My Favorite Destinations: Rome

by Diana Hechler

Colossus of Rome

(November 6, 2003) Great Caesar’s Ghost ! You might actually spot the fellow if you’re dining at Pancrazio, located in lively Campo dei Fiori. Home of a classic Roman pasta carbonara, Pancrazio rests on the foundations of the ancient theater in which Caesar was assassinated. Hence, the ghost. But enjoy your dinner anyway…

Pancrazio is just one of the hidden delights of the “Eternal City”. Once you’ve posed with the gladiators outside the Coliseum and marveled at the glories of the Sistine Chapel, you’re ready to explore off the beaten track.
One of your first stops should be the wonderfully intimate Villa Borghese Museum, located in the park of the same name. After years of renovation, the museum is once again open to show off its incomparable Bernini sculptures, as well as various works by Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio which grace the walls.

Don’t forget to look down at the floor, so as not to miss the ancient mosaics featuring gladiator themes. To see the second-floor paintings, you’ll need to descend to the Museum Shop level and take the stairs from there. It’s worth the effort.

Hadrian's Villa

Have you visited the small St. Peter in Chains church to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece, Moses? Perhaps you’re wondering why he sports a pair of horns on his head. The story is that when Michelangelo was about to carve the block of stone, he was searching for inspiration in the old Hebrew texts. Somehow, the translation of the Hebrew word for “light” (as in rays of…) was misinterpreted as “horns”.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do and take your evening stroll after dinner (called the passeggiata). You’ll find the Piazza Navona alive with magicians, living statues, and a musician or two, all basking in the glory of Bernini’s spotlit Fountain of the Four Rivers. Don’t forget the gelato, the world’s best ice-cream! (I, myself, am partial to Nocciolo or hazelnut.)


Villa d'Este

A wonderful excursion just outside of the city is the Renaissance gardens at the Villa d’Este in Tivoli. Easily accessible by train, the Villa d’Este marries Renaissance art, landscape, and water elements in a grand symphony for the senses. The Alley of the 100 Fountains is one of the most famous sights in Italy. Nearby, superimposed on Neptune’s Fountain is a baroque structure by Bernini that houses a “water organ”. As originally designed in the 18th c., the fountain’s water was forced through the pipes in such a way as to make the organ “playable”. Supposedly the effect was that of a multitude of trumpets!

For The Kids:

Visit the top of the dome at St. Peter’s. Elevator for the sensible ones; stairs for the adventurous. Be sure of all climbers’ endurance beforehand, since there’s no turning back once on the stairs.

Diana M. Hechler, D. Tours Travel

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