Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rome day 2: We walked and walked and walked some more

I'll admit it, I apparently have zero sense of direction. That may have added about 4 kms to our walking today, but it was glorious.

After dedicating a full 12 hours to sleep last night, we made the decision to forgo our original plan of doing a hop on/hop off tour of the city and instead take advantage of the walking tours included in our Frommers guide book. It was definitely the right choice.

We decided on the Renaissance Rome walk with the full intention of then doing the Heart of Rome as a follow up. The majority of the walk took us along a quiet nearly deserted street, Via Giulia, that runs parallel to the Tiber River. What a gem.
Nearly every palazzo on the street was built 300 - 400 years ago and were homes of great artist and powerful families. Many were commissioned by the wealthy Popes of the day - I guess there were no vows of poverty back then. One particularly fascinating find was the church of Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte. The monks who lived here would gather the the unclaimed bodies of the homeless and prepare them for burial. Someone had to do it. I especially liked the skulls carved in the facade. No point in being subtle when you've got a job to do.

We eventually made our way to the Campo de'Fiore. My only regret is that we hit it on a Sunday - when there is no fresh food market. We did take advantage of one of the many restaurants and enjoyed the company of our lovely Scottish waitress (that was unexpected) at The Drunken Ship. The beer was so nice and cold and she even directed me to where I could grab a sandwich across the way and bring it back. I so admire people like her. She just decided to up and move to Rome for six months because she came for a visit and loved it. If you have children, encourage them to be adventurous.

We were completely taken by narrow winding streets of 16th and 17th century buildings. We'd be walking along streets with insane traffic and veer off slightly only to find the most quaint and quiet little havens with a fountain in the centre or a church with paintings by Carravaggio tucked away. Dave continues to be amazed and enthralled by how small the cars are.

Of course so much walking meant having to keep up our strength. So after we admired the architectual wonders of the Pantheon, we had our first taste of gellato. Caramel Cream, Strachiatelli, Baci and Capuccino - that's right, 4 flavours in one glorious waffle cone. Such magnificent yumminess. We enjoyed it while people watching on the step of the fountain in the centre of the Piazza in front of the Pantheon. It was interesting watching the difference in Italian parenting - when one boy got particularly whiney because his brother touched him, one "OH" from his father was enough to shut him up instantly. I'm going to try using that voice at work when I get back.

This is, unfortunately, where my sense of direction got us completely going in circles. A helpful police officer and one guy on a moped gave us pretty vague directions but we finally found the Trevi Fountain. It was incredibly crowded - I can't imagine what it would be like there in August. It's also not how I remember it as a kid. I wonder if I'm remembering another fountain altogether. It was still rather magnificent.

We knew it was time to call an end to our tour when we got to the Spanish Steps and we both said "Seriously? We're supposed to climb this f*&^ing thing?" We picked our way through the sea of humanity that were occupying the steps and decided to start our search for dinner. Thankfully at this point Dave's sense of direction kicked in and he got us going in the right direction. He later mused that he really appreciated how confident I was each time we set out. He's a patient, patient man. That being said, as I type this, he is downloading "Rome to Go" maps for his iPhone. "No offense," he said. None taken.

Tomorrow we're going to hit ancient Rome.

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