Our First Two Days in Rome
After 9 sleepless hours, J and I’s airplane landed at 7AM in the fog and light drizzle of Rome’s FCO airport.
There were no forms or questions at the immigration checkpoint, their stamp pad was low on ink, and the date on the stamp might have even been wrong. No luggage was scanned, no fruit sniffing dogs snarling from the leash of a gun carrying agent. Italy didn’t seem to care who we were or what we were bringing in.
We bought tickets for the local train, which had numerous stops along the way to Trastevere Station.
The airport station.
From there, we lugged our bags in the drizzle for a 15 minute walk to our AirBNB. The host explained the apartment and let us leave our bags until the place was cleaned. We began wandering, sans umbrella, towards Piazza Navona and the surrounding area.
This city is a wonderland of textures, crumbling stuff, grit, and history. Nearly every narrow street and alley beckons with an interesting view.
One of many beautiful public fountains.
Big building or small men?
A tear in reality.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.
Old wall and lone column.
White washed on rust.
A dark alley.
Narrow street, narrow car.
Tree and planter.
Our apartment building is retrofitted with the world’s smallest elevator.
On the way back, we bought groceries at a supermarket. I forgot to weigh the ciabattas, and held up the line on the only register while I ran back to the bread scale.
Back at the apartment, we made salami and cheese sandwiches with cherry tomatoes on the side, then took a five hour nap until evening.
For dinner, we tried going to a museum cafe only to be told it was lunch only. The barista recommended a restaurant nearby, so we looped around the tricky streets to find it. Even with GPS, it’s still easy to get lost here.
The restaurant wasn’t open yet, so we ate tasty gelato.
Distance walked for the day: 14.5km/9mi
On Wednesday, we ate breakfast at home then set out on an all day journey across town. Our destination was Via Appia Antica, the old Appian Way.
Our meandering route passed by many interesting sights, the first was Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, AKA the Palace of Wisdom.
Courtyard view of the church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza.
J in the halls.
Next, we stopped at one of my favorite buildings: the Pantheon. Marisa tomes have been written about this space, but they don’t convey how vast the interior feels in person. Looking out the oculus into the sky, it’s easy to imagine us tourists as a retina.
Fontana del Pantheon.
The crumbling exterior.
Layers of history.
By chance, we ended up walking by the cat sanctuary at set in the famous ruins of Torre Argentina. Over twenty cats, some friendly, wandered amongst the rubble of three old temples below current street level. I was able to pat a healthy-looking cat sunning himself on an electrical box.
A man consults the clock master.
We crossed the river to Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island), then recrossed near the remains of Rotto Bridge and walked up lush and picturesque streets of Aventine Hill. We took in the view of town from Giardino degli Aranci, explored the adjacent Santa Sabina church, then took our turn getting a keyhole view of St. Peter’s Basilica from the door of The Knights of Malta.
There were so many oranges in the trees, and my grumbling stomach wished I was a giraffe.
Pods over water.
The mighty Tiber.
You know what they say about long rods…
Bottle shard wall security.
View from the garden.
Oranges, oranges everywhere and not a drop to drink.
Inside Santa Sabina.
We walked down the western side of the hill and bought three slices of pizza to eat outside. The best was squash blossom and anchovy.
Before reaching our destination road, we were pleased to find that the road leading up to it, Via di Porta San Sebastiano, was closed to cars that day.
We strolled the cobblestone road in peace before crossing onto Via Appia Antica. The Appian Way was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic, and had fallen our of disuse before being restored for Rome’s Millennium and Great Jubilee celebrations.
The first 5km/3mi are still heavily used by cars, and not only is there little shoulder but both sides are often lined with old walls. It’s a stressful stretch.
But eventually, the road quiets down and we were free to enjoy the view.
It’s beautiful: a perfect cobblestone line that cuts through pastures, ruins, old estates. Tall trees provide shade and look like something from another world.
A taste of good views.
The Circus of Maxentius.
This old house.
Me and my ways.
J and I walked briskly, stopping to sit on a fallen stone and clear rocks from our shoes or look at the map. We bought our first coffees from a bar at on the early intersections. We stopped at a quiet visitor’s center to defecate. The two guys at the front desk seemed chronically bored. One repeatedly yawned in a theatrical way, and the other explained the sights along the road with pent-up gusto.
After walking on the road for 8km, we cut north on an ugly stretch of Via del Casale Rotondo to Capannelle Station. There was no ticket machine at the station, so we crossed our fingers and got on the train towards Termini Station.
We meandered back, stopping at the insanely crowded Spanish Steps to watch people and the sunset.
Empty government building.
Sunset from the top of the Spanish Steps.
We ate dinner back at the apartment after getting gelato.
J went to bed at a reasonable hour while I listened to music and started sorting through photos into the following morning.
Distance walked for the day: 27km/17mi