Saturday, March 31, 2012
Our 3rd and final day in Rome! What to do?? Well, our primary goal of the day was to locate the Pantheon then head to Piazza Navona. We were warned by a few people that the Pantheon is a tricky little stinker to locate, which seems odd since it is a HUGE monument. But it is actually tucked right in to a bunch of the Roman side streets. Somehow with my superior locating/directing skills (sarcasm) we actually found it on the first shot.
The Pantheon was built in 126 AD and was first commissioned as a temple to honor all of the Roman gods, but was later given to the Christian church and was consecrated as a church in honor of Mary and the martyrs. The dome of the Pantheon is quite amazing. This huge structure with a large hole in the middle of the roof is apparently one of the best preserved buildings in all of Rome!
Inside are beautiful sculptures, memorials, paintings, as well as the tomb of Raphael. (see my first day on Rome for a smidge more on Raphael)
Also, the Pantheon is actually located in Piazza della Rotunda (seems appropriate) and has a gorgeous fountain out front and is surrounded by little cafes! It just seemed so Italian to me! I loved it 🙂
It was after we explored the Pantheon when we started to get a wee bit turned around, but honestly, it was not even a big deal. You make a wrong turn or two, but all the side streets seem so pretty and authentic, and you usually run into something cool that you never would have expected! i.e. the changing of guards. I wish I had a clue as to who these guys are, who they’re protecting and why, but I don’t, haha. I only know they’ve got some funny looking hats, real looking guns, and did a pretty official switcheroo.
We poked our heads in another pretty church that we passed, apparently it was Church Saint Louis of the French. I wish I had some fun fact or joke about the relationship between France and Italy, but I got nothing. Moving on, after a couple more turns we located Piazza Navona!
Piazza Navona is an open public space been around for centuries of course. In the center, many artists are posted up with their works. There are 3 fountains in the piazza. Right smack dab in the middle is the famous Fountain of Four Rivers. Fontana del Moro is at the southern end and the Fountain of Neptune is at the northern end.
I don’t know if you’ve read Angels & Demons by Dan Brown, but I really enjoyed it back in high school and *spoiler alert* the Fountain of Four Rivers is where one of the priests were found! Of course, we saw a bunch of other sites that were referenced in the book, but for some reason this one stands out most to me!
On the outsides of the rectangular space are all restaurants with outdoor seating. Hosts are literally vying for your attention and trying to have you sit down for a drink of meal any way possible. So of course we had to sit and get something 🙂 We actually chose which placed based on the red and white checked table cloth and it was a great decision. I had a latte macchiato while Coop just got a Coke and then we decided to split a pizza as well. Why not?
It was really neat to chat with the host of that restaurant. As he stood out front greeting passerbys, he would pick up on whatever nationality they were usually based on some context clues and knew greetings and basic phrases in at least 10 different languages!
We decided to wander around the shopping streets again with the hopes of hitting PIazza del Popolo eventually. Of course we did, but not before grabbing some gelato! 🙂 I’m not sure I’ve ever actually had gelato before, but man was it good. (I gave up all sweets for Lent, and gelato each day in Italy along with that darn custard were my only exceptions the entire season! Don’t worry, I prayed before and after haha)
We ran into a few more really cool buildings and obelisks in the city. Then Coop decided to get her portrait done by one of the artists mixed in with the street vendors and shops. It turned out so beautifully and in just 20 minutes! We were definitely impressed. Afterwards we made it to the other Piazza before taking a quick rest at the hotel before dinner.
We took a detour on our way to dinner to hit one more church I really wanted to see- San Pietro in Vincoli (The Church of St. Peter in Chains). It’s a much smaller basilica compared to what we’ve seen so far, but it still has some important gems inside. First, it holds another sculpture by Michelangelo called Moses which is another beautiful piece of art. Secondly, it holds the relic of the chains that had bound St. Peter while he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. Legend says when the chains were given to the Pope around 450 AD and he compared them to another set of coveted chains that had held St. Peter the links miraculously fused back together. The church was actually built after that happened for the purpose of storing the chains.
For our last evening in Rome, we went to another recommended trattoria from our hotel which was yet to steer us wrong! The small restaurant was so quaint, home-y, and authentic feeling. Our waiter was a riot. When I asked where the restroom was he lead me to a little pot relic in the dining area. He also introduced us to the cooks and showed us a fireplace in the back that’s over 600 years old. To top it all off, he made some pretty entertaining napkin figures 🙂
Afterwards, we took a bus back towards the area of Rome we had been the past 2 days to take the sights in at night. The Trevi Fountain all lit up is beautiful, as well as the Colosseum, the Pantheon and other columns. Piazza Navona was just starting to wind down from it’s hustle and bustle. We walked along some more side streets with restaurants and wine bars until we picked one to have our last drink in Rome at!
And that brings us around to the end of my time in Italy. We had a flight back to Vienna in the morning, only to have a practice at 3 that afternoon. It was a a really quick 3 days but so, so amazing- definitely the highlight of my time in Europe so far! When my teammates asked about the trip, the easiest way to put it was being awestruck every other minute, with some genuine eye-bulging jaw-dropping moments thrown in there. Even though we jam packed our days full, there are so many more things that I would love to see and do I and genuinely hope I get to return to Rome one day, as well as explore other cities in Italy. But all good things must come to an end and we were headed back to reality- or the gym really 😉