Vatican City – St Peter’s Basilica

Our final, but one of the best, stops on our sightseeing tour of Rome was the St Peter’s Basilica, which played a major role in the “Angels and Demons” book by Dan Brown, along with other magnificent structures like the Castel Saint’Angelo, Pantheon and Piazza Navona.

It is an Italian Renaissance church in the Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome and actually the world’s largest church with a capacity for approx 60.000 people. Even though it is not the mother church of the Catholic church, it is considered as one of the holiest Catholic shrines (Wikipedia).

St. Peter’s Basilica is built on the tomb of St Peter, who was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. After the first Basilica was knocked down due to deterioation, it took 120 years to rebuild it  (done in and some of the most famous architects of the time contributed to its design, like Gianlorenzo Bernini, Carlo Maderna and of course the great Michelangelo

 

Visit to the Basilica is free, but there is a fee if you want to see the beautiful dome made by Michelangelo (approx EUR 10 for adults). It is also possible to buy “skip the line”-tickets from a tour operator from around EUR 20, incl an audio guide. We visited the Basilica a hot July afternoon (35-40 degrees C) and we had not booked any skip-the-line-tickets in advance, but still it did not take us more than 15 minutes to pass the security check and enter the building.

I am sure I could have wandered around inside for hours, just admiring the interior; awsome! Junior, however, started to get bored after about an hour, so since he had been a good trooper through 6 hours of sightseeing, we called it a day and took a taxi back home to the hotel. But, I will definitely return one day.

 

Rome – Piazza Navona, ancient square with lots of charm..

 

Piazza Navona is an almost 2000 year old square in Rome, built on an ancient stadium used for athletic competitions. As Castel Saint’Angelo, it also features in the movie based on Dan Brown’s “Angels & Demons”, but its fame was secured long before that time. It consists of a square, with 3 fountains; “Fountain of the Four Rivers”, “Fontana del Moro” and the “Fountain of Neptune”. Around the piazza you can find several small restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the view and watch the people passing by. A bit over-prized of course, but considering the location, well worth the extra euros.

 

Fountain of the Four Rivers

The «Fountain of the Four Rivers» is placed in the center of the piazza. It was designed by Bernini in 1651 and depicts the four rivers and continents for which the pope’s authority had spread at the time; the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges and the Rio de la Plata.

 

Fountain of Neptune

In the northern part of the piazza is the “Fountain of Neptun”, commissioned in 1565 and designed by Baccio Bandinelli. This massive fountain features the God of the Sea, trident in hand. He lords over four cherubs representing the rivers Nile, Amazon, Danube, and Ganges. Neptune holds his hand out as if to calm the waters, the ultimate symbol of power.

 

Fontana del Moro

Fontana del Moro is a fountain located at the southern end of the piazza. It represents a Moor, or African, standing in a conch shell, wrestling with a dolphin, surrounded by four Tritons. It is placed in a basin of rose-colored marble.

To sum up; even if Piazza Navona is definitely one of the tourist traps in Rome, it is well worth a visit. Investigate the work of art, breath the 2000 year history of the place and just sit and enjoy life in one of the restaurants around the piazza.

Rome, Castel Saint’Angelo – more than a mausoleum and secret passage ways..

With only 14 degrees and rain here in Norway in mid-July I at least take a small comfort in reminiscing about our stay in Rome last week…

Castel Saint’Angelo, for some best known as playing a vital part in the movie Angels & Demons, based on Dan Brown’s bestseller, where Langfon, played by Tom Hanks used the secret passage betweet the fortress and the Vatican. But Castel Saint’Angelo has definitely more to offer than a few minute scene in a blockbuster movie.

On one of the hottest days last week, junior and I set out on a sightseeing tour starting with a lovely breakfast by the Pantheon, a soda break at Piazza Navona and ending up at St Peyer’s Basilica. When we, on our way to the latter, however, passed the river Tiber by crossing the St Angelo Bridge, we met upon Castel Saint’Angelo.

