Rome I : Intro to the Eternal City
Friday, June 25
Our time in Riva del Garda was now over. Today, we were heading to Rome, transitioning from a mostly outdoors-focused set of activities to a few days of dedicated city exploring. We decided to take today easy (after many days of jam-packed action), and only give ourselves the objective of driving to Rome and arriving at the appointed time to our rental apartment.
I selected a rental apartment in Rome that was located in the very heart of the downtown. I felt it was important for us to be right in the center of things, both to allow us to soak in the sense of the place, and to serve as a convenient base for our activities. Being in the heart of downtown Rome, though, meant that there was no viable place for us to put our rental car. The solution to this was the Villa Borghese parking complex -- a large underground multi-story parking garage underneath the Villa Borghese park. It cost us 20 Euros per day, but it offered a relatively secure spot to leave the car and wasn't too long of a walk from there to our apartment.
It was another sunny and hot day as we made the multi-hour drive south from Riva to Rome. We deposited the car at the garage, then emerged from its shady confines at about 3:30pm, with a minimal set of luggage in tow. We were slightly late for our 4pm appointment with the person managing the apartment, so we hurried along busy streets and cobblestoned alleyways, and past all sorts of interesting looking sights and monuments. I think Pu had an especially tricky time with his hard-sided suitcase. Not something that is easy to carry / roll for one and a half kilometres!
In front of apartment door
Deep in the heart of Rome, on a section of Via dei Pastini -- a little pedestrian-only side street -- we arrived at our destination. The building itself was relatively typical for this area: a large, weathered-looking and orange-colored building, perhaps five or six stories high. An ornate facade surrounded a heavy wooden door with a knocker.
I called the proprietor of the apartment, who showed up within a few tens of minutes, and led us inside. The building was old enough not to have an elevator, and the apartment was at the very top of the building, so it was a five-storey climb to the top.
The apartment was a delightful little spot: Essentially crammed into the attic of this old building, the ceiling was angled, and held up by ancient, bowed beams. There was a decent-sized bedroom (with a jacuzzi tub, no less), a small living room, a tiny but functional kitchen, and a medium-sized bathroom. Oh, and a tiny rooftop balcony. The entire apartment was carefully fitted into the empty space of the attic of this building, and was therefore full of strange angles and nooks and crannys. It was renovated in a fairly modern style, though, with nice parquet floors, warm furnishings, and decently equipped. There was even a fully enabled high-speed wireless modem for access to the internet.
We spent a bit of time unpacking our stuff and enjoying the novelty of our new rooftop Roman apartment. Even looking out of the windows across ancient red clay roofs was a treat. We could even see the dome of the 2,000-year-old Pantheon from here, not more than 100 metres away!
We were fully settled in by 6pm or thereabouts, so we decided to head out into the evening and start seeing Rome. First stop was the Pantheon, since it was literally only a hundred metres or so from the apartment. The Pantheon, if you don't already know, is a fantastically preserved building of Roman antiquity. It was built in 126AD (actually, rebuilt after the original Pantheons of 27BC and 110AD had been destroyed). The Pantheon was meant to be a 'temple for all gods'.
It is a fantastic structure. It was the largest dome in the world for over 1,700 years, and even today it ranks quite highly in the list of concrete-constructed domes worldwide. The interior, with it's geometric pattern of square indents, is amazingly-modern looking considering it's antiquity. Equally impressive is the amount of original marblework that is preserved around the inside, below the dome. It's conversion into a church in the 600s had a big hand in that, and fortunately so. This place is a priceless record of the building techniques of ancient Rome.
Moving on from the Pantheon (we didn't spend too long here this evening: with this place being so close to our apartment, we knew we would visit here several times more), we headed off by choosing a direction semi-randomly. Choosing this way and that, we ended up heading in a northerly direction, past some Italian parliamentary buildings and the ancient Roman victory column of Marcus Aurelies, eventually intersecting with the Via dei Condotti, a very busy and fashionable street in Rome that is full of high-end shops: Armani, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Docle & Gabana, Prada, etc. You get the idea.
Column of Marcus Aurelius
Following the bustling Via dei Condotti led us to the base of the famous Spanish Steps, glamorized in many a movie and song. There was a large crowd gathered around something that was going on at the fountain at the base of the steps; this something turned out to be a film crew filming some sort of music video.
Towards the Spanish Steps
We climbed the steps to the piazza above, and then from there into the Villa Borghese park (Pu was interested in doing some park-walking). We stopped at the beautiful overlook down onto the Piazza del Popolo, then wandered off under the shaded trees of the park itself.
From the base of the steps
Finding of Moses Sculpture?
After wandering around in Villa Borghese, we made our way back down to the vicinity of our apartment. It was getting to be late evening, and our attention turned to food. We wandered for a bit, looking at this restaurant and that (there are so many to choose from!), but nothing in particular struck our fancy. Pu happened to be browsing through his 'best walks in Rome' book and noticed a recommendation for a small restaurant not far from where we were. The description promised excellent pizza and Roman dishes at very reasonable prices. With our patience waning and our appetite growing, we decided to try it out.
The restaurant, called Navona Notte, did actually turn out to be a wonderful gem of a place. Seemingly continuously busy, and for good reason, we had some amazing food at very cheap prices. The pizzas were simple yet excellent; Jenn and Pu had some mussel and pasta dishes that they claimed were superb, and I had a minced beef with rucola dish with balsamic vinegar (Straccetti all'Aceto Balsamico
) that makes my mouth water to this day. Navona Notte has a website, too, which you can visit here
With our brief tasting of Rome (both scenically and culinary) under our belts, we wandered back to our apartment, completing our day.
Click link to see larger map with detailed track and photo points
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet