Friday, April 22, 2016

Cats and Antiquities in Rome

Friday, April 8:   My first full day in Rome! I overslept a little, missing my included breakfast at the adjoining restaurant. But all was not lost! I still scored a cappucino and a pastry before I set out in search of all things totally Roman!

First on the list was to finish visiting some sites on the short list of "top ten" tourist attractions before taking the less-traveled paths of Rome. I visited Pantheon and Piazza Navona yesterday; today I'll visit Trevi Fountain and Piazza di Spagna before leaving this heavily touristed area and exploring the lesser known and visited areas of the city.

The congestion on the sidewalks getting to the Trevi Fountain was unbelievable! Once there, the giant throng of tourists just hanging around in front of the fountain was disheartening. For some reason these hordes of tourists were just....there. They weren't taking photos, they weren't exploring the plaza, they were just milling about and taking up space in front of the fountain.

Trevi Fountain: this is the best that I could do to avoid lots of bodies and heads
of tourists. This photo crops off significant amounts of fountain to left and right.

I fought my way through the throngs that were at least 10 deep along the railings so that I could get a decent photo of the fountain. Unfortunately I was unable to get the full width of the fountain in the photo without getting all of the tourists' heads in too. I got what I needed then turned around and headed for the nearest little side street that would take me away from all this.

Trumpeter and guitars accompaniment.

The narrow alley I chose to take was filled with vendor carts and soon turned into a pedestrian-only section on Via Delle Muratte. Here I came upon a wonderful street musician - a trumpeter - accompanied by guitars. I paused for a bit and just soaked it in. The location was perfect acoustics, surrounded by high, solid buildings. He chose his spot well. After a bit, I threw some coins into his instrument case and moved on, but not before totally enjoying that little interlude on a decidedly uncrowded, nearly empty little byway.

I wandered up Via Corsa a bit but, struggling with the crowded sidewalk, I turned back onto a small alley toward a parallel side street and continued in what I hoped was the general northerly direction toward a street that would take me to Piazza di Spagna. I peered up each side street to my right, hoping to see the piazza and then - there it was! Several blocks in the distance up Via dei Condotti I could see the Spanish Steps of Piazza di Spagna!

Spanish Steps, currently barricaded due to construction.

In past years and past visits, I have always been enchanted by this particular piazza. It has a charming fountain shaped like an old style boat in the center, and the Spanish Steps, a work of art in themselves, curves up the hill toward a beautiful Renaissance-era church at the top.

Fontana Della Barcaccia

The piazza itself is sort of a lopsided bowtie shape, with the larger, more open area usually filled with a few vendor carts and florists and with the smaller side centered by a 19th century monument to the Holy Mary.

Lovely flower stand at the north end of Piazza di Spagna

Today was gray and overcast but despite the weather, the piazza was filled with tourists. The Spanish Steps themselves were barricaded off for reconstruction work toward the top. Tourists were lined up to take the narrow stairs that ran along the left side of the main staircase. I originally had planned to mount the steps to spend some time up at the top, where Villa Medici and Villa Borghese are located, but changed my mind when I saw the lines of tourists waiting to take the detour stairs.

I saw what I came to see, so walked a bit beyond the piazza then turned down one of the narrow little side streets where I found a very nice little trattoria for lunch.

It was now time to get off this tourist treadmill and cover new, undiscovered ground!

Roman ruins - Largo di Torre Argentina - and home to a large feral cat colony
Kitty taking a nap in the ruins

My first stop after lunch was the ancient Roman ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina, near where Julius Caesar was killed. It's a one block of excavated ruins but also home to a large cat colony, cared for the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. They get the cats spayed/neutered, vaccinated and then work to adopt out the friendlier, more sociable cats. All cats in the colony are cared for in perpetuity. I stepped down the stairs and inside of the facility, which is located in rooms under the road that runs along the southern edge of the ruins.

Entrance downstairs to the cat sanctuary. This lovely
orange tabby was the meet-and-greet kitty.

I would have adopted this kitty in a heartbeat if I could! So sweet and his fur so soft!

Very friendly staff and cats, and I bought a sleep mat for my cat, proceeds benefiting the sanctuary. It's a good thing I live 6,000 miles and 2 airplane flights away from Rome! Here's Nyla, enjoying her new sleep mat:

I continued south a couple of blocks where the neighborhood quickly turned quaint, with narrow cobbled alleys and beautiful well-maintained homes. This was the old Jewish Ghetto section of the city.

Beautiful narrow little alley in the Jewish Ghetto section

Pretty little hidden square in the Jewish Ghetto section

In the middle ages, Jews fleeing Spain settled in this area. A pope during that period had the section walled off to contain the Jews behind locked gates. They were not allowed to participate in commerce or trade except among themselves. Eventually, in the mid 1800's, they were allowed to live freely among other citizens of Rome, until Nazism drove the Jews out of Italy. The area retains the name today and is home to the Synagogue of Rome, but is no longer a strictly Jewish neighborhood.

Fontana Delle Tartarughe. See the cute little turtles hanging
off the edge of the top of the fountain? So cute!

In this area I found the beautiful Fontana Delle Tartarughe, the turtle fountain. It was sculpted in the late 1500's, and the turtles were added by Bernini in the mid 1600's.

This whole area was absolutely charming and totally devoid of the crowds of tourists that "haunt" the sections of the city north of Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle II or east of Via del Teatro dei Marcello.

I continued wandering along the tiny little lanes in the Ghetto until I found the entrance to the ruins of Portico D'Ottavia. This area was so interesting! It's an ongoing archaeological dig and restoration area and includes ruins of ancient structures from several different eras.

Section of the Portico D'Ottavia, undergoing restorations.

Teatro Marcello is one of the major ruins in this area and was at one time the largest arena in Rome before the Coliseum was built several centuries later. At one point in the middle ages portions of this ancient structure were converted to a residential palace, so today it's an odd-looking conglomeration of old-and-older.
Teatro Marcello: a blend of ancient B.C. construction and
newer post A.D. additions

Old and Older: Apollo temple remnants on the rear left,
Teatro Marcello in the background right

Teatro Marcello: a section that is still intact as originally
built in 13 B.C.
All that remains of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, built in the 2nd century B.C.:
All that remains of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, built in 2nd century B.C.

A nice walk going backward through history today! Time to return to the hotel, have an espresso and think about dinner plans.

Next up: a morning at the open air market and a walk through more antiquities.

1 comment:

  1. To think of those grand columns and buildings being built that long ago just astounds me. I am happy that that much of them has survived this long.

    And of course I loved the kitty pictures.