Castel Saint’Angelo was built by the emperor Hadrian almost 2000 years ago and was meant to be his mausoleum. Over the years, however, it has been used both as prison, a fortress for the popes and is now a pretty cool museum. A secret passage goes from the Vatican to the fortress and was used by former popes as an escape route when attacked. Junior was not totally sold on the idea of a tour of the place at first, but after promising him another soda-break he agreed on joining. Was it worth a visit? Most definitely!

We did not have to wait in line for more than 5 minutes before we with ticket in hand could start the ascend up the 5 story spiral case. On our way up we passed both prison cells, armoury and the old living quarters of the pope. When we reached the final floor, we were met by a real cozy restaurant/café with a magnificent view and quite the romantic atmosphere. Since we were not there for the romance, we settled for an ice cold diet pepsi in the airconditioned part of the place.

After we had cooled off for a bit we went up to the roof and here we had a fantastic view of Rome and the Vatican. It also had a giant statue of the angle Michael, who has given his name to the fortress. Legend has it that when Italy was haunted by the plague in the 500’s, the angle Michael landed on the roof of the building in 590 AD and made the plague vanish.

 

 

After enjoying the view for a while we descended down again and continued our journey towards the St Peter’s Basilica.

 

Rome: Pantheon – Temple of the Gods

The Pantheon (from Greek: “temple of all the gods”) is a former Roman temple turning Christian church and is located right in the middle of Rome city center, on Piazza della Rotonda.  It is build on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by a Roman general, Marcus Agrippa (27 BC – 14 AD). It was completed by the emperor Hadrian about 126 AD and he chose to keep the inscription from Agrippa’s former temple that burned to the ground (source: Wikipedia). The inscription is clearly visible on the magnificent building today.

On the outside the Pantheon is 16 columns, 12 meters tall, hauled from a quarry around 4000 km away in Egypt. The interior is even more magnificent with an oculus, a 8.7 meter wide “skylight” which is the Pantheon’s only source of light (source: Mission Rome).

The dome in the Pantheon, which is considered the Romans’ most important architectural achievements, was for a long time the largest dome in the world. It harmonious appearance is due to a precisely calibrated symmetry – its diameter is exactly equal to the building’s interior height of 43.4 meters.The oculus, which symbolically connected the temple with the gods, plays a vital structural role by absorbing and redistributing the dome’s huge tensile forces (source: Wikipedia).

To sum it all up, the building is a magnificent sight both from the outside and from the inside. Entrance is free unless you want a guided tour, and the line even in peak season is not that bad.

Around the Piazza della Rotonda there are plenty of restaurants offering great view of the church. The prices here are a bit steeper than the ones in the narrow alleys, but the location still became our definite favorite while in Rome. We could sit here for hours just looking at the awesome building as well as just looking at all the people passing by. We were not at all envious of all the tour-groups wandering around in 35-40 Celsius in matching scarfs, listening for a guide for several hours. Some of them looked quite desperate to get away from it all.

 

 

The Trevi Fountain – La Dolce Vita

After moving into Rome city center, we were finally ready for some kickass-sightseeing and our first stop on our way was the Trevi Fountain.

Rome consists of plenty of fountain, where the biggest and definitely most famous one is the Trevi Fountain, completed in 1762. Contributing to its fame (in addition to its considerable size and its baroque look) is the movie “La Dolce Vita” from 1960 with the iconic scene where Anita Ekberg bathes in the Trevi Fountain. But, should you consider re-creating that scene, don’t… unless you want to be transported away in hand cuffs, since it is strictly forbidden to submerge anything into the fountain other than coins.

Most of you have heard about the legend that throwing a coin into the fountain will ensure your return to the “Eternal City”. But, there is also another legend, which inspired the movie “Three coins in the fountain” and says to toss three coins into the fountain; one to ensure your return, one to ensure a new romance and one to ensure marriage. Well, since I have already fount my true love and have already tried marriage, I just went for the one coin about the return to Rome.

