|Sant'Agnese in Agone|
|Rome's famous (and beautiful) Piazza Navona|
I have never gotten into wine. I'm a beer man. What I like about beer is, you basically just drink it, then you order another one. You don't sniff at it, or hold it up to the light and slosh it around, and above all you don't drone on and on about it, the way people do with wine. Your beer drinker tends to be a straightforward, decent, friendly, down-to-earth person who enjoys talking about the importance of relief pitching, whereas your serious wine fancier tends to be an insufferable snot.
I know I haven't fallen into the category of insufferable snottiness because when we dine out in the US, I tend to get a bit overwhelmed by the expansive (and expensive) wine menus some places have. I'm usually happy with the bottles on the lower end of the cost-spectrum, and am sometimes unable to tell how a more expensive bottle is better than a cheaper one. The multitude of red varieties- Pinot Noir, Malbec, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Beaujolais, etc., aren't easy to find in Rome, or at least aren't offered in the places we dined in. So one of the most endearing aspects of dining in Rome is that they have just two varieties- Red and White. You can either ask for one or the other, or just tell the waiter to bring you what they recommend. I guarantee it will be delicious, will go well with whatever you ordered, and you'll enjoy the simplicity of it.
This cozy spot in the northwest corner of the sun-drenched piazza had a wonderful view of the comings and goings of both tourists and locals alike. The wide-eyed visitors meandered through the spectacular fountains and sales displays of regional art, semi-aggressively vying for the best photographs in front of the amazing architecture and sculptures, while the Romans pushing through the square tried to ignore the chaos as they made their way to wherever they were headed on that lazy Sunday afternoon.
|Piazza Navona from the NE (not my photo of course)|
As we sat there slowly sipping yet another thoroughly delicious wine, I was amused by a street musician playing an accordion. He was being completely ignored by both Romans and tourists alike, most likely due to his choice of music at the time, with Guantanamera not going over so well. As soon as he switched to music with a more Italian flavor, such as 'O Sole Mio and the Godfather theme, his business picked up and his cigar box began to fill up.
A few other pictures from the piazza-
|Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers)|
|Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune)|
|Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain)|
|The Carabinieri getting zeppole (think cops and donuts- Italian style)|
After leaving Piazza Navona, we went in search of some gelato. What is gelato you might ask? Ice cream sent from heaven. That stuff is much better than the swill they serve here in the U.S. I'm kidding of course, but it is so delicious- creamier, more dense due to the way it is whipped, and less fattening. We were told to visit the Gelateria Frigidarium just west of the piazza for the best gelato in all of Rome. In fact, it's practically endorsed by the students at the Pontifical North American College in Rome (and supposedly delivered daily by St. Peter himself!)
|My friend David Exner (former Captain, USMC)|
during a break from his studies to become a Catholic Priest
We had a leisurely stroll on the streets around the gelateria as we enjoyed the treat, making our way towards a few sites just east of the plaza. First we entered Piazza della Rotonda. This is the plaza just in front of Rome's famous Pantheon, also known as the Church of Santa Maria Rotonda. At the center of the plaza is the Fontana del Pantheon which is topped by an Egyptian obelisk, one of several in Rome.
|The well-preserved Pantheon has been in continuous use as a church or temple since it was built in 125 AD|
|The view of the interior of the Pantheon from just inside its massive doors|
|The Pantheon's Oculus- the only source of light inside. The dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.|
Here are two panoramic photos of the interior. Be sure to click on them for the full effect. The right side gets cut off if I try and post the original sized picture.
Just east of the Pantheon was my favorite church in all of Rome- Sant'Ignazio (St. Ignatius)- mainly due to the phenomenal fresco paintings on the ceiling- paintings that make it appear that heaven is reaching down to earth, and is thus a portal to the heavens.
|One can hardly tell where the building ends and the heavens begin|
|This view shows the amazing perspective that is seen when under the arched ceiling. What appears to be columns built into|
the higher walls of the church is actually just paint on a rounded arched ceiling.
|All the gold you see here, including the cherub-like figures spanning the picture left and right of the dark clouds is just paint-|
the perspective gives the viewer the impression of some sort of crown moulding or trim, but that too is only paint.
By now we were anxious to get back to the hotel and pack for our flight home the next morning. If you've read the other chapters of Viaggi a Roma, you're aware that by now I knew exactly which train to would get us to the airport- The Fiumicino Express, and that it would take 37 minutes. As I packed my suitcase, I snapped a picture of a wall near our hotel in the Via Veneto neighborhood of Rome. It's an Aurelian Wall (271-275 AD), built by the Emperor Aurelias as an emergency response to an invasion of the city by Vandal barbarians in 270 AD. It's in great condition and is yet another wonderful architectural feature of the Eternal City.
I will end the story of our trip to Rome with the photo I used to start off the series, but was actually the last picture I took on the whole trip. I hope you've enjoyed reading about it as much as I've enjoyed writing about it.
|The sun setting over St. Peter's Basilica as it shines through the darkening clouds.|