After much delay (and procrastination) I’m pleased to deliver the fifth and final entry in my Italy 2018 travelogue series. Today’s post covers my family’s return visit to Rome, where we spent the last two nights of our trip before flying back to America. Enjoy.
At Venice’s Santa Lucia Station we boarded our train to take us back south to Rome. The ride was a bit over 3.5 hours and was mostly uneventful aside from the Italian scenery we passed by. Our train reached Termini Station in Rome sometime in the afternoon and we decided to walk to our hotel since it was nearby Piazza Barberini, which wasn’t all that far away from the train station. As we were walking along we came to Piazza della Repubblica and I remember we passed by some sort of political rally that was going on there. I don’t know if it was for a local or national political movement but there were at least two hundred people in the crowd and more people seemed to be showing up with each passing moment. By this time it was starting to get dark outside, though that was mainly due to the fact that it was the end of November, so the days were shorter than if we had been in Rome closer to summer. Not too long after we passed the political rally we arrived at Piazza Barberini and made our way over to our hotel. This is where we’d be spending our final two nights in Italy and it really did feel like we were getting close to the end of the trip. My sickness was still lingering at this point but I was thankfully on the mend.
That evening we decided to do a little bit of sightseeing before finding dinner. With our hotel being less than a thousand feet from the Spanish Steps we decided to start there. The road we took brought us to the top of the staircase where we spent a moment looking out on the rest of Rome. While Rome’s night skyline isn’t as bright or iconic as some other European capitals we could see a number of domes lit up, including the distant dome of St Peter’s Basilica. We made our way down the steps to the plaza at the bottom and the Barcaccia Fountain where crowds tend to gather. Since it was a Friday night there were a fair amount of people at the steps and I couldn’t get a clean shot of the Barcaccia Fountain but it was still nice to be walking around Rome that night.
From there we started down Via dei Condotti, which now featured some overhanging lights that hadn’t been there two weeks earlier when we first arrived in Rome. The street was pedestrianized that night and we mingled with the crowds as we steadily walked along and window-shopped the various stores on the street. We continued along until we got to Via del Corso, where we turned south. In the distance we could see the massive white Victor Emmanuel II monument at the far end of the street. Around the area with the Marcus Aurelius Column the pedestrian part of Via del Corso ended and we turned left and cut through a shopping mall to get to Trevi Fountain, where we’d do our last bit of sightseeing that night.
By day or by night Trevi Fountain is always worth a visit, even with the crowds. After taking some photos my mom and I managed to snag seats at the edge of the fountain and we partook of the old tradition of throwing a coin over our shoulders into the fountain. Doing so is supposed to bring you luck and ensure that you’ll one day return to the Eternal City. Interestingly, all the coins that people throw into Trevi Fountain are collected each night and are used to fund a local charity that helps feed the city’s poor population.
We then made our way back towards the hotel. Before getting there we stopped for dinner at a pizza place on Piazza Barberini. I remember that we ordered our meal on the ground level and then got window seats on the upper level where we could watch the traffic circling the piazza below. Afterwards we crossed the street to the center of the piazza and got a closer look at the Fontana del Tritone that’s in the middle of it. This fountain is yet another masterpiece of famed sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini and was finished in 1643. Because of its location the Fontana del Tritone doesn’t get as much attention as other fountains in Rome but on the plus side this means you can usually get a mostly clean photo of it with hardly any other people in the shot. Once we were done checking out the fountain we returned to the hotel for the night.
The next morning we had breakfast at in our hotel’s lobby before setting out for the day. The breakfast offerings were surprisingly good and I ate a lot that morning—including eggs, waffles, fruit, toast, meat, and other things. Because we would be leaving very early in the morning the next day this would unfortunately be the only time we got to enjoy out hotel’s breakfast.
On our final day in Rome we decided to do one last tour of the city on foot and revisit places we had seen during our first stay. We started again at the Spanish Steps. Unlike our previous time in Rome, the sun was piercing through the clouds and the colors of the buildings around the steps were really coming out. Better weather of course meant that the tourist crowds were back again, and there were a lot of people out and about the city that day. We came down the steps to the piazza with the Barcaccia Fountain, from which you can actually see all the way up the street to the obelisk of Piazza del Popolo. We then started moving west towards the Tiber River, stopping at a convenience store along the way to buy some sandwiches for lunch.