Anyway, approximately EUR 3000 are tossed into the fountain each day and they are donated to charity.

The fountain depicts sea-god Oceanus’ chariot being led by tritons with sea-horses – one wild, one docile – representing the moods of the sea (source: Lonely Planet).

Going to see the Trevi Fountain in the middle of summer is to ask for a crowd, but to our surprise it was not as bad as we had imagined. I mean, there were a lot of people, but not quite as many as feared. But by all means, that did not at all ruin our day.

To sum up: A visit to the Trevi Fountain is absolutely recommendable; it is beautiful, very Insta-friendly and (best of all) free of charge (except of the coin thrown into it, that is…).

 

Rome Fiumicino Airport – Sky Lounge Bar;

“Sky Lounge Bar combines quality catering and entertainment with the Sky programming, offering sophisticated dishes, cocktails and high
level coffee in a comfortable, elegant, modern environment with table service”

This is how Fiumicino airport describes their “Sky Lounge Bar”. Well, I beg to differ. Or, the food was OK, even if the menu given inside gave considerably less than the one on the outside, but the service? OMG! I promise, if I had never waited tables in my life, I would most definitely do a better job. When we got there, only about 1/3 of the tables was occupied. Even so, we were told that there was a 30 minute waiting time for them to make a table ready for us.

We did not bother to wait the first time around. But after waiting an hour in the food court with a noise level considerably higher than my comfort zone, we chose to give it a second try, since the restaurant now only had 4 guests. Even so, it took us like 15 minutes to get a table. I mean, when you have 10 people in line for a table, it is OK to multitask and clean a table on the way from delivering a glass of wine to a guest. But, no… One task at a time and in record slow pace. Even setting the table with 1 table cloth, 2 plates and cutlery took over 2 minutes!!

The food, however, was not that bad, even if they could have offered ice cubes. In the end, we gave up on waiting for the bill, and went directly to the cashier.

So, the noise level was considerably lower than in the rest of the airport, the food was OK, but the service was way below par..

 

Rome – finally time for some kickass sightseeing

After a few days enjoying pool life in the outskirts of Rome, we have now migrated to the city center for 2,5 days of serious sightseeing. We are staying at 9Hotel Cesari, a charming old hotel right in the middle of… well, everything. We are talking less than 5 minutes of slow-paced walking to both the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. 

Like I mentioned, the hotel is both old and charming, but junior, who has somewhat other requirements than me, thinks their wifi service is well below par. Well, guess we can survive por connection for a couple of days…

We arrived at our hotel early, so while waiting for our room, we went down a narrow street for lunch and, hey, ended up at the exact same spot as where we had lunch a couple of days ago! We did, however, choose one of the neighbouring restaurants this time, where I got the most amazing lobster pasta. Seriously, if I had lived here, I would have gotten morbidly obese in no time. Talk about culinary goodies everywhere you turn!

Today has been quite a hectic day with switching hotels and lots of sightseeing. Junior has been a real champ with only minor complaints when trailing after his history-buff of a mother for way over 10km in 40+ degrees (= hot!!). Tomorrow will be no better, but I haven’t told him that yet. Have to come up with a reward system first. Stay tuned for posts about all the amazing sights we have been to..

When dinner time was approaching, we were quite tired and settled for a place like 10 meters from our hotel, where we ate a (not surprisingly) delicious pizza.

Yet another perfect day in Rome ended up with a Coke Zero at the rooftop terrace at the hotel; a breezy oasis with an amazing view

Rome – a relaxing day by the pool

Since this is our last full day at this hotel before we migrate into Rome city center for some heavy sightseeing, I left it to junior to decide how we should spend the day. Not surprisingly he wanted to just relax at the hotel with his IPad and coke zero., which was fortunate since that was my wishes for the day too.

