19 March 2017

2016 ITALY Rome 4 - First Taste of Roma & Piazza Navona

We met up with the other folks in our group who had arrived earlier. After hugs and howdies, we enjoyed a light lunch. We were supposed to eat on the hotel rooftop terrace, but the weather was not cooperating. A few unpredictable, intermittent sprinkles.

The back-up plan was in the restaurant / bar in the hotel lobby. The facility was on the modern side, which fit the overall hotel decor. Lunch included the Roman specialty of pasta with pecorino and pepper. This version was a little too peppery for me, but my palette runs mild, not wild!
Apr├Ęs lunch we gathered in the lobby to meet Sabrina, our main tour guide while we were in Roma. She was born here and is an art historian. She gave us a brief history of Italy and Roma, and then we started our first three-hour walking tour.
Not too far away was the the Piazza Navona. Our hotel was named for this square. It was crowded with tourists, passersby, and lovers playing kissy-face in this romantic spot.
This wide and long piazza matches the footprint of a stadium built in the first century, where Roman games were played. It is skirted by apartments (what a view for residents!!), shops, restaurants, and an elaborate church. Cellars in these buildings still harbor remnants of the original foundation. 

Here we saw great examples of Baroque Roman architectural features. A perfect example is the Sant'Agnese of Agone church built around 1652. St. Agnes was an early Christian who was martyred in this stadium. Read her interesting story at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_of_Rome.

We also saw three beautiful fountains--Fontana die Quattro Fiumi, the Fontana del Moro, and the Fontana del Nettuno. The first or "Four Rivers" is the main attraction and was designed by famous Italian sculpture Gian Lorenzo Bernini. He is considered the "father of Baroque." That style is decor on steroids. We would see much work by this artist throughout our tours.
The sculpture was commissioned by Pope Innocent X. It is topped with a towering Egyptian obelisk, a dove, and the Pope's summer palace crescent. The four corners represent the Nile (Africa), the Danube (Europe), the Ganges (Asia) and the Rio del la Plata (America) rivers. So the Pope was really saying, "I'm the master of the world!" A thousand years later it was thought to be the inspiration for the famous Trevi fountain.
At the south end of the piazza, is the Fountain of the Moor. It was originally designed by Giacomo della Porta with a dolphin and four titans, but a "Moor" was added later by Bernini. The original was eventually moved to the Galleria Borghese and this is a replica. A good thing, as in 2011 a man took a hammer to the fountain doing much damage. It has been repaired at this point, thankfully.
At the other end of the square was the Neptune Fountain. Here is Neptune fighting an octopus.

We continued on to the Campo de' Fiori (field of flowers). During the day this square is a flower and food market. As we wandered through, it was closing down, so not much action. In the center is a statue of the first king of Italy, Marco Minghetti.

As we wandered I noticed many building facades with interesting signs or markers. They displayed
names or directions or religious symbols or ancient advice ("no rubbish allowed"). Our guide said that Roma was considered a "dirty city." She felt there was enough money to fix this problem, but also lots of governmental corruption that got in the way. Personally I didn't find it was outrageously messy for a such a big city.

We passed by the tiny church of Santa Barbara dei Librai (means bookmakers or booksellers). It has been there since the 10-11th century.  
Around the corner was the restaurant Filetti di Baccala. It specializes in a salted, deep fried, battered cod fillets. Their recipe is said to be over 1,000 years old. The place looked so basic, but inside and out seating was packed even at this early hour.

Next we stopped at a little cheese shop for a cheese and wine tasting. It sold cheeses from around the world. We tried the traditional pecorino, parmigiana, and a smooth mild cheese, along with a glass of white wine. We also tasted a pear jelly that was umm-umm good. They sold other items as well. We noticed the tajarin noodles that we had drooled over on our first trip to Italy.

Continued ...

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