Roma: Bonus Day 2

Day 31 – Roma

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: WALK!
  • Mike: Old
  • Jen: Fountainous
Two Words
  • Barb: Via Gregoriana
  • Mike: Carved columns
  • Jen: Door mouth
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Ancient Roman stories
  • Mike: Mystery of the knives
  • Jen: Et tu, Kitt-eh?
One Sentence
  • Barb: A sunny midday on the Pincio Hill, I enjoyed revisiting some old favorites.
  • Mike: What haven’t we seen yet?
  • Jen: Peanut butter gelato helps me set my sights on home: I’m looking forward to my giant tub of Kirkland natural pb.

Our last day in Italy. Today’s plan was similar to yesterday’s. We indulged in the following treats from the all-you-can-see sightseeing smorgasbord:

  • Area Sacra di Largo Argentina, the first stop turned out to be my favorite of the day.

In the 1920s, when this area was cleared for two luxury complexes, ruins of four temples were discovered. The 1920s. That wasn’t that long ago. When do you suppose a new discovery might be made? The idea that discoveries can still be made excites me.

These temple ruins are among the oldest in Rome, dating from the early 3rd century BC. All that was visible of these ruins in the 1920s were a few columns in the courtyard beside the medieval San Nicola di Cesarini church, which was built over one of the older temples.

Columns and floors from ancient temples.

These are the ruins in the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina. The temple in the foreground is Temple A. Temple C is the oldest. A is from the 3rd century BC, but this is the one that was incorporated into the medieval church of San Nicola di Cesarini. Some of the remains are from the medieval church and some are from the earlier temple, and I can’t distinguish the two.

Archaeologists have a good idea of what this area looked like in its heyday based on writings, paintings, and drawings of the time. This map gives us some idea, too. Note the four temples—A, B, C, and D—on the map.

A blueprint of Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

A blueprint of how the original area was laid out back in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.

Now take a look at the bigger picture. The area that’s been excavated is in the red circle. All the rest remains under the roads and buildings of modern Rome.

Blueprint showing the ruins in the context of the larger ancient site in the context of modern Rome.

Temples A, B, C, and D in the context of the wider ancient site in the context of modern Rome. The ruins we’re seeing are in the red circle. The black blueprint lines are what the area looked like in ancient times. The tan shapes and white spaces are current buildings and roads.

This alone is great: It’s another view of ancient ruins beneath medieval ruins beneath the modern city. It helps hammer home how ancient ruins can become lost. But the story of this site gets better.

Behind temples B and C are the remains of a great platform of tufa blocks. These are part of the Curia of Pompey, the building where the Senate met and where Julius Caesar was killed by Brutus, Cassius, et. al. on March 15, 44 BC. Et tu, Brute?

Where the Curia of Pompey used to be, behind the ruins of Temples B and C at Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

These are temples B and C. Temple B is the circular one in the center of the image, and the corner of C is on the right. I’m not sure if this is in front of the temples or behind them, and I’d like to know, but I’m content to just be this close.

Super cool, right? No wonder this was my favorite part of the day. But wait! There’s more. (No, not knives that cut through aluminum cans.)

These ruins are part of the Largo Argentina Cat Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter for homeless cats. The shelter spays and neuters cats so they aren’t breeding, and they provide food and healthcare. There are many such sanctuaries in Rome, and as we’ve seen at other ruins, feral and stray animals (Hi, Pucio!) find these areas useful. Most of the residents are cats with special needs that no one wants to adopt: They are blind, missing legs, or come from abusive homes and so are wary and distrustful of humans.

And that, to me, is the icing on the cake for this fascinating site, and this explains my three/four word summary for the day.

Two black cats in the ruins at Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

Residents of the Largo Argentina Cat Sanctuary. Do you know that black cats are the least likely to be a adopted?

  • Pantheon, which wasn’t open today. In the empty early-morning streets, we finally found the Gelateria della Palma.
  • Palazzo Chigi, the Prime Minister’s palace.
  • Piazza Colonna, with the Column of Marcus Aurelius, inspired by and modeled after Trajan’s Column. Three meters of the base have been underground since a 1589 restoration. Ground level was then three meters higher than when the monument was installed. Also, while the statue on top was originally most likely Marcus Aurelius, the statue now is of the Apostle Paul. Umm…huh? What’s up with that, Italy?
Carved column honoring Marcus Aurelius

The column of Marcus Aurelius was modeled after Trajan’s column and is a spiral relief of images depicting his war life. And look, we’re the only people in the square!

