just spotting a photo opportunity while out for a stroll. Here's one of each. I was interested in both.

The Invisible Men. - Rome

The Invisible Men. - Rome

Charming family picture. - Rome

Charming family picture. - Rome

Here is where we stayed in Rome.

Mercure Roma Corso Trieste: Good location.

We got to this hotel by taking the train to the metro Agnese Annibaliano Station. The hotel was around 10 minutes walk from the metro. Go out via the escalator. Walk straight on. After crossing the road in front of you, go left past a permanently closed convenience store. After 8 minutes or so turn right onto Via Gradisca. Staff at the hotel spoke good English and were very pleasant and friendly. Check in was quick and efficient. We were given free city maps and a room key each. Our room was clean and comfortable. We had 2 free bottles of water each day. Tea and coffee making facilities were provided in the room and replaced daily. The room had a room safe but it didn't work, so we left valuables in a safe deposit box at reception. We did not eat breakfast at the hotel. The hotel provided free WiFi which worked well. Computers and printers were available downstairs. There were plenty of good restaurants in the area around the hotel. There was also a supermarket near the metro, walking away from the hotel direction. Near here we visited Villa Torlonia,­ former residence of Mussolini, which we enjoyed. There was also a nearby church, catacombs and interesting architectural district which we did not have time to see. The area the hotel was located in was interesting, uncrowded and peaceful. I would happily stay here again. It is easy to get into Rome's main tourist sights from here via metro. You are already on line B and can go straight to the Colosseum or Circus Maximus Stations. Unique Qualities: Nice quiet neighbourhood with uncrowded sights and good restaurants.

Best Western Blu Hotel: Friendly hotel.

We stayed in this hotel for 2 nights. To get there we took the metro to Tiburtina Station. Exit the station at the bus station, walk straight ahead towards the main road, go left on a road across the train lines. When you reach the houses past the station, cross the road and go straight down past the self service restaurant. Be careful, you run out of pavement for a while. The hotel is on the right hand side about 15 minutes walk from the station. You can also get here on bus 409 from the station. It is the 4th stop. The hotel staff were very pleasant, helpful and friendly. They spoke good English. Check in was quick and efficient. We were given a map of the area. Our room was clean, quiet and comfortable. We had 4 bottles of water in the fridge but they cost 2.5 Euro each. They were cheaper from the machine downstairs. We had a room safe. Kettles were available on request. We had our own so did not bother. Breakfast was very good. It consisted of coffee from a self­-service machine or freshly made on request, tea, juices, water, bacon, scrambled egg, boiled egg, toast, bread, rolls, cheese, cold meat, salad, cereal, yoghurt and cakes. I was very impressed. Getting into the centre was easy from Tiburtina. The only thing was the walk to the station was not so nice ­ busy roads, lots of traffic, but then there was always the bus. Check out was quick and efficient and they stored our bags for us, too. Free WiFi with good connectivity was provided. I would stay here again. Oh, there were some restaurants near the hotel and one in the hotel but we did not try them.

Posted by irenevt 19:52 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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