Exploring the Eternal City at night: Rome's ancient treasures
Rome, the eternal city! The single place on earth with the highest concentration of priceless art, precious monuments and ancient architecture, sprawling over 3000 years of history. There really is an endless amount of things to see and experience in the incredible Italian capital. From visiting age old statues and fantastical fountains, to exploring sacred places of worship and beautiful buildings... With so much on offer, you can drive yourself mad by trying to fit it all in during a short stay.
On my trip to Rome I arrived at dusk with a late afternoon train from Florence. My hotel, Hotel de Russie, was located right next to the Piazza del Popolo, which is within walking distance of some of the most notorious sites in Rome.
Here's what I did on my first night:
Have a Roman supper
After checking in, I decided to venture out for an early dinner and a casual wander around. I came across a beautiful trattoria (as one does in Italy) off the Via Vittoria. The meal at Il Gabriello was absolutely splendid! I enjoyed one of the best artichokes I've ever tasted and an excellent truffle linguini, paired with some delectable red wine.
Buy something special
Post dinner I briefly consulted Google maps and plotted out a simple route to the nearby Trevi fountain. It was January and pretty cold out, but the surrounding streets were alive with shoppers hopping into their favourite designer stores. This area is renowned for its collection of famous luxury boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci etc. En route I couldn't resist to stop by Bvlgari and pick up a humble fragrance - one of my favourites, Aqva pour homme '05.
The Baroque masterpiece
Soon after I arrived at Salvi's masterwork, the Fontana di Trevi. Made famous by countless features in classic movies, today it is one of the world's most visited fountains. Seeing it at night is quite magical - lit up gorgeously, creating a spectacular showcase of turquoise hues reflecting off the brilliant white travetine stone, with crystal clear water gushing over carved marble mesmerizing your senses. I certainly recommend coming here after dark, as there are virtually no tourists around - only a few locals casually hanging out at this almost excessively romantic spot.
"Legend" has it, if you toss a coin into the water (with the right hand over the left shoulder), you will return to Rome. This phenomenon creates quite the aquatic piggy bank, with about 3000 Euros being collected from the fountain daily (all of which goes to different charities around Rome).
The historic record holder
Another famous landmark, the Pantheon, is a mere 10 min walk from the Trevi fountain. This remarkable building was originally constructed as a temple in 126AD, however, several hundred years later, in the 7th century, it was declared a Christian church. Since then it has also served as a burial tomb for some renowned Italians like the Renaissance painter Raphael. Today it remains a Catholic place of worship, with nearly 6 million annual visitors. In summer it can get pretty congested, so you truly have the freedom to explore the place on a winter's evening when the crowds aren't around.
Once I passed the enormous grey granite columns of the facade (each weighing about 60 tons, quarried in Egypt) and stepped inside the rotunda, my jaw dropped as I marveled at the glorious architecture and unbelievable engineering genius of the interior. Nearly 2000 years after its completion, the 43 m high ceiling is still the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world! The single opening at the very top, the oculus, is 8,2 m wide and the building's main source of natural light. It also doubles as ventilation and an ancient version of AC if you will, allowing rain into the building to cool it down (the water gets carried away by a series of drains).
The Gothic sanctity
Next, I walked down the Via della Minerva to one of Rome's most prominent churches - the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Significant because it is the only existing and unaltered original Gothic church building in Rome, with perfectly vaulted blue ceilings and many noteworthy artworks inside, like the sculpture of Christ the Redeemer by Michelangelo. Also on display is the curious Egyptian obelisk (one of eleven around the city) in the small piazza outside the basilica. Designed by the master Bernini himself, this unique monument was erected in 1667 and has gained modern stardom for its seemingly quirky composition and dwarfish size.
The people's staircase
Upon returning to my hotel I stopped by another prominent architectural feature of the city - an ever popular public space, the Spanish Steps. Purposefully built in the 1720's as an accessible foot link between the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom, and the Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top of a steep slope. There are 135 steps to be exact, and it is actually illegal to eat on the famed stairway - so unfortunately not the spot for that romantic impromptu lunch you've been fantasizing about...
Taking it easy
My advice is to let the marble city guide you. Don't obsess about what you have to see or do, as this can make you miss out on the true spirit of the place. Set a pace which allows you to savour the unique moments. Travel memories shouldn't just be vague mental recollections substantiated by photos taken in front of famous landmarks. They are distinctive feelings devised and reawakened by our senses, remaining in our hearts forever! So allow yourself to get carried away by the tastes, sights and sounds of Rome by night...
FYI: Check out the official Rome Tourism website to help you plan your adventure!
- All photos and opinions are mine. © Traverate -