Rome: Part II

Campo dei Fiori

Among the most picturesque places in Rome, the only monumental square in the city center that does not host a church, Campo de’ Fiori is one of the most famous squares in Rome. In the morning it transforms into a colorful market where the sounds of Romans selling fruits and vegetables, clothing, and other goods resound.  Campo de’ Fiori owes its name to a wonderful flowery field where animals grazed up until the 15th century. The market maintains the wooden stalls and umbrellas that protect the goods from any climate. In 1440 the square was paved and numerous inns and hotels for pilgrims were built around it. In the center of the square stands the nineteenth-century statue of Giordano Bruno, with his cloaked self and stern gaze that looks down at wanderers, giving off an almost spooky vibe. The most important event in the history of Campo de ‘Fiori is the burning of Giordano Bruno, the Dominican philosopher who was burned alive in this square on February 17, 1600 because he was accused of heresy for supporting the heliocentric theory of Copernicus and Galilei. The bronze statue was made by Ettore Ferrari and was placed in the square in 1887. On the sides of the monument there are eight medallions that recall scenes from the life of the philosopher and portray famous heretics. To celebrate Giordano Bruno there is the inscription of Giovanni Bovio: “To Bruno the century he divined, here where the stake burned”. [https://www.10cose.it/roma/campo-dei-fiori-roma]

We took a morning to stroll around the market to peruse the different products that venders were selling and got sucked into buying a crazy vegetable peeler (he was a great salesman, haha). We enjoyed a cappuccino, had a fun chat with another traveling couple from Russia, and I bought a local newspaper from an edicola. 

Piazza Navona

I had wanted to see this piazza after reading about it but wasn’t sure if we’d be able to fit it in in our short time in Rome. We where on our way to Campo dei Fiori when we crossed a street, went down another street, down an alley and BOOM, we popped out at Piazza Navona!! Haha, lucky coincidence! I was surprised at the size of it and the grandeur of the fountains spaced down the middle. Piazza Navona is a beautiful baroque square that has an elongated rectangular shape. The unusual shape of the piazza isn’t a baroque affectation but precisely follows the ancient perimeter of the Stadium of Domitian that once stood on this spot. The stadium was a grand edifice ordered by the emperor in the first century BCE; it had a rectangular shape with rounded short sides, was completely covered in white marble and could hold up to 30,000 spectators! It wasn’t a place of gladiator fights and chariot races like other stadiums but rather once used for athletic competitions and horse racing. 

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Colosseum

I’m still not sure how to describe our time visiting the Colosseum… I don’t think it was quite what I was expecting. For example, we visited the Capua Amphitheater here in Campania awhile back and that’s kind of how I was envisioning the Colosseum to be- peaceful, the ability to experience a sense of history walking up and down levels and admiring the untouched remains of an icon. Capua also had a separate museum for information and artifacts. However, when you enter the Colosseum, you are led directly to the upper floor which is covered in a museum-like set up. Don’t get me wrong, I love to look at the history and artifacts of a place, but to have it inside seemed to take away the feeling of being in the walls of the Colosseum. All you could see were glass casings, or blankets/boards hung up. There was always a worker looming around us or following us as if we were doing something wrong. I feel like it just took away the experience of the raw nature of what was once there. Nonetheless, it was a neat experience! I have to admit though, before going in we wanted to have lunch since we knew we’d probably be in there for awhile. So why not sit right across from one of the most iconic landmarks in the world to enjoy another one of the pasta dishes that Rome is best known for- cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta)! Did we overpay? Probably, haha, but a million times worth it (food and view)!!

