As we did during the previous day, we arrived at the Frascati train station by 7.15am to take the 7.30am train to Roma. Normally, the train is parked at the station when we arrive, but on this day the train hadn’t arrived yet. The café inside the train station was closed. There was not a single soul in the station. “Hmmm, weird”, we thought to ourselves.
Really, we had lost track of the dates and days of the week. The thought then struck us that it was a Sunday and that trains might not run as frequently as they do during the other days. The train time-table nearby confirmed that. The next train was at 8.30am. Obviously the first thing that came to my mind was “Dang it, I could have slept for another hour”. Sleep seemed to be a luxury during this Italy trip.
Anyway, we decided to walk around and explore the cute town of Frascati. Every house has flower baskets with colorful flowers dropping all over! Even the walls on the streets look pretty with flowers flashing amongst the deep green creepers. Arbitrarily ambling through the narrow streets of this cute town was how we killed an hour.
On the way back to the train station, we stopped at a tabacchi (tobacco) shop to get the train tickets. Slowly, I said “Due biglietti per Roma Termini, per favore” (Two tickets to Roma Termini please), and with all smiles we purchased the tickets and took the treno (train) to Rome.
A couple of blocks from Roma Termini is Bar Fondi, a coffee shop that had good reviews on TripAdvisor. So we came here to get our standard breakfast – cappuccini e cornetto. Unfortunately, I couldn’t agree with folks who had given good reviews.
From Roma Termini, we took Bus 64 to Corso Vittorio-Sant’Andrea Della Valle. We had read horror pickpocketing stories about Bus 64, so my husband and I watched out for each other like a hawk while traveling in the bus. When we got off from the bus stop, the sight of the magnificent Sant’Andrea Della Valle church stood in front of us. “Let’s check it out” and we walk inside to get an eyeful of the Roman architectural marvel. We couldn’t believe the eye for detail that the Romans had for carving and painting. Their aesthetic sense is beyond commendable. Every church in Rome is unique and exquisite in this own way.
From here, we beginned our Heart of Rome walk.
Campo De’ Fiori
This piazza is now a vibrant marketplace with vendors selling scarves, hats, accessories, fruit juices, fruits, kitchen appliances, etc. Restaurants and coffee shops are strewn all around this piazza. The iconic statue of Bruno stands in the center of the piazza, on the exact spot where he was burned alive in 1600.
Just a block from this piazza, there was some kind of lively street entertainment going on. People were dressed up and merrily dancing and singing on the streets!
Among the piazzas we have been to, this was the peppiest and our personal favorite! My husband specifically was thrilled. This monumental piazza hosts Sant’Agnese in Agone, a colossal 17th century Baroque church and Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the center of the piazza. There are two other fountains, Fontana del Moro and Fontana del Nettuno at either ends of the piazza. Packed with pizzeria, café shops, restaurants, street vendors and live music, it was like walking in the beautiful depths of heaven.
Bar Tre Scalini, a restaurant next to the basilica is popular for its chocolate tartufo (truffle) and of course we had to try it out! With the lip-smacking tartufo in our hands, we sat in one corner of the piazza to relish it, while letting ourselves drown in the merry ambiance. I came back to the restaurant to say “Delizioso” to the waiter.
Located amidst another bustling Piazza della Rotonda, is the outstanding Roman temple, the Pantheon! The massive dome with a central opening, the architectural interior designs and the eight robust granite columns are yet another testament to the adroit Romans.
Tazza D’Oro Coffee Shop
Tazza D’Oro is a very popular coffee shop in the Pantheon neighborhood and we went inside to try espresso con panna (espresso with cream). The waiter filled up a tiny tazza (cup) with espresso, asked me to add zucchero (sugar) and then drizzled panna (cream) on top of it. Kind of looked absurd to me, until I tasted it. Gosh, that was really the best espresso I have had in my life by far! Bitter, yet sweet, it is a unique taste that I just cannot explain.
Lunch at Ristorante Vernissage
We stopped at this restaurant for lunch and got seated in a beautiful outdoor seating area. Ordered bruschetta and Napoli pizza. After a long wait time, we were served food at our table. Neither did the food look enticing nor did it taste good. That was really one of the worst pizzas I have had. I am not a good cook, but I can promise I make better bruschetta at home. The disastrous lunch ended up messing up our taste buds.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
In all honesty, I never knew that a gothic church actually existed until I planned my trip to Italia. When I learned about the Santa Maria gothic church, curiosity aroused and I was bent upon visiting it. I expected a gothic church to be very dark with gore structures and paintings, but it was actually not that way at all.
Cops stand outside to guard the Italian Parliament building, but no no, the country is not as bizarre as the US. There were a number of tourists standing right outside the building capturing pictures of this marvelous building. There is also a working sundial just outside the parliament.
The highlight of this piazza is a towering marble column of Marcus Aurelius.
Galleria Del’ Alberto Sordi
Right next to the Piazza Colonna is the Galleria Del’ Alberto Sordi, a shopping mall in Rome. It is incredible that even a shopping mall in Rome looks so grandiose.
Fontana di Trevi
I have seen a replica of the Trevi Fountain in Las Vegas and I was very eager to see the original version. And the moment I saw it, I gaped in awe. So tall, so gigantic, so magnificent, so opulent, and so crowded as well. Abiding by the popular belief, we flipped a coin into the fountain and hoped that we would return to this Eternal City.
A beautiful stairway of 135 stairs, leading one to the twin-towered church of Trinità dei Monti at the top of the stairway and La Barcaccia fountain (Sinking Boat Fountain) located at the base of the stairway, this place is the hot spot amongst the younger crowd. The uber-fashionable neighborhood with classy, boutique shops attracts tons of teenagers.
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