All Roads…

Rome has long been the centre of Christianity and art and as such, has attracted many pilgrims, artists and travellers – with myself falling into the latter category. The saying goes all roads lead to Rome and it is with this in mind that I thought we’d take a little walking tour around the Eternal City.

Founded as a small village of mud huts in the 8th century BC, Rome rose to be all-powerful by the 1st century BC as it expanded beyond Italy into Spain, Greece and North Africa. After a decline during the Middle Ages the city rallied, bringing some of the greatest Renaissance and Baroque artists to the world’s attention before becoming capital of the unified Italy in 1870.

So let’s start at the Porte del Popolo, the point where the main route from the Adriatic Coast, the Via Flaminia, enters Rome…

View of the Porte del Popolo from the Metro exit (and my pizza-eating perspective) on the other side of the Via Flaminia

Three main thoroughfares lead from the other side of the Piazza – the Via Ripetta meaning small pier, the Via Del Corso in the centre and the Via Del Babuino which goes straight to the Piazza di Spagna. These were instrumental in managing the flow of pilgrims through the city so let’s have little wander down each one.

The Via Ripetta takes us to the banks of the Tiber River and crossing at the Ponte Sant’Angelo follows the same route to St Peter’s Basilica that the original pilgims took. But today the magnificent Castel Sant’Angelo dominates our view.

A guardian on the Porte Sant’Angelo with the fortress (and mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian) in the background

The Castel Sant’Angelo has been a safe house for Popes for centuries with the Passetto (or Vatican Corridor) providing an escape route to the nearby fortress. In fact, it proved rather handy for Clement VII who used it to flee from the Vatican in 1527 to evade capture during the Sack of Rome.

View from the terrace of the Castel Sant’Angelo over St Mark’s Bastion and the Vatican Corridor with the dome of St Peter’s in the background.

 Let’s walk back across the river and wander a little further.

Smart cars, smart parking on the Lungotevere.

After 15 minutes or so we reach the Isola Tiberina, an island in the middle of the Tiber  River which separates the Angelo and Trastavere areas of Rome. The Ponte Fabricio provides pedestrian access to the island from the Angelo side (where we are) and the Ponte Cestia provides access from/to the other side of the river.

The Ponte Fabricio onto the Isola Tiberina

It’s now just a hop, step and jump to the Forum, an amazing complex of temples, government buildings, houses and monuments – or what’s left of them anyway. The Via Sacra was one of the most important roads in Rome leading from the Arch of Titus in the east down to the Arch of Septimius Severus in the west.

The view from the west end of the Forum down the Via Sacra (the Sacred Way)

A short walk along the Via dei Fori Imperiali later, we are back at the Piazza Venezia and the bottom of the Via Del Corso. The Piazza lies next to Trajan’s market and column but is dominated by the national monument to Vittorio Emanuele II.

The monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of unified Italy…
…overlooks a rather patriotic floral arrangement in the Piazza.

Setting off north west along the Via Del Corso, we’re heading back towards the Piazza del Popolo but we’ve got a detour to make before we get there. Turning right into the Via Condotti, the Trinite dei Monti looms at the end of the narrow street, overlooking the Piazza di Spagna and the famous Spanish Steps.

Named for the conduit that carried water to the Baths of Agrippa near the Pantheon, the Via Condotti is THE shopping street in Rome and great for a spot of wistful browsing (although we might need to save a few pennies if we want to make a purchase)…

… before stopping to rest our weary legs in the Piazza di Spagna itself.

The Spanish Steps, a popular spot to laze in the sunshine. But there is to be no shouting, squalling or singing – there’s a sign that says so. That’s Amore!

Rested, we now continue from the north west corner of the Piazza along the Via del Babuino until we arrive back at the Piazza del Popolo and the route out to the Via Flaminia, the Porte del Popolo.

The obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo is over 3,000 years old and was brought to Rome by Augustus to adorn the Circus Maximus. It was erected here in 1589 by Pope Sixtus V.

The Piazza has a chequered past with all manner of gruesome events having come to pass in this neat and ordered space. Like public executions, with some of the condemned being hammered to death by repeated blows to the temples (the last criminal was executed in this way in 1826) and riderless horse races where stimulants, nail-studded belts and fireworks were employed to ‘encourage’ a faster pace from the participants.

But enough of all this barbaric talk. Up to the right of the Piazza lies the Pincio Gardens, a place of green tranquility…and more great views over the roof tops of Rome. We’ll need to pace ourselves though – the walk is steep.

The view from the bottom…
…and from the top…

Turning around we face the Pincio Gardens and a short stroll through the trees brings us to the old and the new sitting comfortably side by side.

The Viale del Muro Torto, the ‘injured wall’.

