Monday, December 16, 2013

(Europe trip, post 12 of 14) Morning in Siena...then ROME!

June 12, 2013 - Mark's birthday!

We had a nice, non-rushed morning waking up in our beautiful hotel in Siena.  Then we headed down to have some breakfast...

We took our cocoa out to the garden to sip it and enjoy the beautiful view.  Not a bad breakfast for the birthday boy, right??

Our view.

We learned from another guest that this cluster of cypress trees is part of a beautiful, old cemetery.  Oh, how I wished that I had known that earlier.  I would have loved to have explored it.  Next time.  Please say we will come back to this beautiful place, and I'll explore there next time.

Mark checking us out of our hotel and having them call us a cab to the train station.

While we waited for our cab we found this amazing bakery around the corner from our hotel.  This sweet Italian lady (who, understandably, didn't speak a word of English) helped us buy some delicious things to enjoy on our train ride.  I asked if I could take her photo - she was concerned about how she looked.  I think she looked perfectly lovely.

Our train ride to Rome!

By the time we were getting close to our hotel in Rome, dragging all our luggage around in that heat, I was starting to not feel well (I'll spare you the details).  Anyway, I was anxious to get checked-in to our hotel and settled.  We found our way to the Trevi Fountain and our hotel was right there!  We rushed to check in and took a quick breather.  One thing that was a fun surprise upon check-in is that we were presented with mail that was being held for us.  Knowing that we would arrive at this hotel on Mark's birthday, my mom had a birthday card (cleverly themed to boot) mailed there for them to give to him!  So thoughtful!

As for our room...I have to admit that after having booked our room 5 months in advance and requesting a certain room (or nearby) I was not thrilled that they put us on the other side of where I wanted to be (and I didn't love the tiny, pink room), BUT let's be honest...if I hadn't been caught up in details planning the trip so long I would've been thrilled with the place.  Really.  The hotel is centrally located to be able to walk easily where we wanted to go, we still enjoyed a great view, and the Trevi Fountain was literally a coin's throw out our window!  Here is our room:

View from our window.  Not bad, right?

Tommy and Megan's room.  I'm so glad they got such a pretty room.  It was a larger room, white with a bigger window and pretty white curtains (both of which brightened up the room nicely), and a view directly at the fountain.  They were a floor below us too and, whether you feel it's a pro or con, it made things feel like they were right on top of the fountain (I thought it was super cool).

Once we were all checked in and had a chance to take a breather, we set out to do the Heart of Rome walk in our guidebook.  Mostly we just wanted to get out and explore Rome a bit!  This guy was right outside our hotel.  Are those chestnuts or something?  I meant to find out and didn't, but he looked cool.

Next we headed to the Pantheon so we could have a chance to see inside...

Still, almost 2,000 years later, this is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.  Other than the front door, the open oculus is the only source of natural light in the buidling.  It also offers some circulation.  There is a drainage system in the floor that handles rain which enters through the oculus.  Pretty cool. 

The things we'll do for a photo...

Our turn...

The Pantheon was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus - dedicated to all the gods of ancient Rome.  It was rebuilt (this building) by Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD.

 Note the supporting arches built into the structure...

Standing in the Piazza della Rotonda (with the Pantheon on its south side) is this red marble Egyptian obelisk topping a fountain.  The obelisk was originally built as a set of two by Ramses II where they stood at the Temple of Ra in Heliopolis.  It was brought to Rome in ancient times...of course to be topped by a cross.  It is interesting to note that the city of Rome has most obelisks in the world - eight ancient Egyptian and five ancient Roman, in addition to several more modern ones (and until 2005 one from ancient Ethiopia also).

 Beautiful sites like this everywhere.
We went simple for dinner, but it was a place I'd read about and was excited to try.  Its a bakery that sells pizza by the weight and is known to tourists and locals alike as a great place to grab a quick, inexpensive slice of delicious pizza.  Forno Campo De'Fiori!
I'll admit that things were pretty loud and chaotic in there, but I say that was part of the experience.  Locals know the drill and don't wait around for tourists to figure it out, so you either make your place or someone takes your place.

