We arrived in Rome in the late afternoon. We got off the train at the main station, Termini. First order of business was the find a place to stay and unload our bags. So, we went to The Beehive, which we had read about in some tour books. It's a hostel which prides itself in being contemporary, stylish and ecological. It's best feature, however, is that it's just a couple blocks from Termini. There you can grab some locally grown, sustainable and organic grub or just use the free wi-fi. They also have some off-site private rooms and shared apartments. In order not to waste time wandering around the city looking for a hostel with private rooms, we booked a shared apartment, just a couple blocks from Termini.
The apartment was named Millefiori and belongs to famed Polish born, Roman artist Alessandro Kokocinski. He purchased the apartment as a studio and stripped the walls to their original turn-of-the-century finish. Then he ended up moving to some quieter place just outside Rome. So, now he rents it out, via The Beehive, to hostel hoppers. The neighborhood, to be honest, was a bit sketchy, but the apartment was very comfortable. We had a private room, but shared a bathroom, living room (with computer and internet connection), and kitchen with some other travelers (a guy from Seattle and some guy from Los Angeles). Didn't see very much of them, except one evening when we were taking a breather and we shared a beer with them.
If walking around in the middle of the night is your thing, Rome is your city! However, it has a completely different vibe than Paris, which is a night city, as well. Paris has a romantic sophistication and a slow stop-and-smell-the-roses pace. Rome has an old world charm and artistry along with a stop-and-have-a-drink-with-strangers pace.
Following Rick Steves' flawless advice, as usual, we took a night walk across Rome, beginning at Campo de Fiori and ending at the Spanish Steps.
A great thing about Rome is that nearly everything is within walking distance. We took the Metro a few times and buses a bit, but we covered most of Rome by foot. Everything was about a 20 minute walk from our apartment.
Beginning with Campo de Fiori, we met Giordano Bruno, a heretic who was burned to death in 1600 for believing the world was round and not the center of the universe. This statue was erected 289 years after his execution, amid riots that overcame Vatican protests against honoring a heretic. The statue is strategically placed so that Bruno faces his executioner, the Vatican Chancellery. His pedestal reads, "And the flames rose up."
|Campo de Fiori|
(Field of Flowers)
From Campo de Fiori, cross Via Vittorio Emanuele and on to Piazza Navona. This seemed to be where the party was at. Crowds of people. Painters. Musicians. Dancers. Cafes. Lovers strolling hand-in-hand. Pickpockets.
Bernini fountains. Breathtaking.
|Four Rivers Fountain|
This fountain is the highlight of the piazza and is Bernini's most famous. There are four tre masculine river gods (representing the four continents know in 1650) who support an obelisk and the waters of the world flow in all directions. There is a lot of symbolism here, but Rick Steves unpacked the most important (or the most provocative) details for us.
The Nile god has his head covered, because at the time the headwaters were unknown.
The Ganges holds an oar.
The Danube turns to admire the obelisk.
"And the Rio de la Plata from Uruguay tumbles backward in shock, wondering how he ever made the top four." (Thanks, Rick.)
Near the fountain is an eatery called Tre Scalini. If you ever go to Rome and remember only one thing I report, remember this: Go to Tre Scalini. Get a table with a view of the fountain. Ask for "Tartufo." You will not regret it, I assure you!
|Tartufo: "Death by chocolate"|
What a way to go.
When you drag yourself away from Piazza Navona (and you will not want to leave if you have a speck of the artistic in your soul) walk past the palm readers and head to the Pantheon.
|This door is massive!|
This obelisk was taken as a trophy by Augustus
after his victory in Egypt over Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.
|Here I am again with my face in a tour book.|
|Art we happened upon right on the street.|
|This fountain features "Ocean" and the water that flows from him |
goes underground and bubbles up in the Piazza Navona's Four Rivers! Brilliant!
Legend has it that if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain that you will return to Rome.
On the way to the Spanish Steps we found this shop selling Mongolia Cashmere.
This "sinking ship" fountain was done by Bernini or his father, no one is really sure.
And that was just our first night in Rome. More to see. More to eat. There will be a feast for your eyes!