Piazza Navona and Four Rivers Fountain
With the glory of the Pantheon behind me, I walked west towards Piazza Navona. This square is possibly the most famous in all of Rome, and for good reason! Piazza Navona was built on the ruins of a stadium called Circus Agonalis and was built by Emperor Domitian in 86 AD. The piazza is home to three beautiful fountains: Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune), and Fontana del Moro (Moor). Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is my favorite fountain in Rome! The fountain, commissioned by Pope Innocent X was created by the famous Bernini between 1647 and 1651.
Take one look at the masculine beauty of the Four Rivers and you’ll understand why I love those men! The fountain represents the major rivers on each continent. Nile has a cloth over his head to signify that at the time, no one knew where the source of the Nile was. (Side note: I have been to one of the still disputed 'Sources of the Nile', just outside Jinja, Uganda--an underground spring.) Danube touches the papal coat of arms since it was the river closest to Rome. My favorite, Ganges holds an oar representing the river's passable waters. Finally, Rio de la Plata sits on coins as a symbol of the riches the Americas could bring.
Just in case you needed more reason to linger in the square, the piazza is also a fabulous place to find some art to take home as gifts or souvenirs!
Fountains in the city
As if Rome wasn't already amazing enough, the city has over 2,000 free drinking fountains containing some of the freshest, coolest, and yummiest water around! These public fountains are called nasoni or "big noses" and provide the same water that comes out of the faucets in Rome's houses. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and enjoy the free acqua!
Food and Wine
There are so many fantastic places to eat in Rome! As with most of Italy, seafood is a prominent feature in many dishes as the Mediterranean Sea is less than an hour away. If seafood is sounding tasty, I can highly recommend ordering Spaghetti ai Frutti di Mare “fruits of the sea”, which is fresh seafood pasta (think mussels, squid, crawfish, and prawns)…YUM!
I have a few favorite places to grab a bite in Rome—although, if you haven’t been to Europe, you should know that eating isn’t done quickly. You won’t be rushed to get the bill, in fact, you’ll probably have to ask for it!
If you continue southwest from Piazza Navona, you’ll come to Piazza Campo dei Fiori, a smaller square but (IMO) notable for the Mozzarella Bar, Obicà! Stop here for a snack or even dinner, but when you do, order the Gran Degustazione, a tasting of 3 mozzarellas (there is a creamy one that is heaven in your mouth)! Grab some wine to go with it and enjoy!
That’s Amore is a charming restaurant just down from the Trevi Fountain that is filled with black and white pictures of Sophia Loren and Cary Grant (another heartthrob of mine!). You’ll notice that fresh pasta is probably being made right behind the counter, so you know you are getting authentic, delicious, pasta and pizza! Eat here! You won’t regret it!
My last recommendation is located off Via del Tritone just before Piazza Barberini. Il Giardino di Albino is a traditional restaurant that serves the most amazing antipasto della casa! You are plied with meats, cheeses, olives, and breads until you are ready to burst! Every time I’ve been there, the gentlemen serving are always trying to give you more! It is a fun place for a great meal!
Now, let's talk Vino! If you are looking for something yummy, just go for the house wines “vino rosso (red) or bianco (white) della casa”. Italian wines are created to pair with Italian food, so when in Italy, ordering anything less than Italian wine is...uncalled for. (Don’t get me wrong, living in Italy for 2 years, you can get bored, but as a general rule, I stuck with the Italian wines! And why not? They are delicious!)
The Vatican City was founded as a sovereign state in 1929 and has a population of around 800 people with about 450 possessing Vatican citizenship. The best way to visit the epicenter of the Catholic Church is on a half-day walking tour through the vast museums and chapels. Throughout the tour you’ll see countless priceless works of art by some of the most famous artists. You’ll complete your tour with a visit to the Sistine Chapel and finally into St. Peter’s Basilica. Don’t forget to stop by the Post Office and send a postcard to friends or family before you leave...the Vatican is its own country!
Colosseum and Roman Forum
Visit and explore the largest Roman amphitheater and imagine gladiators engaged in battle while the citizens of Rome cheered them on. After you tour and learn the history behind the Colosseum, walk next door (or vice versa) to the Forum and dive into the history of Roman daily life. The Forum was the center of Roman economic, religious, political, and social activities.
To the tourist’s eye, it just looks like a bunch of ruins, but when you take a guided tour, the Forum comes alive to become a place where people were born, loved, conspired, and died. I highly recommend taking a guided tour of the Forum and Colosseum. Unlike in America, where you are lucky if someone read a book on the subject, in Europe, those that give tours are typically Masters or even PhD level students in the subject.
If you look close enough you'll notice the letters "SPQR" all over Rome. From the smallest of ancient coins to the sewer caps beneath your feet. SPQR stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus or "The Senate and People of Rome". SPQR is Rome's official emblem dating back to around 80 BC.
Rome has something for everyone. I've found it to be one of those cities that keeps drawing you back, time after time. These blogs have only scratched the surface of the beauty Rome has to offer, so if you are intrigued and ready to fall in love with Rome, contact Earthly Roams to start planning your trip to the Eternal City!