Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rome: Day 1

On the morning of our first full day in Rome, we woke up with the sunrise and looked out of our new window to see the back wall of the Pantheon across the piazza. It was such a nice peaceful sight to wake up to.

After breakfast at the hotel, we set out on our first walk around the city. Before we had walked far, I spotted something that I remembered seeing the last time we were in Rome (4 years before) - a large building being restored that was covered with scaffolding and a photo of the building prior to its restoration, along with a large ad:

I suppose this is their way of helping tourists feel like they aren't missing out on any important sights while still making sure they are able to restore important historical places. I've never seen it anywhere else though. Have you?

A few blocks later we came to the Campo Di Fiori, one of Rome's most famous outdoor markets. True to the name, there were lots of lovely flowers for sale. I eyed them wistfully but we strolled on since it really wouldn't make sense to buy flowers when we would only be in town a few days.

Moving through the narrow streets, we passed by a trendy clothing shop, glancing in, I noticed that the shop featured 2 chandeliers that matched the one our good friends Julie and Greg added to their dining room last year. I guess that proves that both Julie and Greg and the owners of this shop have good taste:

Our first real stop of the day was at the Largo di Torre Argentina, a square in Rome that is being excavated because it features the remains of four republican Roman temples and Pompey's Theater. However, those were not what we wanted to see. We went to see the cats!

Since Rome has a large population of homeless cats, a place was needed for them to live. Thus was born the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. It is a no-kill refuge for homeless cats and it means that the ruins are home to quite a collection of adorable felines. From the outer edges we stood looking over the ruins and in the course of about 10 minutes saw at least 15 different cats doing all sorts of cat like activities. If you are a cat lover this is definitely the best spot in Rome. :)

We finally pulled ourselves away from the cats and continued on our walk around the city. Before too long I spotted this lovely example of fall color:

Soon after that we came to some ruins that we recognized from our previous trip to Rome. We had visited this site to hear a concert held outdoors in the ruins. It was interesting to be back during the daytime because we could see the building from a different perspective. Woodley noticed what I would have missed, the resourceful Romans had built modern day housing on top of an ancient Roman theater. In the picture below, the bottom two layers of columns are ruins and the top two layers are apartments. That must be a fun place to live.

I love the many different surprises and bits of history that are all throughout Rome, just waiting to be discovered. As we were strolling along a busy street we happened upon this beautifully carved bit of marble resting in the brambles on the side of the road. I guess there is just too much history and bits of carved marble to put them all on display in museums.

Eventually we made our way up one of Rome's many hills until we came out looking down over the Roman Forum.

Since we didn't have anything else on our schedules, we bought a ticket and headed down into the forum. It was fun to walk down the ancient streets and think about the illustrious Roman Empire. Unfortunately we didn't have a very good map or a guide book so we weren't quite sure what we were looking at. :)

Below, an ancient temple was converted into a church at some point in history. In the front you see the columns of the temple and in the back the church building which uses them as a grand front entrance.

Another nice view from inside the forum.

When we emerged from the forum we were both quite tired, hot, and hungry. Fortunately there was a nice sidewalk cafe nearby where we stopped for some lunch. It was pretty empty when we first got there but soon it began to fill up with all sorts of people wearing name tags that identified them as being from a variety of different countries - Saudi Arabia, Ireland, and others. We wondered what was going on but noticed that there was a big poster for a Food Conference on the skyscraper across the street. Later we learned that the World Food Summit was taking place in Rome during our visit so we think we must have stumbled upon their lunch spot.

I had an excellent Tuna Salad. Another amusing thing that happened while we were eating was that another tourist sat down at the table next to ours and ordered a beer. I guess he asked for a large size because very soon the waiter returned with a HUGE mug of beer. It must have been as big as two forties. Woodley and I looked at each other in amazement. The tourist seemed quite pleased with himself and set right in on it. But, by the time we left, he had only made  a small dent in the huge volume of liquid.

After lunch we decided to make our way back to the hotel via one of Woodley's favorite landmarks, a big fountain on top of one of the tallest hills (I have no idea what it was called). Along the way we passed over the Tiber and admired the fall colors.

We walked through some very cute neighborhoods on the way and I enjoyed seeing the laundry hung out to dry.

We eventually found the hill we were looking for and headed up to the top via a beautiful parklike trail.

At last we made it to the fountain! We spent a few minutes relaxing and admiring the view of the city before heading back down in the direction of the Pantheon.

I love the way the warm tones of the Roman buildings stand out against the beautiful blue sky!

The arcade at the top of this building was particularly beautiful!

On our way home we made one more, very important, stop: Giolitti's Gelateria This is one of Woodley's 2 favorite gelaterias in Rome and it's easy to see why. They have a huge variety of gelato flavors as well as a collection of delicious pastries.

As is the method at most Italian gelaterias, you pay at a small counter near the door before selecting your gelato flavors. Then you give your receipt to the man behind the counter and tell him your selections.

Interestingly, many gelaterias in Rome give you the option of having non-sweetened whipped cream on the top of your ice cream cone. I tried it once but decided I like my gelato plain. It was a bit odd how parts of the whipped cream froze onto the gelato over time.

As you can see below, some of the berry flavors are quite intense! The blackberry gelato really is almost black!

We emerged victorious! My cone (on the left) features chocolate and champagne gelato and Woodley's has apple and strawberry. They were all delicious!

From Giolittis it was a quick walk back to the Pantheon and Piazza Minerva in front of our hotel. This elephant, located in the middle of the piazza, greeted us each time we came or went.

Our hotel from the outside.

The elegant lobby!

After resting a bit we made one more outing - to a little wine bar and restaurant for dinner. In the case next to our table sat a huge wheel of parmesan (which Woodley is eyeing intently), it was probably 1.5 to 2 feet in diameter! The pizza was a similar size - well maybe a bit smaller. It was a delicious way to end our first full day in Rome!


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