For our second full day in Rome, it was time for us to stretch out our legs a bit and explore some of the city’s main sights. Another spectacular day (something that would be a constant through two weeks in Italy) gave us perfect wandering around weather for some exploration. We were planning on starting with a visit to Piazza Navona but got off our bus a stop too early, made a wrong right turn somewhere and ended up on a bridge to this unexpected, stunning view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Sometimes misreading a map is a good thing:
We regrouped, walking through some beautiful back alleys to arrive at our intended starting point of Piazza Navona. This area has been a public square since the 15th century. Here it is from the northern end looking south:
One of the dominant features of the square is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and the striking Egyptian obelisk. The fountain at the base represents the four major rivers on four continents to which Papal authority had spread in the 1600s.
Just behind the fountain is the baroque church, Sant’Agnese. Also constructed in the mid 1600s, this was intended to be a family chapel for Pope Innocent X . Pretty sweet family church if you ask me. Inside the church there is a alter honouring Saint Agnes with her skull prominently featured.
Leaving Piazza Navona, about a five minute walk put us in the square in front of one of Rome’s most famous sites – the Pantheon:
The age of artifacts and architecture kept striking me on this visit to Rome. An aside – after leaving the Pantheon, my wife pointed out a newer building and joked that it was likely only 300 years old. Old has a completely different frame of reference in this city.
Back to the Pantheon…. Walking inside, you’re immediately taken by the size of the structure and of course, the hole in the ceiling. Although this place was built almost two thousand years ago, that roof remains the world’s largest concrete dome without reinforcement or secondary supports.
The Pantheon has been operating as a church since sometime in the 7th century. It’s a remarkable structure, and we spent about a half hour just wandering around inside while listening to a Rick Steves podcast describing the history of the building (highly recommended!)
After a quick stop for an espresso and to get off our feet for a few minutes, we made our way over to the Campo de’Fiori to visit the daily market contained in the square. This dense market gets torn down late each afternoon and the square becomes a place for a drink and people watching in the evening, all overseen by the statue of philosopher Giordano Bruno in the middle:
The market was pretty solid with a nice selection of fresh veggies and fruit, some touristy trinkets, cheeses, oils, cookies, candies… you could pull together a nice picnic from here:
We opted to walk back to our hotel rather than hopping on a bus, and it was a wise decision as it allowed us to walk past another of Rome’s almost uncountable monuments. The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II is Rome’s largest monument and I’m not sure the picture below does its size justice – it’s immense. This was built to honour the first king of a unified Italy, and by Roman standards, it’s brand spanking new having been completed in 1925. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this monument is not a favourite of Romans who have a couple of nicknames for this place including (roughly translated into English) “the typewriter”, and my favourite, “national urinal”. I think it’s pretty impressive, but would agree, it doesn’t really fit in amongst its surroundings.
That brought to an end a nice morning and early afternoon and reinforced just how much there is to see in Rome. A short walk had us back to our hotel for a well deserved mid afternoon nap to recharge for our later afternoon visit to the Colosseum, a place we wanted to see with fresh eyes and (possibly more importantly), rested feet.