Friday, April 19, 2013

Heavy at the Trevi

We caught the Metro this morning from Cavour to Spagna - very civilised because it was just after morning peak hour.  Walking out of the underground stazione into the brilliant sunshine of this 29oC day in Roma there was no mistaking, from the milling crowds, where the Piazza di Spagna and the famous Spanish Steps were to be found.

Another week or two and all those tubs of bright pink azaleas will be in full bloom - but by then how will anyone see them because there will be even more tourists!

The stairs linking the piazza with the church above it are around 300 years old.  Why have they captured the imagination of tourists so much?  The area was popular with foreigners, especially artistic Englishmen and Americans even as the stairs were being constructed all that time ago.  This part of Roma is very upmarket. The streets around the square are filled with 5 star hotels and very chic shopping.

La Barcaccia, the boat shaped fountain by Bernini, at the base of the Spanish Steps, is around 400 years old.  The story goes that it was designed so that it would work with the very poor water pressure that was available in this part of Roma, in those days.

Naturally, we climbed the stairs all the way to the entrance of Santissima Trinita dei Monti, The Renaissance church on the hilltop above the square, for these great views.

Keats - Shelley house is on the left side of the base of the stairs in the pic above. John Keats moved here in 1820 and died, aged 25, from tuberculosis in February the following year.  He died in this house. Percy Bysshe Shelley died a year later when he drowned in a boating accident off La Spezia (where we were a week ago).  The house is a beautiful little museum that pays homage to the Romantic literary movement and especially its two key poets Keats and Shelley.

On the instruction of his doctor all the furniture, curtains and wallpaper in the house had to be burnt after Keats' death.  By the early 1900s the house was about to be demolished. It was then that benefactors in England and America negotiated to buy the house and establish the museum as a tribute to the poets they admired so much.  Members of the NY Stock Exchange donated the beautiful oak shelving that lines the walls of the house now - containing Romantic literature, paintings and research as well as original manuscripts and letters by the poets and Mary Shelley and Oscar Wilde.

This is the bedroom (below) where John Keats died, cared for in his last few weeks by his painter friend John Severn who would warm food for his friend in the fireplace that still exists to this day.

John Keats' death seemed to have a very big impact on his fellow poets.  When Oscar Wilde visited his gravesite in the Non-Catholic cemetery in Roma (where we were on Wednesday), many years after his death, he lay prostrate in front of it and declared it "the holiest place in Rome".

Rob and I enjoyed this little gem of a museum very much.

We walked further north west up Via del Babuino past the high end boutiques that line this street and eventually reached Piazza del Popolo - once the spot where religious heretics were executed but now "the people's square".  The whitewashed Porta del Popolo behind the central obelisk in the pic below was Rome's main gateway to the north through much of the Middle Ages and beyond.

We didn't spend too long in this HUGE expansive and relatively empty square. Instead we climbed the elevated staircase to the east of the square until we reached the Pincio garden, the western sector of the extensive Villa Borghese gardens. It was a fantastic spot to view the Popolo district below and St Peter's in the distance.  Rob and I have decided not to visit St Peter's this trip.  We've decided that once (even though it was a long time ago) was enough - but it was good to see Michelangelo's beautiful, slightly pointed dome of St Peter's again, in the distance.

We walked further into the beautiful Villa Borghese gardens which is now a popular people's park. I'm sure that Cardinal Scipione Borghese would be turning in his 17th century grave by now to see so many ordinary citizens enjoying the property he amassed so deviously.

We walked back from the gardens to the Piazza di Spagna by way of Via di Porta Pinciana and then made our way down Via dei Condotti, Rome's most opulent shopping street, just to say we'd seen it. We stopped for a late lunch and a beer at a little bar on Via Della Vita, which was only a block or two away from Via delle Muratte where, tucked in amongst narrow streets, is the fantastic and grand (and horribly crowded today) Fontana di Treve.

Another 300 years old Roman masterpiece the fountain gushes water gloriously from an ancient aquaduct renowned for its very pure water (Aqua Virgo).  According to legend the waters from this aquaduct are so sweet and pure that whoever drank it would return to Rome. This has probably given rise to the modern day legend that whoever throws a coin (backwards over their left shoulder) into the fountain will return to the city.

As the title of this post describes it was heavy at the Trevi today - so many people!!! Can you spot the photographer Wally in the pic below in amongst the thousands of (other) tourists.  There is a picture of me taken in front of the Trevi Fountain in 1975..I am eating a beautiful bunch of grapes in the sunshine and there are very few people around!

There is no denying the impact of this sculpture in this tiny space is pretty overwhelming. That figure in the centre represents the Ocean and he's flanked by Abundance and Good Health.

It's well after a three on a very hot afternoon so we decide to head back to the apartment to cool down. I was thrilled to work out a way of getting back that didn't involve walking around that bloody Vittorio Emanuelle 11 monument again, AND in the process discovered another artisanal gelateria only a block or two away from our apartment in Piazza degli Zingari.  I tried Pistaccio (my alltime favourite) and baklava today!

Our Via De Ciancaleoni is lined with parked Vespas in every shape and colour.

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