12 October 2012
Rome is a city filled with thousands of years of history, art, and religion. Everywhere we looked there were ancient monuments and pieces of artwork just waiting to be analyzed. How, could we learn about the history and see most of the main attractions with such little time without feeling bewildered? We could go by ourselves and map out the route from one end of the city center to the other and bring along a GPS or a paper map. Maybe get lost along the way and ask for directions from 5 different people. Then once at our destination we would see the structure, but not be able to appreciate it’s importance since we did not know exactly what we were looking at.
To better use our time we decided to hire a guide from Context Travel who could give us a brief overview of the city as well as tips on where to shop, get the best gelato, coffee, find good restaurants, and explore lesser known attractions. It was a very warm and humid July morning when we met our docent, Kasia and two other travelers at a bar near Piazza del Popolo for our two-hour introduction tour. We began our walk by looking at a map of Rome to compare the ancient city to its present day structure and to understand why the city was built the way it was. Our starting point was in a great location, Piazza del Popolo which was once the start of the northern route that linked Rome with the northern coastline. This was the first and last place for travelers to see when coming and leaving. From this point we were able to get a clear understanding of the layout of the city. Exiting out of Piazza del Popolo we entered the maze of streets to view some of the most famous areas that Rome has to offer. Starting in Piazza di Spagna, which we learned used to be called Piazza di Francia we made our way to the Pantheon. Here we were informed that the dimensions of the interior height and the diameter of the dome are equal. Once we finished viewing the inside and outside of this amazing monument we made our way to see two very famous Piazza’s in Rome; Piazza Navona and Campo di Fiori. It was there that Kaisa told us that both piazza’s held executions in the 17th century.Today Piazza Navona is famous for its artists and breathtaking fountains, while Campo di Fiori is enjoyed for its morning open air market.
Kasia gave us many useful tips for our stay here in Rome. For example when there are very high or low temperatures a church is a great place to visit. We took a moment to relax in one, cool down, and to view the beautiful pieces of art work, all for free. We were informed that it’s also less expensive to drink a coffee standing at a bar, or to get a gelato to go instead of sitting down at one of the tables. The best thing to do is watch the Italians and follow what they do. Her last piece of advice that she offered to us was that early morning and late afternoons were the best times of day to walk around the city in order to escape the masses of tourists.
On this walk we discovered so much about Rome in such a short time and after had more of an appreciation of the city and its monuments. We realized these types of walks have great value and would love to take advantage of similar ones in other cities.