Day 2: Originally I planned to take the train to Orvieto for the day with a quick side trip to Civita di Bagnorregio, but I was in love with Rome! Day 3 we had reservations at the Vatican City, so today we could see a lot of what sometimes gets missed between Ancient Rome and Catholic Rome. I was ready with a Plan B.
Sometimes tourists get accused of just checking sights off their lists, but that’s not really fair. Yes, the travel guides LIST the sights, starring the most important ones, and rating them. Rick Steves’ has “Don’t miss,” “Try hard to see,” and “Worthwhile if you can make it.” As tourists, we have to trust the travel guides to point us in the right direction since we haven’t been there before and isn’t that one of the main reasons one travels to other cities? Yes! I wanted to see as much art and history as I could, but walking the streets, smelling, hearing, eating, and people watching are part of the equation too.
We started out our morning walking to Piazza della Repubblica and the church Santa Maria degli Angeli, designed by Michelangelo out of the ruins of Diocletian’s Baths from AD 300, and including 57′ tall red granite columns.
A few blocks later we entered Santa Maria Vittoria with Bernini’s swooning Santa Teresa in Ecstasy. Further along, we came to the Cappuccin Crypt decorated with the bones of Franciscan friars. It was interesting – and unusual. There was a sign: “We were what you are…you will become what we are now.” I enjoyed walking the quiet urban streets of the city away from the hordes of tourists. We boarded a bus to save a few steps and then got out to walk again arriving at the Piazza Colonna – the entrance into the Pantheon neighborhood – or the heart of Rome! Here workers were setting up some kind of event and we saw huge wheels of cheese. We were extremely self-conscious as we walked a street crowded with police officers – it was Police Headquarters. We meandered through narrow streets to the church of San Ignazio with it’s false dome painted ceiling, and Santa Maria sopra Minerva, where another Egyptian obelisk sits on a baroque Bernini elephant in front of a Gothic church built on the site of a pagan Temple of Minerva with its beautiful sky blue painted ceiling!
Entombed here is the body of Catherine of Siena, whereas in Siena we saw where her head is and found her thumb is in a different church altogether! It’s a Catherine of Siena Scavenger Hunt! Next up: the Pantheon, an 1800-year old building with it’s amazing dome.
Outside the Pantheon we lunched on a panino serenaded by a cellist and then wandered some more while snacking on Limon and Bacio (Kiss) gelati on our way back to the B&B for a siesta.
It took a good deal of time and we got a real taste of Rome busing to the Priscilla Catacombs, but I’m so glad we went, I found these Christian catacombs very interesting. Afterwards, I dashed out to see the beautiful mosaics of Santa Maria Maggiore! No photos allowed.
Dinner was a disappointment! Trattoria dei Pallaro is praised in both the Rick Steves’ guides AND 1000 Places to See Before You Die. 25 euros each – and we had potato chips? Oh well! The Night Walk was worth it from Campo de Fiori, around Piazza Navonna and the Bernini Four Rivers Fountain to see the Pantheon bathed in lights, finally arriving at the magical Trevi Fountain only to be shocked by the noisy crowd and smell of beer as if at a college keg party.
There wasn’t enough time to sample all the famous Dessert shops, Caffes and Gelaterias, but we had espresso from famous Caffe San Eustachio and tried Melon (a fav!) and Fig gelati.
Plan B turned out to be a wonderful, memorable day!