When in Rome . . .


Saturday 12th to Tuesday 15th February 2022

We caught a train from Firenze, travelling first class, and our daughters flew in from the UK both arriving at the Rome Termini Station around midday.

From there we travelled two stops on the metro then walked to The Savoy Hotel – a fairly large establishment and hard to miss you would think but initially Robert managed to lead us straight past. More of things that were missed later.

We last came here on a family holiday about ten years ago and stepped out to refresh our memories of some of the sights including the Spanish Steps . . .

the Trevi Fountain . . .

. . .and the Pantheon, the most perfectly preserved of all ancient temples. We found we each had different memories of the last visit.

Matilda had read about the oldest coffee shop in Rome, the Antico Caffè Greco. Robert humours her when she demands to take refreshment in a traditional tea room or coffee shop but this was a very expensive disappointment. The building is not as decorative or grand as many we have visited and it is certainly the most expensive beer we have ever purchased despite the “free” tiered stand of snacks which accompanied it.

Robert wanted to watch the Six Nations matches but the distaff side of the Herd did not want to sit in a bar with English rugby fans in Rome and could not be in the eternal city without heading off to see some sights. Taking a slight detour to visit Lush to buy a bath bomb we strolled down to the Coliseum which . . .

. . . was bathed in evening sunshine.

We then returned to the hotel, Jaime to enjoy her bath bomb and relax in peace and Ruth and Matilda to put on some extra layers and head out for a drink. They discovered refreshing limoncello spritz at the Negresco Bocca di Leone, served with delicious snacks. We all reconvened there to eat and Robert was delighted to announce that he had met an ex-student of his [Matt Holmes], in the bar watching the rugby. We were each pleased with our own choices.

The following morning we had time to see some more sights before we needed to get to the Stadio Olympico for the match. Robert felt he also needed to see the Coliseum so we retraced our steps, past the first shopping mall, the Trajan Forum and markets . . .

. . . to a slightly less sunny Coliseum [the prototype for all stadiums since it was built in the first century] and the Arco di Constantino and on to . . .

. . . Circo Massimo the ancient chariot racing stadium built between the Aventine and the Palatine Hills. Now a park, it is easy to imagine chariots thundering up and down its 621m length. Indeed we assumed the people wearing VR headsets were seeing just that.

The Ponte Cestio took us over to Isola Tiberina; the only island in the River Tiber as it runs through Rome it is associated with medicine and healing.

Robert had bought our tickets through the RFU in England and to manage the crowds, they had a time-slot for entry printed on them which for us was a minimum of an hour and a half before kick off. Matilda was sceptical but Robert, who wanted to maximise his enjoyment of the experience, insisted we should aim for the correct time. A walk and a tram ride later we arrived at the Stadio Olympico.

Robert was proved correct. We queued for a short while to show our Covid “green pass” and were able to buy some beer and chips before taking our seats. We heard of others who had to queue for much longer and missed the opportunity to indulge in refreshments.

Capacity at the Stadio Olympico was limited to 50% and only even numbered seats were being allocated. Although this made the arena far less crowded than usual, it also meant there was less of an atmosphere during the game. There was very little commentary in either Italian or English so we were lucky that Jaime was messaging a friend [Jack] who was watching back in England being careful to avoid any spoilers to get some of the decisions and injuries explained to us.

Rome was flooded with England fans and not all bars and restaurants were prepared for the onslaught after the austerity of lockdown. We were lucky to find a table and had a pleasant meal but the service was very slow so we declined pudding for an ice cream from Amarena [complete with named wafers], the establishment opposite.

Next day [Monday], Matilda had pre-booked tickets to visit the Vatican City museum and see the Sistine Chapel. She remembered visiting about thirty five years ago and thought she had walked from the Basilica more or less straight into the chapel. Now there is a vast Vatican museum with beautiful rooms and displays of artefacts to walk through.

First you walk through the Cortile della Pigna named for the huge bronze pine cone, almost four meters high, which once adorned a Roman fountain near the Pantheon.

In the centre of the square is Arnaldo Pomodoro’s sculpture, Sphere within a Sphere.

There are many galleries of art and sculptures. . .

. . . displayed in splendid rooms.

The Sala Rotunda in the Vatican Museum is a hemispherical vault imitating that of the Pantheon completed in 1779 and designed by Michelangelo Simonetti, the architect of the Vatican Museum.

We all felt that the Galleria delle carte Geografiche was our favourite room. The maps along its 120m length show the whole of the Italian peninsular in 40 panels each showing a different region and its most prominent city.

No photography is allowed in the Sistine Chapel and both our daughters missed the Creation of Man, probably the most famous bit of ceiling in the world, amongst the wealth of decoration on the ceiling.

We have yet to make it into St. Peter’s as we decided it was too cold to queue and a warm coffee would be a better option [10 years ago it was the same – long queues].

At one time, Castel Sant’Angelo was the tallest building in Rome and was initially commissioned by the Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, it is now a museum. The sky looked very threatening as we passed back over the Pons Aelius, named for Hadrian’s adopted son Lucius Aelius, to the left bank of the Tiber. Both father and son died in 138 CE.

Matilda could not remember the interior of the Pantheon so we joined the short queue to go inside.

The giant oculus is always open to the sky and as it was raining, a large central area of the floor was cordoned off for safety. You can clearly see how this provided the inspiration for the Sala Rotunda.

One of Robert’s brother Ian’s school friends [Guy Haslam] had seen the photo of us all outside the Pantheon the previous day [See Selfie of the Day] and recommended a gelateria near by called Giolitti. We took advantage of being close by again and this time we all indulged and were not disappointed.

Matilda thought the view from the top of the Vittoriano would be impressive but having walked up to the colonnade we decided that at full price for four of us it might not be so very different from the one we had already enjoyed part way up.

Route Map:

Selfie of the day:

Dish of the day:

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