Our final wander takes us through the lush woodland around the Villa Borghese…

Rome’s second heart perhaps?
If we go down to the woods today…
…a boating we may go.

…a peaceful place for us to stop a while.

Take a deep breath in and feel the rain-fresh air fill your lungs. Breathe out and listen to the sound of the water running into the fountain.

Before we leave the park, let’s pause for a few minutes and admire the Villa itself…

Built in 1605 for Cardinal Sciopone Borghese, favourite nephew of Pope Paul V, the villa now houses the private Borghese collection of sculptures and paintings but you need to book to see it.

…before heading back to the hotel.

And so, dear Gidday-ers, here endeth today’s tour.

Have you booked your ticket yet?

The Gods of Rock…

So when last I posted, I was more than a little overwhelmed by my recent trip to The Eternal City. In 4 days I managed to cram what feels like a million little memories – and over 400 photos – into all of the nooks and crannies of my brain.

But I think I have started to make a little sense of it all and a few curious themes have emerged that, with the help of my trusty guidebook, I will use to share my Roman holiday with you.

The theme of this post is gods. Rock gods. Gods made of rock, that is. They are everywhere…but as usual, there’s a wry twist (my brain does work in some strange ways) so hope you enjoy the views in more ways the one.

The God of Shopping:
The Emperor Trajan built Trajan’s Markets, a ‘visionary’ complex of 150 shops and offices, around 100AD just near the Forum. It sold everything from imported silks and spices to fresh fish, fruit and flowers and was considered one of the Wonders of the Classical World. (There’s hope for Westfield yet.) I wonder what sorts of things the Romans spent their TrajanCard points on? 
The God of Vertiginous Places
The Archangel Michael stands atop the Castel Sant’Angelo, the place that bears his name. (Let me tell you it’s high up there but the view is worth it.) He also pays tribute to the legendary appearance of the real archangel over the fortress in the 6th century which allegedly marked the end of a rather nasty plague. Despite being made of bronze, he is a god who definitely rocks.

The God of Cutting Off One’s Nose…
He stands in the Courtyard of Honour at the Castel Sant’Angelo. It looks like he began life as a mere statue and in a fit of jealous pique, stuck some questionable wings on his back, aspiring to the greatness of the one upstairs – the Archangel Michael, that is. This diva strop probably cost him the top spot on the terrace and he is now relegated to merely overseeing the courtyard (and the entrance  the current Cupid and Psyche exhibition).
The Gods of Rock (n Roll)
Located at the Pincio Gardens end of the Piazza del Popolo, this foursome overlook ‘The People’s Square’ which was the main entrance into Rome for the pilgrims. The Piazza, described by wikipedia as an ‘oval square'(?), was the site of public executions for centuries. Hope no-one ‘lost their head’ over this fab four.
The God of Useless Gifts
This statue is probably a testament to something quite serious and memorable but I thought he looked liked my sister and I do when extracting our annual Christmas crap tat from the toe of the stocking. Like ‘really? What on earth am i going to do with this?’ (Love you Mum)
The God of Hide and Seek
This cupid peeks over the edge of the Santa Francesca Romano at the eastern end of The Forum. It beats getting lost trying to find your way through all those basilicas and temples and such – he’d have a nice clear view down the Via Sacra from that vantage point.

The God of Being Underfoot
I think this one’s a King but I was in the process of being asked to leave Santa Maria del Popolo as they were closing. This was poor planning on my part. I thought I had visited this church earlier in my trip but on checking my trusty Eyewitness Travel Guide, discovered that I had lit a candle in Santa Maria di Miracoli on the opposite side of the piazza instead. So I dropped in, unplanned, on my last morning after wandering down from the Pincio Gardens and it was a very quick and sneaky snap on the way past the man speaking Italian at me as if I understood. I felt (and ‘this’ was) in no uncertain terms, underfoot.

The God of Wishful Thinking
We’ve all heard of the Trevi Fountain – it’s one of the most popular places the tourists go and I braved the hordes on my first night  – that’s why you get the strange yellow lighting in this photo. The Fountain was built in the 18th Century to mark the place where the Aqua Virgo aqueduct ended and features the god Neptune and 2 Tritones. Legend has it that throwing a coin in the Trevi will guarantee a return to the Eternal City – it worked for me last trip so I added another to the pile glistening beneath the surface.
The God of Stealth
I couldn’t help but take a photo from the top of the open-top bus as we whizzed past the Piazza del Popolo and down the Via Ripetta. Check out this cheeky critter angling for some of those grapes. Little does he know they have a heart of stone. Oh well…pigeons will be pigeons.

So there’s your first peek around Rome’s Rock Royalty. If you enjoyed this armchair tour, you might like to stay tuned for more of my irreverent ramblings, coming soon to a browser near you…