Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our Italy Trip: Rome (Day 2)

Rome, Day 2

On our second day, we did more walking, but on a relaxed schedule.

We started by visiting the Quirinal Palace, the residence of the President of Italy. The palace sits on Quirinal Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. Actually, we hadn't planned on seeing it, but stumbled upon it on our way to...

The Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius. The church's frescoes on the ceilings are beautiful, but the most interesting feature is the dome. Construction funds were exhausted before it could be built, so it was built flat and painted with an illusion to make it appear domed, at least from the entrance to the church.

Next, we walked to Campo de' Fiori, the "field of flowers." In the middle ages, the campo was a meadow, but was later used for public executions. Now, it holds a street market. We did some souvenir shopping and got lunch, then walked across Tiber Island to the west side of the river.

We visited Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of Rome's oldest churches. Apparently, there was a fashion shoot going on around the piazza. We patronized a crepe shop on the piazza and sat at the fountain eating our delicious treats. One with Nutella, and the other with lime and powdered sugar. We watched as they carefully placed each car for the shoot. Then we entered the basilica. The nave is lined with columns taken from the ancient forum. The golden mosaics in the apse positively shimmered. We explored Trastevere for a little longer, then crossed the river back to the east side, and walked Via Giula. The street is lined with the homes of aristocrats. We were there too early in the season for the famous hanging wisteria, but it was a fun walk nonetheless.

We made our way towards Castel Sant'Angelo, the "Castle of the Holy Angel," crossing the Tiber again at Ponte Sant'Angelo. Originally built as a tomb for Hadrian, the castle was later converted to a fortress, and was used for centuries to guard the Vatican. It received its modern name during the plague of AD 590, when Pope Gregory the Great saw a vision of an angel sheathing its sword atop the castle. The bridge is, appropriately, lined with ten angel statues. From here, we had a good view into the Vatican, but deferred until another day when we would have more time.

We made our way south again, to Piazza Navona. The piazza marks the site of the Stadium of Domitian. The piazza was filled with painters and street performers. We bought a few water colors here, and observed this gentleman practicing the art of...standing still, as if he were mid step while briskly crossing the street.

We headed back to the neighborhood of our hotel, passing unplanned by Area Sacra. Four previously unknown temples were discovered here in the city in the 1920's. Cats prowl the site. Did I mention we also ran across a cat in the Colosseum?

We made our way back to our hotel, and after dinner, we rested for the evening. We had covered a lot of ground!

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