Rome: A First Exploration

Rome, the Eternal City—possibly my favorite city in the world. Few cities can match the history, art, architecture and beauty—oh, and the food—to be found in Rome.

Getting here couldn’t have been easier. An hour and a half on the train, a short cab ride and 2,000 years back into the past. Check out the door to our Airbnb apartment:

And the inside ain’t too shabby:

We’re staying in the heart of the historic center, just steps from many famous sites. As we’ve done in the other cities, we set out to explore after getting settled in. First, Piazza Navona, which is literally a block away.

You might recognize Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers from The Da Vinci Code.

Next, we stopped by the Pantheon. This amazingly preserved building dates back about 1,900 years, and has been in continuous use since then (first as a Roman temple, and then as a Christian church from the seventh century onward).

(Check back later for photos of the interior; there were simply too many people when we got there.)

One thing I love about Rome is that there are about 900 churches. And so many of them house masterpieces of art in situ—on site, in the place where they were designed to be—that you can stumble on famous paintings or sculptures at random. Which is exactly what happened today.

As we walked, we passed several churches with beautiful facades, so I finally ducked into a random one to take a look. And there in a side chapel were three paintings by Caravaggio, one of which was a painting I had hoped to find on this visit (The Calling of St. Matthew, one of the first paintings I learned about in my first art history class). Such finds illustrate the magic of Rome.

A few blocks south, we came to Largo di Torre Argentina, a hole in the ground surrounded by busy streets and stores where ancient Roman ruins have been excavated. And not just any ruins; amongst them was found part of Pompey’s Theater, on the steps of which Julius Caesar was assassinated.

The tree on the left in the photo above marks the spot where Caesar met his untimely end at the hands of the Senate.

Someone left flowers for the fallen tyrant. Requiescat en pace.

The ghost of Julius Caesar is not the only one to call this place home. A colony of feral cats also lives here—so many that a group of volunteers have set up a cat shelter on site, sterilizing every cat they can get their hands on, and giving them food, shelter and veterinary care. My niece Kelley has to come to Rome just for this cat sanctuary.

Next on our exploration: Campo dei Fiori. Translated as “field of flowers,” this piazza becomes a flower (and food) market every day, though we got there too late in the day to see it. We did find Giordano Bruno brooding over the site where he was burned at the stake by the church in 1600 (for daring to believe that stars were distant suns with planets encircling them and other fanciful—and heretical—nonsense).

Oh, and spritzes. We stopped for some spritzes. Have I mentioned these yet? We’ve been enjoying them the whole trip. For those who live near us, these will be served frequently at our house all summer long. Yum!

And of course, the obligatory photo of the gelato of the day (with a magnificent backdrop).

We finished the day with a sumptuous dinner at Mimi e Coco, a tiny little restaurant directly across the narrow street from our apartment. I mention it mainly to make the point that there are little restaurants like this literally every few doors. And based on our observations, nearly all of them are packed. Clearly, food is a major part of the culture here, which we’re excited to experience.

2 thoughts on “Rome: A First Exploration

  1. JohnM March 24, 2019 / 7:12 am

    We were there in January 2013 and had a very similar and awesome experience. I got a really nice leather padfolio in A4 size in the Navaro plaza and it is still in wonderful shape getting use every single day. And the restaurants are all over and wonderful. Enjoy!


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