Friday, 3 June 2016

Rome Holiday:: Day 1

Hello!!! I am back! From a most beautiful and amazing Roman holiday, full of history, astounding architectural feats and deep seated culture. It wasn't that long a holiday really, but we crammed in an incredible amount of sightseeing- our poor feet were worn to stumps! We had quite an early flight out there, to try and make the best of the day, and arrived at our hotel, Hotel Madrid, at about 12.30pm. It was a great place, a lovely location right next to the Spanish Steps, but so quiet! And it had the added bonus of a rooftop garden with a view over The Vatican, and free tea/coffee/cake provided. We thought we would take immediate advantage to rest a bit after our weary morning travels and it quickly became a daily habit for us to return in the afternoon for an hour or so and sit on the roof garden watching the world go by.

The Spanish Steps (above) are a set of steps leading from the Piazza (square) di Spagna up to the Piazza Trinitá dei Monti which has the Trinitá dei Monti church at the top. It is constantly swamped with tourists as there are also lots of designer shops around the Piazza di Spagna which attract lots of attention and the steps themselves are currently being cleaned and restored so it is blocked off. Usually you would be able to walk on the steps themselves, and they would also be partially covered with an incredible display of Azalea flowers, but for now we had to content ourselves with standing at the bottom gazing up. It is still very impressive with its 135 glistening white steps!

Our hotel was brilliantly situated for lots of sights within walking distance, and we decided to wander over to the Trevi Fountain which was a five minute walk away. The buildings in Rome are incredible- stone masons must have done very well out of building the city as nearly every building is decorated with carved columns, sculpted roofs, embellished walls, crafted window frames.... even quite non-descript buildings had something of interest chiseled into it.

The Fontana di Trevi was incredible, taking up the entire side of a building. The statues in the fountain are very lifelike, and as with the majority of the statues in Rome, have meaning and symbolism behind them. The tall chap in the middle is Ocean, the personification of a river that runs around the Earth and from where all streams begin, to the left of him is Abundance, and on the right is Health. The two horses in front represent the restless violence of the sea and also the calm tranquillity of the sea. Clever huh?

Most of the houses in Rome appear to be flats, especially in the centre of the city, so there aren't any 'English' gardens with lawns and borders- instead, they excel at rooftop gardens or window boxes filled to the brim with bright colourful flowers. We spent the majority of our time walking down the streets with our noses in the air, staring upwards at all of the colours above our heads.

And occasionally on our travels, we came across some very random buildings, like this one above, with its carved faces and door or window mouths.

Continuing our explorations we meandered back past the Spanish Steps and went in the opposite direction until we reached Piazza del Popolo, an enormous square which used to be one of the main entrances into the old city. Now it houses an Egyptian obelisk brought over from Heliopolis surrounded by four little fountains making up the Fontana dell'Obelisco, with two larger fountains at either end of the longer length of the curved square, the old North gate in the centre of the length and on the opposite side are the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli- which were under scaffolding at the time of my visit.

We followed the road between the two churches, Via del Corso and came across the church which boasts the second enormous dome that can be seen from the rooftop garden of our hotel, Sant'Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso (usually shortened to San Carlo al Corso). It is stunning when you walk in, immediately hushed by the ambiance and quiet- such a contrast from the bustle of the busy street outside. Looking up the roof is covered in gold and lush paintings, and there are arches everywhere leading up into the incredible dome. They don't do things in halves in Italy!!

We lost count actually, of the amount of domes you could see at any one time in Rome (the one above is St Peter's Basilica, part of The Vatican)- they are absolutely everywhere, almost as common as chimneys here. And at night, they light up like baubles on a Christmas tree. Our first evening in Rome was spent eating gelato from a popular gelataria, Pompi- but as the ice cream started melting before you'd found somewhere to sit, I didn't get many photos of it, you'll just have to trust that it was delicious!!
Join me tomorrow for day two of my Roman adventure!! x

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