We arrived at the Tiber River at the spot with the Museo dell’ Ara Pacis (museum of the Altar of Peace). This museum is one of the very few modern buildings in central Rome and looks kind of out of place compared to the rest of the city. Because most of Rome is a gigantic historic zone it’s nearly impossible to build new structures there. This is also why Rome’s metro network isn’t as extensive as the ones you find in Paris, Barcelona, or other major Western European cities. If the city ever tried to dig new tunnels they’d inevitably hit Roman ruins and have to stop for months (or years) while archeologists worked on them. We didn’t go inside the museum but checked out the exterior and also paid a quick visit to the neighboring Mausoleum of Augustus. Rome’s first emperor was buried in this mausoleum and after the Western Roman Empire collapsed it was used for a number of purposes including as a castle, a garden, and even a concert hall. The mausoleum unfortunately was not as well maintained as some other Roman structures in the city and has been deteriorating for centuries but right now restoration work is being done on it and a sign on the fence around the mausoleum said that it would be opening up to the public within a few years.
Once we were done with the mausoleum we crossed the Ponte Cavour Bridge and went down to the banks of the Tiber. We proceeded to walk a short distance downriver to the next bridge. Walking the Tiber River isn’t as scenic as walking along the Seine or the Thames and most people in Rome seem to just ignore the Tiber, which is understandable since the river is sunk far enough below street level that it’s easy to not even notice it. The nice part about walking along the Tiber is that it gets you away from Rome’s traffic for a little bit and I imagine the city’s runners enjoy having a place where they can exercise without having to dodge cars and mopeds.
We went back up to street level next to the Italian Supreme Court building and then continued along downstream until we got to the area around Castel Sant’Angelo. A bunch of booksellers had set up stalls in the park directly east of the castle and outside a nearby courthouse there was some sort of TV of movie being filmed. I don’t know what exactly they were filming but I’m guessing it was some sort of legal drama. A small crowd of extras was playing the roles of protestors outside the courthouse. We stopped to eat our sandwiches on the benches next to Castel Sant’Angelo and then crossed Ponte Sant’Angelo to the other side of the river. This pedestrian bridge might be the most photogenic one in Rome because it’s got a dozen or so angel statues on it and it offers a great view of Castel Sant’Angelo. It can get crowded, however, and it’s often full of people trying to sell stuff to the tourist crowd.
Back on the other side of the Tiber, we proceeded on to Piazza Navona, my favorite square in Rome. Just like with the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona looks way better in the sun than it does on cloudy days and the Fontana dei Fiumi somehow seemed more lively than normal. Though I would have preferred to have had better weather during our first stay in Rome I was grateful that my parents at the very least were finally getting to experience some of Rome’s best spots during this second time in the city. We spent a few minutes looking around Piazza Navona before moving on and continuing east.
Our path led us to the Pantheon. Regardless of how many times you’ve stopped by the Pantheon in the past a visit there never gets old, and there’s no charge to get in so it’s easily one of the top attractions in Rome. The pews inside are also a great place to take a break if you’re feeling taxed from sightseeing all day. With no rain coming down that day, I was able to get a better shot looking upward into the oculus of the dome and I got some got photos of the outside too. Getting a good photo of the Pantheon’s interior is difficult, however, because of its circular shape. You probably need a fisheye lens to do it justice.
Next we continued east and passed through Piazza di Pietra. On the square is a set of eleven Corinthian columns that were part of a temple that used to stand there. These days the columns are part of the facade of a conference center. One of the things that makes Rome an interesting place is that ancient ruins are scattered all over the city and sometimes they’re just standing around next to more modern buildings. Back in 2012 I remember walking around southeastern Rome and coming across what appeared to be the remains of an old Roman arch that was just hanging out in a parking lot. I imagine that if you live in Rome you just get used to stuff like this but for visitors like me its striking to see the ancient and the modern mixed together like that.
