Rome, Italy: Day 4

Sunday, June 23, 2019

On our last full day in Rome, we had a lot of wish-list options, but nothing firm decided.  We had initially considered either the Borghese Gallery, the National Museum of Rome, Pilgrims’ Rome, or St. Peter’s Basilica.  Not reserving tickets far enough in advance, the Borghese Gallery was off the list.  With a knee injury the day before, we similarly crossed off Pilgrims’ Rome since it would require a lot of walking.  We also decided to skip the National Museum of Rome since my mom in particular was more interested in simply “feeling the city.”

In the end, we decided to head to St. Peter’s Basilica.  We were supposed to have seen this the day before when we were at the Vatican, but when we were done with the Vatican Museums, we were exhausted and got on the metro before we remembered to double back and see what is probably the most famous church in the world.  With the concept of “feeling the city” in mind, Jeremy suggested that a walk along the Tiber River near the church would be a good idea, so we added this to the morning itinerary.

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For the afternoon, we left things open, but ultimately headed to Campo d’ Fiori, then walked to Piazza Navona, where we made an impromptu stop at the Gladiator Museum.  From here, we continued to the Pantheon, then the Trevi Fountain, then made it all the way back to our apartment in Barberini Square.  A great end to our time in Rome!

St. Peter’s Basilica

Per our morning plans above, we started with the bus to Peter’s Basilica.  Beautiful!

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If the Pope is in town, he greets the crowd every Sunday at noon.  Since they were getting set up for this event, a large section of St. Peter’s Square was blocked off.

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But we were still able to wander around a bit and admire the various statues.

After going through several security checks, we made it into the Basilica.  Since it was Sunday, there were a lot of services going on and we weren’t able to enter all areas, but it was still pretty neat.

The decor and artwork is lavish and amazing.  No wonder a lot of people were upset with how the indulgences were being used, starting the reformation.  But, on the other hand, it is one of the most amazing churches I have ever seen, and last year alone, we saw a lot of churches!  So many, in fact, that I made 5 different posts about them (Israel, Austria and Germany, Ukraine, more churched in Europe, and the rest of the world).

If you are in Rome, don’t miss seeing this amazing church.

Castel Sant’Angelo

After spending quite a bit of time at St. Peter’s Basilica, we decided to head towards the Tiber River, stopping for gelato on the way.  We were delighted with our first view of Castel Sant’Angelo.

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There was a giant chess board, so John and I decided to stop for a game of chess.

We also spotted this cool lizard:

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Then we circled around the castle and found a fun playground.  It is amazing to think of all the international playgrounds the boys have been to over the years.

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The Tiber River

Deciding it was time for lunch, we crossed the bridge, went down the stairs, and investigated the restaurants on the other side of the river.

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The restaurants along the river were probably not as high quality as the ones further in, but the view was amazing and we went with it.

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As expected, the quality wasn’t amazing, but with a few exceptions, was mostly fine.  Since there was no tourist menu, we decided to order a bunch of different items and share.  We started with some really terrible bruschetta, a mediocre tomato and mozzarella salad, and a mediocre mixed salad.  But then the meal got significantly better.  John wanted to try a potato dish that was topped with mozzarella and bread crumbs, then baked in the oven.  James was interested in a similar one with rice instead of potatoes.  Delicious!  The pizza and lasagna were reasonable.  We ended with some sort of chocolate dessert that was just okay.

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Our wine came in a half-liter carafe, but we were not given wine glasses.  Instead we were given the tiny cups that are most commonly used for soda or water.  None of us were sure what to think, but the wine was quite good.  In Italy, the house wine is almost always delicious.  Unless you are really into wine and are looking for something special, save your pennies and order a carafe of the house wine in whatever size it appropriate for the entire table.  It will almost always be cheaper than a soda, and may even be similar price to the water.

After finishing lunch, we walked a little along the water, and discovered that someone had set up a tennis court and were allowing people to play for free.  Of course, we decided to stop.  I wonder how many balls they lose to the water?

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It was starting to really heat up, and since we had eaten outside, we didn’t have a chance to cool off in some AC.  We decided to head back to the apartment to rest, so I pulled out Google Maps and found the best bus stop.

Heart of Rome Walk

After resting and journaling, we decided to go out and see more of Rome.  Approaching evening, we decided to take the bus and go see what Campo d’ Fiori looked like after the market closed.  Gross!  They were cleaning up the mess of a day’s worth of vegetable stands.  Either come here in the morning, early afternoon, or after dark when the night life starts.

Moving on quickly, we decided to follow Rick Steves’ Heart of Rome walk and came across the Sant’Andrea della Valle.  Much better!

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Eventually, we made it to Piazza Navona and saw the church Sant’Agnese in Agone:

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And we also found a cool fountain:

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We wandered around the square a bit until John noticed a sign for a Gladiator Museum and really wanted to go in.  I was a little reluctant, but I decided to check on the prices, at which point I became more reluctant.  Then the woman at the desk significantly dropped the price.  Then she gave us a “senior discount” on top of that price.  Finally, I decided we should just go in.  Oh what delight for John!

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He studied every single sign and drank all the information in.  There were only two rooms, and it was a bit hokey, but he loved it.  For most people, I would say that it is a bit of a waste of money, but if you have a strong interest in gladiators, you will probably have fun.

And if you get tired of whiny kids, you can lock them in the dungeon.  Joking!

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From here, we thought about getting drinks and a dessert and briefly sat a a restaurant in Navona Square with somewhat reasonable prices for desserts.  Then we saw the drink menu.  Sodas were at least 7 Euros each, and glasses of wine started at 15 Euros.  Even a small bottle of water was 5 Euros.  We decided to flee.

If drinks aren’t included in the tourist menu prices and aren’t posted anywhere else on the menu, always ask to see a drink menu before you sit, particularly if the restaurant is located somewhere cute and touristy.

A few block later, we picked something up at the grocery store and sat in the square outside the Pantheon.  Quite pleasant!

We considered taking a bus back to the apartment, but decided that since it was our last night, we would continue on.

At the Trevi Fountain, we stopped for crepes, waffles, and gelato.  Yum!

Then we went back to the apartment to pack and sleep.

On to Florence!

 

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