Here is Mark standing in front of Forno with our food.  I ended up getting their minimalist pizza bianca (which is simply their pizza crust topped with olive oil and sea salt).   We can't remember what type of pizza Mark had, but it was also quite simple (and yummy).  This is another place that you can find plenty of great reviews online and videos on you tube - here is one short review that includes a picture of the type of pizza I had.

We walked to nearby Piazza Navona where we finished enjoying our food.

There are three fountains in Piazza Navona.  We hung out here at Fontana del Moro, or Moor Fountain, and enjoyed our meal.  Not a bad view for a meal.  There are four Tritons around the basin and the central figure is a Moor wrestling a dolphin.

So I knew that Piazza Navona was on my list of places I wanted to see in Rome, but it was one of those places that I unexpectedly fell in love with.  I really, really loved it.  It's a beautiful piazza.  I loved the architecture, the people watching, the fountains, the street musicians, and the artists with their various mediums of art.
There were such a variety of people there too, and for someone who loves people watching that helps make a place all the better.  There were Italian business men...

Nuns that even stopped to watch an artist with his cans of spray paint...

And, of course there were plenty of tourists (like us!) from all over the world.  Here are Mark and I in front of Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers).  I particularly enjoy sculptures and this was one I remember learning about in a high school humanities class nearly 20 years ago.  It was so fun to finally see it in person!
Of course the fact that Mark and I enjoyed an impromptu little dance, dip and smooch there may lend itself to my good feelings toward the fountain and Piazza Navona too.

The Fountain of the Four Rivers includes a sculpture of a god for each of the four continents of the world as they were known in the 1600's.  Here the Nile River god (Africa) has his head covered because the source of the Nile hadn't been discovered yet at the time.

And who knows when a podiatrist may need a great picture of a foot, so here's a close up of that Nile River god's foot...

And here is a shot from further back that shows the huge obelisk supported by the Fountain of the Four Rivers.

The is the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune).  The main sculpture shows Neptune battling an octopus, and other sculptures that fit the ancient mythological theme of Nereids, cupids, and walruses.

We strolled back to our hotel where I grabbed my tripod for some night shots.  May as well snap a few of the Trevi Fountain while we're right there...

Next up was the Spanish Steps (named for the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican that's been there for 300 years).  There isn't exactly much to see there, but it was the hangout for so many big names...Keats, Lord Byron, Goethe.  It is another notable place to at least see for yourself once, and do a little bit of people watching.  I got to try out being in one of my night shots with my gadgety little camera remote control.  Can you spy Mark and me? (it's not too hard)

Our last stop for the night was the Colosseum.  That is a must see at night.  It is amazing!  My advice to those visiting Rome is to be sure to save some energy to wander Rome on foot at night.  In addition to the contagious energy on the streets of Rome at night - the fountains, buildings, and moments are all lit up so beautifully and should be experienced that way too!  Not to mention that if you are there in the summertime, the cooler evenings feel wonderful.

I wanted to get a shot of the ancient Colosseum with the contrast of streaked modern vehicle lights in the foreground.  Rome is such a blend of old and modern that I think a shot like this is the perfect icon for Rome.  I did a lot of research (on flickr, etc) ahead of time to figure out where the best place to take this picture was and had it all mapped out, but when we got there that area was under construction and blocked off so I had to improvise.  I'm still pretty happy with what I was able to get especially since I am still learning.  I'll share just a few.

Considering the look I was going for, I was pretty excited to get a shot with the right timing of vehicle streaks and the motorcycle there still waiting to turn.  I love it.  Oh, and if you notice in these two pictures, there is someone standing in the foreground of one of the ground level arches - that's Mark.

I liked the way this captured the police car lights.

The nearby Arch of Constantine.
That last stop was the perfect segue for our next day in Rome, but we lingered just a tiny bit too long and the bus and metro systems shut down before we could get back to our hotel.  We started walking, but got a bit turned around and ended up in an area where we weren't feeling totally comfortable.  Between that and the fact that we were tired and needed to be up early to be ready for our ancient Rome tour...we snagged a Taxi and were back to our hotel in no time.

I hope it was a memorable birthday for you, Mark!  I love you!

No comments: