Rome. I can’t tell you how incredible this city is. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, I feel like I should type that, put it in white, overlay this page (nice old black hat SEO tactic there) just to reinforce how epic this city is! I absolutely LOVE London and now I’ve met its match. ROMA!
Let me cut to the chase for those of you who don’t have time. If you don’t like art, buildings and history, I presume you don’t like Game of Thrones either, then you can click away now. But I LOVE old buildings, art, history, mystery and love, especially when they’re combined in one! And ROME is the place! Forget Paris, Italy is WAY more romantic than those witches wanting to eat cake! 😉
It was only after I left Rome that the phrase, “…the eternal city…” was made known to me (thanks Booking.com) and they couldn’t be more correct. ROME IS EXTRAORDINARY!
Mr John and I were staying at a hotel called the Antica Dimora Donna Isabelle, near the Vatican, Tibre River and Trevi Fountain. I purposely picked a spot that wasn’t particularly close to anything, but close to everything. Rome has no underground system in these ancient parts so we had to rely heavily on walking – fine, but is made much easier if you’re staying somewhere very accessible.
After taking a quick stroll on night one, I decided to create Meg’s Walking Tour! This is where Mr John let me lead the way as I pinpointed a number of places that seemed of interest. It was based on the well known places like the Trevi Fountain, but it was the ABSOLUTE GEMS that we found along the way that just blew my frikken mind!
1. Antica Dimora Donna Isabella to Fontana Del Moro (4 mins)
Starting at the Antica Dimora Donna Isabella (hotel), we walked 5 minutes to the Fontana Del Moro. Situated in Piazza Nova, this fountain is in a basin made of rose-coloured marble. It was designed by an Italian sculptor and architect called Giacomo della Porta (c. 1533 – 1602) who also worked on the St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican). These statues were first made in 1575 (that’s 441 year ago) but the originals now live in a museum, these are replicas in order to preserve them from vandalism.
After doing some research, I’ve just learnt that the characters in the fountains are ‘moor’s – I could just cry to know that the Romans thought of us way back when! “The Moors were Muslim inhabitants…during the Middle Ages. The Moors were initially of Berber and Arab descent, though the term was later applied to Africans…and people of mixed ancestry.” WHICH does mean me because which ‘African’ doesn’t have mixed ancestry! 😉
2. Fontana Del Moro to Pantheon (6 mins)
Hello! It’s only the frikken Pantheon! One of the most famous buildings in the world, which every art student on the planet ever learnt about! It’s UNREAL to see buildings that you see and learn about, in textbooks, LIVE in front of your face! It’s like, “How did I make these dreams a reality?!”
If you don’t know anything about the Pantheon, it’s one of the first buildings in the world to combine different types of architecture, and has a domed roof that is not reinforced with anything. It’s just in the balance! It’s a prime example of ancient roman architecture, how did they do it all those years ago?! Pantheon means ‘temple of every god’; and was started on a site during the years 27 BC (YES, 27 YEARS BEFORE CHRIST WAS BORN!) to 14 AD. This version was completed by Hadrian in 126 AD (that’s 1890 years ago!).
From Roman Concrete, “The building was built entirely without steel reinforcing rods to resist tensile cracking…for this concrete dome with a long span to last centuries is incredible. Today, no engineer would dare build this structure without steel rods!” Today it is still the world’s biggest unreinforced concrete dome. The Pantheon is in Piazza della Rotonda. Piazza means square, village square.
PS Raphael is buried in there!
3. Pantheon to Tempio di Adriano (4 mins)
On our way to the Trevi Fountain we stumbled upon this cool place. We saw that it had something to do with Hadrian, the ancient emperor. I was first made aware of him in the North of England. My grandfather was born in Northumberland and when we went to visit his home town, we saw pieces of Hadrian’s wall – initially built in 126 AD when the Romans were conquering England (yes colonisation happened everywhere people, not just in Africa!). The very same Hadrian started the Tempio di Adriano in dedication to his wife, but was ultimately dedicated to him after his death. It was built in 145 AD (that’s 1871 years ago!).
4. Tempio di Adriano to Trevi Fountain (4 mins)
Of course the Trevi Fountain is only one of the most famous fountains in the world simply because the Romans went totally overboard. I mean, it’s just a fountain! It was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and finished by sculptor, Pietro Bracci in 1762. It is just over 26 meters high and nearly 50 meters wide and is an example of Baroque architecture.
It was overhauled in 1998 and nicely cleaned up, with Italian fashion brand Fendi contributing 2.2 million Euros to restore the fountain. It was officially restored and reopened in November 2015 – which means we’ve visited just in time to enjoy the upgraded look! They estimate that 3000 Euros are thrown into the fountain EACH DAY! (You throw a coin into the fountain as a wish to return to Rome one day.) It is illegal to steal coins from the fountain, which is used for charity work in Rome.
5. Trevi Fountain to Santa Maria in Trivio (1 min)
The Santa Maria in Trivio was just a simple church that we found around the corner from the Trevi Fountain. This is why I love Rome so much – there’s just something beautiful and spectacular around every corner! We didn’t go inside (it doesn’t seem obvious that one can just waltz into the churches in Rome) so we just sat on the steps and watched the people at the Trevi Fountain and in the church’s front porch. The Santa Maria in Trivio was started in 537 and finished in 1575 (that’s 441 years ago).
6. Santa Maria in Trivio to Montecitori Palace (5 mins)
This was a grand building that we passed along our way. A far more modern building but grand none the less. The Montecitori Palace is currently the seat of the Italian chambers of Deputies.
7. Montecitori Palace to Santa Maria Maddalena (4 mins)
The Santa Maria Maddalena is another pretty church that we passed along the way – Rome is a city of heaven and hell! There’s an amazing gelato shop with 150 flavours and a Lindt flagship store in the same road, YUM! Anyway, the Santa Maria Maddalena is named after Saint Mary Magdalene and was completed in 1699. Inside are frescoes by Raphael.
8. Santa Maria Maddalena to Santa Maria della Pace (7 mins)
Yes, the Romans really do love Mary and Maria! On many, many buildings there are frames images of either of them, adorning the buildings and keeping its residents mindful of the virtues of Christianity. The Santa Maria della Pace was another beautiful church that I loved, like a baby cathedral. Just 3 minutes from our hotel, it was a friendly ‘face’ to pass each day. It has the inscription Suscipiant Montes Pacem Populo Et Colles Iustitiam (The Mountains shall bring peace to the people; and the hills, justice). Another special meaning to me considering we live under Table Mountain! It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was constructed on a pre-existing church from 1482 (that’s 536 years ago).
9. Santa Maria della Pace back to the Antica Dimora Bella Donna (3 mins)
And then straight back to the hotel to rest our feet! 3 minute walk, easy peasy!
If you’re Rome and staying any where near any of the places I have featured, use this free walking tour if you’d like 🙂
This post is dedicated to Katherine, we went to Rome before me. To Alvhin, who left his heart in Italy before I did, to Lauren who loves Rome as much as I do and Dominique, who is yet to fall in love with the eternal city.