We reached Forum Romanum early Saturday morning, but it was already steaming hot in the sun. Forum Romanum and Palatino was amazing, but it is so hard to say anything clever about the visit, because it is rather hard to fathom. Ruin after ruin, with an amazing feel of history … and the feeling of getting quite lost in it. Casa delle Vestali stands out in Forum Romanum with its haunting beauty with its broken statues between rose bushes. Arco di Tito is also amazing, especially the images depicting Titus’ victory over Jerusalem in 70AD, where the soldiers carry out the loot including a Jewish menorah. Walking down Via Sacra also gives one a peculiar feeling watching all the impressive remnants of the former impressive buildings now only fathomable through the fragmented ruins.
When we reached the Stadio on Palatino as the last monument on our tour, we were exhausted beyond expression. We, therefore, rested for a while in the shadow of some trees while we watched a very lovely pigeon sleeping.
But we had to pull ourselves together for there was still much to see that day. Next up was the Capitoline Museum. Another amazing place. But although the museum’s treasures awaited us, we started out by visiting the museums café for some lunch and a well deserved cold beer. You can use the café without buying a ticket. It is located on the right side of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
The Musei Capitolini, as the museum is called in English, is placed in two of the three palazzo on Piazza di Campidoglio. The piazza is beautiful in its own right with an equestrian statue of Marus Aurelius in the middle flanked by the three beautiful palazzo and the Cordonata staircase on the front leading down to Piazza d’Ara Coeli. The museum entrance is in Palazzo dei Conservatori on the right side when seen from the top of the staircase. A tunnel under the piazza then leads the museum visitors under the Piazza and over in Palazzo dei Nuovo on the left side of the piazza. Straight ahead is Palazzo Senatorio, which houses the Rome’s city council. On the day of our visit there was a demonstration in front of this Palazzo and the café was filled with tired protesters taking a rest and eagerly debating the issue, whatever it was.
The first thing you meet when you go into the museum is the remnants of the once 12m-high statue of Constantine scattered around the inner courtyard. A left hand here, a right foot there, then a knee and a head. You get a feeling of Constantine being an imperial version of Humpty Dumpty, who just needs to be put back together again.
Inside the museum is many great pieces of art, which are placed in some amazing surroundings. They had a special Michelangelo exhibition, which was fine, but it was the permanent exhibition that really amazed. The main event was of course Lupa Capitolina, the bronze statue of the Capitoline wolf with Romulus and Remus from the 5th century. The wolf is astonishing. Especially the way the hair is made. A piece of the statue on the back has broken off, which reveals how thin and crisp the bronze is, making the work even more enticing. The figures of Romulus and Remus, which were also first added in 1471, are less impressive in comparison. Another notable work was Spinario, another amazing bronze statue of a boy removing a thorn from his foot (also note the room it is in, beautiful). I was looking forward to seeing Bernini’s Medusa, but that was, unfortunately, not on display at the time.
In a rather beautiful modern wing with lots of light and air stands Esedra di Marco Aurelio, the original version of the equestrian statue from Piazza di Capidoglio. In this room we took a little break, and I made a quick sketch of the statue, as seen to the right.
After all had been viewed in Palazzo dei Conservatori, we went down into the tunnel that leads to the other building. Ancient tombs are on display in the tunnel, and it also gives you access to the Tabularium, where you have some of the best view over Forum Romanum.
In Palazzo Nuovo were more amazing items, with the main attraction being Galata Morente, the amazing bronze statue of a dying Gaul, and Venere Capitolina.
You can read more about day 7 and the rest of the trip in my next post …
We were two exhausted travelers when we stumbled out of the Vatican around noon on Tuesday. We headed for Pizzarium at Via della Meloria 43, which is a little gem of a pizzeria hidden away in the residential area north-west of the Vatican City. We had some lovely pizza slices and tried out their supplì, which is so divine. A supplì is a Roman snack that consist of a rice ball filled with something – we had them with meat – it is then soaked in egg, rolled in bread crumbs and deep-fried. The crust is beautifully crunchy while the stuffing is moist and delicate. Try them out, you’ll love em! Pizzarium also hit the spot with its great selection of micro brewery beer. The meal was enjoyed sitting on the sidewalk, because there are only a few seatings available there, but for such a meal I would sit anywhere.
After that, we felt more like human beings again, but we still felt the craving for some refreshments. So we walked north-east until we came to the gelateriaFatamorgana on Via Bettolo, where we snacked on their lovely gelato. For me the most memorable flavor was a special chocolate with beer, it was the best chocolate ice cream! (Note, it is a chain so similar places can be found in other parts of Rome).
We then went up on Gianicolo to take a break in a more tranquil surroundings. On the hill, you get a superb view over Rome, and there is numerous areas to settle down in under the soothing shadows of the trees. It is also a good place to muse over the battles that were fought there in 1849 between Giuseppe Garibaldi’s makeshift army and the French troops. We bought some beers and chips at Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi and enjoyed them on the grass with a view to the monument of the Italian hero as backdrop. It was nice to have a real break to digest all that we had experienced in the Vatican City and find some more energy to keep on sightseeing.
Beneath the Gianicolo Hill lies Trastevere, where we went to after our well deserved rest. We found this to be one of the most endearing parts of Rome, especially because it so distinctly has its own unique vibe that’s not at all like the other parts. It feels like a little town in the big city. The prices are lower than on the other side of the Tiber River, and there is a great number of distinctive and innovative restaurants and bars. It also helps that they have my absolute favorite Roman Basilica: Basilica di Santa Maria, which is decorated with the most beautiful Byzantine mosaics both on the facade and inside. Just a few steps from the Piazza with the Basilica we found Bar San Calisto. The guidebook sums up this place’s vibe very well: “… stuck-in-time atmosphere and cheap prices. It attracts everyone from drug dealers, intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals to keeping-it-real Romans, alcoholics and American students.” It became one of our favorite spots in Rome.
We used the rest of the afternoon and evening strolling around Trastevere. Drank coffee and apple succo at Antico Caffè dell’Isola on the small island Isola Tiberina in the Tiber River. Visited a small, attractive and intriguing book shop called Open Door Bookshop in Via della Lungaretta, where I bought my first book in Italian (Umberto Eco Il pendolo di Foucault, I know it is a bit presumptuous to buy such a title after just a few weeks of learning Italian by using Duolingo, but I swear that I will have read that book before I die). Dinner at Fish Market, where we had the most lovely seafood dishes like small fried fish and fish shish-kebab – it is a must visit place in this area and represent the new kind of Roman concept restaurants (they also have other locations in Rome). We finished the night with cocktails at Freni e Frizioni, where I enjoyed a “Moscow mule” while Ole drank a “Pint Break” (ingredients including a 10-year-old Talisker). Then a beautiful evening stroll back home to the hotel over the river and through the charming streets of Centro Storico.
I will shortly post pages from my Roman travel journal …