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Making the most of a week in Rome!
(This is still currently a work in progress)
The Forum was the centre of Rome's political, commercial and social life. If you can drown out the crowds of tourists and employ a certain amount of imagination, you can really get a sense of life in the ancient Roman world. The ruins of the temples and buildings are spectacular and the beauty and craftmanship of the buildings with their decorative sculptures and friezes is overwhelming. This is a must see on everyone's intinerary. The top things to look out for are the impressive columns that remain of the Temple of Saturn and the Temple of Vespasian, The Arch of Septimus Severus, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, and the House of the Vestal Virgins (which houses some fantastic statues of the priestesses in varying states of decline)
A favourite and obvious destination for all visitors to Rome, and definitely unmissable! Commissioned in 72AD by the Emperor Vespasian, it was the home to gladitorial combat and wild animal fights. The ruined remains are awesome.
A must see for anyone with an interest in archaeology and Rome's early history. The Capitol was a central part of ancient Rome, a sacred place and home to the Temple of Jupiter. As well as the Capitoline museums which house an amazing collection of painting and sculptures, visitors can seek out the Tarpeian Rock (where traitors were executed by being thrown from the cliff), the statue of the She-Wolf in reference to Rome's foundation in 8thC BC, and can be rewarded with a wonderful view of the Forum below.
Legends on Rome's foundation tells us that Romulus and Remus were brought up here by a wolf in a cave, and archaeological evidence dating from the 8th & 9thC BC has been found on the hill, providing some support to the legends claims. The Palantine became home to the elite of Rome and the remains of the domestic buildings are still visible today. The top attractions in this area are the Huts of Romulus and Remus, the Domus Augustana, and the Stadium. Also look out for the rather impressive remains of a giant foot, and a fountain containing the sculptured images of two Sphynx.
TOP ATTRACTION: The Piazza itself is home to Bernini's fantastic Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), which is a star attraction in the area, especially so amongst those familiar with Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons. It is a beautifully sculptured piece with a huge amount of detail that keeps the beholder captivated.
The Piazza itself is home to a wide range of street performers and artists, and is a good place to buy a souvenir painting of one of your favourite locations in the city, especially if you're a dab hand at bartering. TOP TIP if you can't see any pictures/paintings of a location/attraction that you would like it's always worth asking the stall-holder. Nine times out of ten they have one in their portfolios that they haven't had space to display, and they'll go out of their way to find it for you!
LOOK OUT FOR: the San Luigi dei Francesi on the Piazza di San Luigi dei Francesi. The church houses three magnificent Caravaggio paintings dedicated to St Matthew in the fifth chapel on the left.
- The beautiful church Sant' Andrea della Valle on the Piazza Sant' Andrea della Valle
- 'Pasquino' another of Rome's talking statues on the Piazza di Pasquino.
- The Palazzo Altemps (part of the Museo Nazionale Romano) on the Piazza Sant' Apollinare which houses a wonderful collection of classical sculpture, including the Galatian's Suicide.
FOOD AND DRINK: The bars/restaurants directly on the Piazza are fairly expensive, but well worth treating yourself to for at least one meal time. A lot of the restaurants run lunch time offers of free glasses of Prosecco to tempt you in further. However, if you head futher into the streets beyond you will find some fantastic reasonably priced places to eat and drink. Try Da Luigi on Piazza Sforza Cesarini.
Completed in 1762 its sculpted figures represent the god Neptune flanked by two Tritons, each accompanied by a winged sea-horse. One sea-horse struggles against the Titons grip symbolising a rough and unruly sea, while the other is more docile and peaceful symbolising a more calm sea state. Once you've seen the fountain during the day, it is well worth going back to see it lit up at night!
On my last visit to Rome I stayed in an apartment in this Piazza and have to say it's one of the best areas to stay in. It's central location and bustling streets mean you're never very far away from any of the main attractions and good bars/restaurants. The Piazza itself has beautiful fountain in its centre.
The TOP ATTRACTION in this part of the city is the Pantheon, an ancient temple dedicated to "all gods", now converted into a church. It is also the the last resting place of the artist Raphael.
BEAUTIFUL CHURCHES in the area include the Santa Maria sopra Minerva, with a beautiful decorative ceiling, and an Egyptian obelisk and marble elephant sculpted by Bernini in the piazza outside.
LOOK OUT FOR: The Fontanella del Facchino (the Porter) a drinking fountain and "talking statue" (there are many of these around Rome, so-called as they were used as places to hang satirical comments of current events in 16th Century Rome).
- An Ancient marble statue of a cat on the first floor cornice on the corner of Palazzo Grazioli in the Via della Gatta (Cat).
- And the remains of a marble foot from an ancient Roman collossal statue in the Via di Santo Stefano del Cacco.
FOOD AND DRINK: The bars and restaurants directly on the Piazza tend to be very expensive, but if you head into the warren of streets leading from the Piazza you will find more reasonable prices and some amazing food.
If you're after some good Gelato (and who isn't?) try the Caffe Giolitti on the Via degli Uffici del Vicario. The variety of flavours on offer is astonishing (Champagne or Amaretto are particularly good!)
The Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square) is one of the most crowded and most visited parts of the city. In the heart of the square is the Fontana della Barcaccia, a fountain sculpted by Bernini in the shape of a leaking boat. Leading up to the Trinita dei Monti are the Spanish Steps, which are worth seeing, but somewhat over-rated in my opinion. Be wary of people trying to press roses and other items on you in this area, they can be very persistent so make sure you're firm with them!
The more exciting things to see can be found as you explore the areas immediately surrounding the Piazza...
- The San' Andrea delle Fratte on the Via Sant' Andrea delle Fratte which houses some beautiful sculpted angels by Bernini.
- Piazza del Popolo: A beautifully designed Piazza with an Egyptian obelisk at its centre flanked by Egyptian lion fountains, and two large fountains with classical sculptures at either side of the Piazza.
- Santa Maria del Popolo: Another one for the Dan Brown enthusiasts, it houses the Chigi Chapel designed by Raphael with a figure of death created in a circular floor mosaic, and a sculpture of Habakkuk and the Angel by Bernini. The church is also home to two more Caravaggio masterpieces: The Conversion of St Paul and The Crucifixion of St Peter.
- The Ara Pacis (Alter of Piece) on the Via di Ripetta which celebrates the Emperor Augustus and his victorious campaigns in Gaul and Spain. It is decorated with beautiful friezes depicting Augustus and his family.