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The Colosseum is the main symbol of Rome. It is an imposing building with almost 2,000 years of history that brings you back to the Roman Empire. The construction of the Colosseum began in the year 72 under the empire of Vespasian and was finished in the year 80 during the rule of the emperor Titus. After completion, the Colosseum became the greatest Roman amphitheater, measuring 188 meters in length, 156 meters in width, and 57 meters in height. During the Roman Empire, the Roman Colosseum (known then as Flavian Amphitheatre) allowed more than 50,000 people to enjoy its finest spectacles. The exhibitions of exotic animals, executions of prisoners, recreations of battles and gladiator fights kept the Roman people entertained for years. The Colosseum remained active for over 500 years. The last recorded games in history were celebrated in the 6th century. Since the 6th century the Colosseum has suffered lootings, earthquakes and even bombings during World War II. Demonstrating a great survival instinct, the Colosseum was used for decades as a storehouse, church, cemetery and even a castle for nobility.

Colosseum Tidbits:

  • The original name “Flavian Amphitheatre” was changed to the Colosseum due to the great statue of Nero that was located at the entrance of the Domus Aurea, “The Colossus of Nero”. The Domus Aurea was a great palace built under the orders of Nero after the Fire of Rome.
    The emperor Titus inaugurated the Colosseum with 100 days of games, which took the life of more than 2,000 gladiators!
  • The Colosseum had a canvas ceiling to protect people from the sun. The machinery and cages were located beneath the arena.
  • There are some theories that the Colosseum was filled with water for naval battle recreations, although for the moment there have not been conclusive investigations.
  • Every Good Friday the Pope leads the Way of the Cross procession in the Colosseum. This place has always been closely connected with the church and on this day the early Christians that died in the arena are remembered.

[info: https://www.rome.net/colosseum ]

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Trevi Fountain

Ahhh, the Trevi Fountain. There wasn’t any wishes made or coins tossed for us (the police had the bottom half of the fountain roped off and were watching crowds closely), but it was still a neat thing to see. We weren’t here too long, but I made sure to put down my camera and do nothing but watch the fountain and absorb the moment for at least 5 minutes. Fontana di Trevi, or Trevi Fountain, is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy. It was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini and several others. Standing 26.3 metres high and 49.15 metres wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.

Fontana di Trevi Tidbits:

  •  The Trevi Fountain is one of the oldest water sources in Rome. The fountain dates back to ancient Roman times, since the construction of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct in 19 B.C. that provided water to the Roman baths and the fountains of central Rome. It’s said that the Aqua Virgo, or Virgin Waters, is named in honor of a young Roman girl who led thirsty soldiers to the source of the spring to drink. The fountain was built at the end point of the aqueduct, at the junction of three roads. These three streets (tre vie) give the Trevi Fountain its name, the Three Street Fountain.
  • Salvi was not the original architect. In 1730 Pope Clemens XII held a contest to design a new fountain. Many important architects participated, but in the end Nicola Salvi won the rights to design the fountain, though some theories say he may not have been the first choice. Alessandro Galilei, a architect from the same family as the famous astronomer Galileo, originally won the commission for the project but the commission was ultimately given to Salvi after a public outcry. The reason for the public’s objections? Galilei was a Florentine, while Salvi was a native Roman. However, Salvi never saw his fountain completed. The first water came out of the fountain in 1743 but it wasn’t until 1762 that a different Pope, Clemens XIII, officially completed and inaugurated the new Trevi Fountain, 11 years after Salvi’s death. 
  • You can thank gambling for the fountain’s existence. Salvi’s project for the fountain was the least expensive as well, a possible deciding factor for Pope Clement. In any case the pope approved the financing of the works and used the third extraction of the lotto game to pay for it. That’s right, the money earned from the reintroduction of the lotto in Rome financed the Trevi Fountain! The numbers of the first extraction were 56, 11, 54, 18 and 6, in case you wanted to know 😉
  • It’s made from the same material as the Colosseum. The fountain is mostly built from travertine stone, a name that means “from the Tiber” in Latin. A mineral made of calcium carbonate formed from spring waters, especially hot springs, the likely source was the city of Tivoli, about 22 miles from Rome. During construction many men were injured and a few died when working with enormous stone, including a stonecutter who was crushed by a large block of travertine in 1734.
  • And it uses a lot of water. The Trevi Fountain stands a massive 85 feet tall and is almost 65 feet wide. With water pumping out of multiple sources and the large pool in front, the fountain spills about 2,824,800 cubic feet of water every day! No need to fret though, today the water is recycled (meaning unlike the ancient Romans you’ll have to drink from the nearby drinking fountains instead!)
  • The fountain is charitable. When the fountain is open roughly €3,000 is thrown into it every day as people follow the tradition of throwing coins over their shoulders. The legend holds that a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. This tradition also dates back to the ancient Romans who often threw coins in water to make the gods of water favor their journey or help them get back home safely. (Throw in a second coin if you’re seeking love – even a third for wedding bells!) What many don’t know is that the coins are collected every night and given to an Italian charity called Caritas. Caritas, in turn, use the money for a supermarket program giving rechargeable cards to Rome’s needy to help them get groceries.
  • It’s a crime to steal the coins from the Trevi. Perhaps for just that reason, it’s illegal to fish out coins from the fountain. In the past it was common for gangs of thieves to sweep the coins out of the fountain at night. In fact, three were caught by a T.V. show using a hidden camera in 2011. The most famous raider, however, was known by his nickname, d’Artagnan. He stole the coins from the fountain for 34 years before he was caught in the summer of 2002.
  • The white stone fountain has been black and red. In 1996 the fountain was turned off and draped in black crepe to honor actor Marcello Mastroianni after his death. Mastroianni starred in La Dolce Vita, a movie whose most famous scene was filmed in the Trevi Fountain, making the fountain more famous than ever. In 2007 the fountain wore a different color after a vandal dumped a liquid substance into the fountain turning the water red. This caused water that fell from the fountain to be red as well, since it uses a closed circuit water system. While there was a fear that the liquid would have permanently damaged the monument, the water was drained fast enough that there was no damage.