After breakfast junior went to our room and I went to the roof terrace for some 1,5 hours with the pool area to myself before anyone else shows up. Perfect!

Around 11:30 Christer showed up as well, but just to sit on a sun lounger in the shade and not for a dip. The mandatory bathing cap is a real showstopper for him, so he settled for just dipping his feet. At one level it is understandable, the cap does not look good, but I am simply too old to care..

As usual we had our lunch in the poolbar in the shade with very attentive staff.

Se have also discovered that Tripadvisor’s best restaurant in the immediate area is located in our hotel, so tonight we are going to try it out.

 

Rome – heatwave sightseeing

Almost 40 degrees celsius is not exactly the perfect setting for sightseeing in «the eternal city», but hey, we cannot spend the entire dayby the pool, right?

After our mandatory hours of grilling in the sun, we had a short siesta before we took a taxi down to Piazza Venezia in the center of Rome.

Piazza Venezia is the central hub of Rome, Italy, in which several thoroughfares intersect, including the Via dei Fori Imperiali and the Via del Corso. It takes its name from the Palazzo Venezia, built by the Venetian Cardinal, Pietro Barbo alongside the church of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice.

The palace looked amazing, but we settled for some  pictures before hastily crossing the street for some welcoming shade.

After strolling for about 30 minutes we started to look for a place to eat, and we ended up going to Er Faciolaro Ristorante Pizzeria Roma in a narrow alley. Junior had a filet mignon which was simply to die for, and I had a pizza which also was amazing. The prosecco was also perfect, as was the coke zero we both had with lots of ice. The price was not that bad either; EUR 48, but then again, I am used to Norwegian prizes. The only drawback with the esrablishment was the toilet, who was missing the seat and could have been cleaner. But, all in all, I agree with the Tripadvisor rating of 4.1.

After dinner we (or rather I) had plans to go see the Colosseum, but junior was done and wanted to return to the hotel, so we had to postpone it for now.

 

Rome – H10 Roma Citta; finally a day in the sun

Repeating readers would know that I am kind of prone to freezing. I am always cold, so every fall I just want to hibernate and wait for spring. Last year we had an amazing summer from May to August, and even though I know that two such summers never appear after each other, I was still hopefull when we entered June. No such luck, however…

But, hopefully it was light in the tunnel. A «light» called Rome, and last Sunday junior and I embarked the KLM flight from Sandefjord heading for Rome, with transfer in Amsterdam. Our journey started a bit dramatic, though, with a guy having a cardiac arrest on board the plane, leading to us being met by ambulance, paramefics and security officers when we landed at Schiphol in Amsterdam. It did, however, look like they managed to save the guy, so kudos to the on-board staff.

At Schiphol we spent a couple of hours in junior’s favorite spot, namely the Aspire lounge, before taking the last leg to Rome.

When we arrived around 23:00, the airport was almost empty, so everything went smothely through customs. Outside we were met by our driver that we had booked in advance (giving myself a pat on the back for that one, since both junior and I were exhausted at this point).

Around midnight we could finally climb into bed in our cozy room at H20 Rome Citta hotel, in the outskirts of Rome and today we woke up to a clearblue sky, sun and comfortable 30 degrees.

After a great complimentary breakfast (due to early reservation), we headed straight up to the roof terrace with an approx 9 x 6 m pool, a jacuzzi and plenty of sun loungers. The water was quite cold, but at least very refreshing. The only drawback with the poolarea was that we had to wear these geeky bathing caps when being in the pool (which almost everyone disregarded anyway, but where I was busted and ordered to wear a cap when I at last also tried to skip the stupid thing.

The pool opened at 9 and at 11 the poolside bar opened, where they sold a few simple dishes, ice cream, snacks and drinks. All in all, a perfect day in the sun and finally a whole day without me freezing.

The hotel also has a small, but sufficient gym, that I tested on our first day, before we headed out to Trastevere for dinner.