Detail of the spiral relief on the Column of Marcus Aurelius.

Detail of the spiral relief on the Column of Marcus Aurelius.

  • Trevi Fountain, here is where others began arriving on the streets, and crowds took over. It was as if someone just opened the doors to Rome and people streamed through.

The first time we saw Trevi Fountain, the smoking crowd prevented me from getting very close or even lingering to look from a distance. Today, we briefly had the place to ourselves, and I was able to look closely and notice details. What a difference that makes. Now I love this fountain.

This site originally marked the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, built by Agrippa in 19 BC to bring water to Rome’s new baths. The fountain wasn’t built until much later, though, finished in 1762.

Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain, designed by Nicola Salvi, features Neptune and two Tritons, one trying to calm an unruly seahorse, the other leading a quieter seahorse. The two horses represent the two contrasting moods of the sea.

  • San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, This is a teeny-tiny church cleverly designed by Francesco Borromini to fit in small space on a street corner, but it was closed. The four fountains on the street corners looked very dirty and neglected.
  • Via Gregoriana, the door mouth.

My second-favorite thing of the day. If it’s in my guide book, I can’t find it. Barb discovered it on a previous visit—I think it was an unexpected surprise then—and she didn’t set us up for it, but just sprang it on us.

Via Gregoriana. Barb and Jen are walking across the street like the Beatles on Abbey Road.

Via Gregoriana. There’s something down this road, but Barb’s not telling what it is.
Sure. We won’t pretend to hold up or push over the Leaning Tower of Pisa while gazillions of other people are doing it, but we’ll do this when no one’s looking.
Huh. I wonder what’s down here.

Palazzo Zuccari

The Palazzo Zuccari. Or the door mouth. Surprise!

This is the Palazzo Zuccari. It was built by the painter Frederico Zuccari in 1590 and was the house and/or studio for him and his artist brother, Taddeo. Hmmm, what might we do with our doors at home?

  • Spanish Steps, from the top. There’s a lovely view from the avenue at the top of the steps, and we lingered here, locating familiar sights, admiring rooftop gardens, and taking pictures. These steps are called the “Spanish” steps because the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican was nearby, but the steps were actually funded by the French. How do you suppose the French feel about the name?
  • Villa Medici
  • Borghesi Gardens, I liked these.
  • Spanish Steps, walked down them.
  • Piazza del Popolo
Toeless dog socks on a statue.

You’ve worn, seen, or at least heard of fingerless gloves. Well, these are ancient toeless boots decorated with doggies for the tunic-wearing, well-heeled, manly men of Rome. This is from a statue in the Piazza del Popolo.

  • Santa Maria del Popolo

We enjoyed our picnic lunch in the Piazza del Popolo listening to a cello player.

  • Mausoleo Augusto
  • Gelateria della Palma, at last! Our three cones, see if you can determine who had what: 1-Mars Bar, caramel, millifoglie; 2-black forest, chocolate raspberry, chocolate-chocolate; 3-peanut butter, caramel.
  • Bernini’s elephant
  • Trajan’s column
  • Campidoglio—Roman and Imperial Fora—Colosseum
  • Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Madonna and Child painting.

In addition to being yet another Madonna and Child, I find the baby with a man’s head disturbing. I’m told that people of the time didn’t want to portray Jesus as an actual infant. They felt that was somehow wrong.

  • Santa Maria in Trastevere

It was a wonderful last day and month in Italy.

Categories: Italy, Travel

5 replies »

  1. I’m glad you are safely home, but I must say I hate to see this trip come to an end. You have been a terrific tour guide, and I’m sure I have seen things lots of tour groups miss. Thanks for sharing; I love you for lots of reasons, but right now I will just mention your sense of humor and your eye for the details and small things.

  2. What the tunic-wearing, well-heeled, manly WOMEN of Rome are wearing, too. I’m pretty sure that’s Athena wearing the doggie boots!

  3. You’re right, Barb, that’s Athena. Mike has a pic of the whole statue. I wonder if those doggies aren’t really supposed to be lions, too. Even if they are, I’m sticking with doggies.

    There will be a few more Italy posts, I imagine. There’s still lots I’m thinking about.