[info: https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/art-culture/9-surprising-facts-trevi-fountain-rome ]

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Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are a set of steps dating from 1723, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top dominated by Trinita dei Monti Church. The steps are at the eastern end of the old city centre. From the base, there is a maze of very narrow lanes crammed full with designer shops, cafés, and restaurants. With its characteristic butterfly plan, the Spanish Steps or Piazza di Spagna is one of the most famous images in the world and considered one of the most majestic urban monuments of Roman Baroque style. At the end of the seventeenth century, it was called Trinità dei Monti, after the church that dominates the square from above, but it was later given the name we know today after the Spanish Ambassador who lived there. At the foot of the stairs, you will find the famous Barcaccia Fountain, the work of Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo. With its characteristic form of a sinking ship, the fountain recalls the historic flood of the River Tiber in 1598 and refers to a folk legend whereby a fishing boat carried away by the flood of the river was found at this exact spot. In reality, the sinking boat was ably invented by Bernini to overcome a technical problem due to low water pressure. The sun and bee ornamentation is a symbol of the Barberini family and a reference to Pope Urban VIII who commissioned the work. 

[info: https://www.italyguides.it/en/lazio/rome/squares-and-fountains/spanish-steps ]

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Antico Caffè Greco

The Antico Caffè Greco is a historic landmark café which opened in 1760 on Via dei Condotti in Rome, Italy. It is the oldest bar in Rome and second oldest in Italy, after Caffè Florian in Venice! For more than two and a half centuries, Caffe Greco has remained a haven for writers, politicians, artists and notable people in Rome. Keats and Byron once drank coffee here!!! Being a literary nut, once I heard about this cafe I knew that I had to visit. I was also in for a surprise… while we were sipping a delicious 8 euro cup of coffee looking at the Spanish steps, I noticed a plaque on the side of the building entrance. So I wandered over to take a look. As I was checking it out, I heard a waiter trying to get my attention, calling “ma’am?!” We ended up chatting only for a few seconds when he asked if I had a few moments. I said yes. He then told me to follow him inside and proceeded to lead me down the hallway. I was still reeling from excitement that I barely noticed when he stopped to show me a framed picture on the wall- Buffalo Bill and his signature!! He was once here!! I am so thankful for this man who took a few minutes to show me the inside. Due to Covid regulations at this time, indoor dining was still not allowed so I more than likely would have missed this!

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Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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