Soon we were back at Via del Corso and this time we followed it all the way south to Piazza Venezia and the Victor Emmanuel II Monument. We went up and inside the monument, though before doing anything else we stopped to use the restrooms. Then we headed up some more stairs to the highest place that was open to the public. We could have paid to use the elevator to go to the very top of the monument but the view from the free area was good enough that we didn’t feel the need to do so. From up there we could see the dome of St Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon dome in one direction, and the ruins of the Colosseum and Roman Forum in another direction. Trajan’s Market is right nearby the monument so we had a good view of that and we could see a long ways down Via del Corso, though we couldn’t quite see all the way to Piazza del Popolo. When we came down the monument we stopped briefly at some of the ruins on the west side. The construction Victor Emmanuel II Monument in the early 1900s resulted in the destruction of a cluster of Roman and medieval structures and these ruins are what remain of the buildings that used to be on this side of the hill.
It was sometime in the afternoon when we left Piazza Venezia and we decided we’d head back to Campo de’ Fiori, which was the area we’d stayed in during our first time in Rome. The daily market there was mostly wrapped up when we arrived but there were still some tables still set up and people selling things. My dad wanted to take a quick look at the French Embassy that’s right nearby Campo de’ Fiori and we snapped a photo of it before leaving the area. As we were leaving Campo de’ Fiori I noticed a bicycle with a basket full of flowers. I’m not sure what it was there for but somehow it seemed almost Hollywood-esque.
By this time we needed to be heading back towards the hotel so we first made the trek back to Trevi Fountain. The crowds were thick at the fountain and we didn’t stick around long. Since we had already done the coin-tossing ceremony the previous night it felt like there was no need to linger. Soon we were back at the Spanish Steps, which we climbed and then we proceeded back to the hotel. It hadn’t gotten dark quite yet but we needed to take a break from a long day of walking.
For dinner that night we went out to a restaurant just a little bit east of Trevi Fountain. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but it turned out to be a good meal and we had great timing on when we arrived there. Not long after we were seated the restaurant filled up and we would have had to wait (or go somewhere else) had we arrived later. After dinner we got some ice cream at an ice cream shop nearby but it unfortunately was only so-so. We then made our way towards the hotel. Back at Piazza Barberini we saw that a large menorah had been set up close to the Fontana del Tritone. I couldn’t help but notice that a pair of soldiers had been deployed to guard it. Antisemitism has been a problem in Europe for decades but it seems lately it’s gotten notably worse.
Our flight out of Rome was around 9:00am so we got up early the next morning and the front desk of our hotel made arrangements for a private cab to take us to the airport. Thankfully we didn’t have any issues getting to our gate and the first leg of our flight brought us to Frankfurt on time. My dad and I still had a few euros between the two of us and we managed to use up nearly all of them at the Frankfurt airport buying some snacks. If I remember correctly we only had ten or twenty cents leftover. When our flight back to America was ready we boarded a four-engine, double-decker plane. This was actually the first time I had ever flown on one of these gigantic airplanes and during the flight part of me wanted to try sneaking up to the top level to take a look at how the wealthy passengers were flying.
The long flight across the Atlantic gave me a chance to watch some movies I had missed over the past few years and I ended up not really sleeping much at all. When we landed in Denver we all got off the plane together but my parents would end up clearing immigration and customs much faster than me. My mom and dad had downloaded an app onto their phones that allowed them to fastback the process while I endured the slowly moving line that everyone else had to go through. Should I travel abroad again I’ll need to ask my dad about that app. When I was reunited with them my journey was largely over. I’d be catching a bus back to the neighborhood in Colorado where I live but my parents still had one more flight to take them home to San Diego. We hugged one last time before going our separate ways. This had been my parents’ first time outside the United States and I was glad I could come along to help out and serve as something of a guide. After this trip I think they’re now ready to travel abroad on their own should the opportunity arise. As for me, I got some good experience on how well I operate when traveling with others. Solo travel is likely my strong suit but I know now I’m more than capable of journeying with others.