Easter in Rome: Gelato, Pizza and the Pantheon
A man’s weakness had kicked into gear. Where would you not take an alcoholic? To a bar. What would you avoid if with a gambler? The casino. So where have I, a very weak man easily bribed and corrupted when it comes to ice cream, come to? Italy, the origin of the gelato. After battling the hordes around the Vatican museum, and melting in the St. Pauls Square sunshine, this fat boy’s cravings kicked in full force, and the only thing that could power me on for another full afternoon of walking through Rome’s beautiful streets was a big two scoop, stracciatella and mint gelato. Gelato inhaled, fat boy satisfied and a number of Rome’s famous landmarks on our itinerary, we embarked on the way to our next destination; the Pantheon.
What I thoroughly enjoy about exploring new locations is the surprises; the little gems you were unaware of or the events and spectacles you stumble across. Like awe-inspiring architecture or mind-blowing street performers. Quiet, magical streets or natural phenomena. Or, as in this case, a 2000-year old ancient Roman temple famous for being the alleged place the great Julius Caesar was murdered! Quality trip preparation right there Alex. A surprise it was, and a surprise most welcome, Largo di Torre Argentina is an ancient Roman square housing the remains of four sacred temples and its modern day residents; a sanctuary for Rome’s stray cats. It was a rather strange sight at first, becoming accustomed to admiring the sheer beauty of these ruins before noticing cats all-around basking in the Roman sunshine. Needless to say, it was an impressive venue and one I was more than happy to have stumbled across.
The streets bustled and got busier; a sure indication we were getting closer to the Pantheon as we wound our way through the side streets and approached from the back of the monument. I didn’t get to go inside unfortunately, much to my chagrin, but the queues were too big and there was still plenty to see. However, from the outside, I have to say the Pantheon is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen. The weight of history behind it makes it simply jaw-dropping. Built between 118 and 125 AD by Hadrian, it is one of the most preserved Roman buildings in the city. Sad to move on but mental note made to visit again and prioritise this for an early start, we continued on the short walk over Piazza di Trevi.
It was approaching 15:00pm by the time we had worked our way through the crowds in the Quirinale District and reached the Trevi Fountain. Again, Rome did not disappoint. The fountain is spectacular; a sheer masterpiece of art that holds such a reverence and grandeur that it really is a sight to behold. One of Rome’s oldest fountains, its original site was located on the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct in 19BC at the junction of three roads, aptly providing its name; the Three Street Fountain. In 1730, Pope Clemens XII announced a competition to design a new fountain, won by Nicola Salvi who delivered the now world-famous landmark. Couples canoodled and people jostled for that Instagram shot in front of the famous landmark (see my own admittedly weak
effort inset), and I could probably have stayed there all day admiring the fountain, picking out every little carefully crafted detail each time I surveyed it, but time was of the essence and the Spanish Steps were next.
Truth be told, I wasn’t too fussed on the Spanish Steps. Maybe my already limited tolerance for crowds was approaching its end by this point, but they didn’t particularly capture the imagination, or indeed interest, like many of the other monuments I’d visited so far. Admittedly, it was a very busy time of day and would probably be better served visiting in the early hours of morning rather than at the height of afternoon, when the crowds were that dense you could barely appreciate the detail and structure of the stairs as a whole. Don’t take my word for it on this one, get out to the steps yourself and check them out; just don’t do it at 15:30pm on Easter Saturday!
After checking out the Stone Island flagship store (a must for an avid collector of the Italian fashion label made famous by Massimo Osti - I was like a kid in a sweet shop), we looped our way back around and made our way back down the river toward the comfort and rest of Trastevere. Cue the second pleasant surprise of the day; the Bridge of Angels. Some years ago I’d found these angels when researching tattoos for a sleeve I was planning and was instantly struck by their craft and beauty; my particular favourite being the angel with the cross sculpted by Ercole Ferrata in the 1600’s. Therefore to actually see it in the flesh in front of me, serving as a gateway to the majestic Castel Sant’Angelo, was really quite something special.
With weary legs and a healthy appetite, we managed to slowly walk our way back along the River Tiber to Trastevere to get some well-earned rest. We’d been recommended Ivo by a friend, an excellent family-friendly restaurant that serves some wonderful pizza on Via di San Francesco a Ripa. I particularly recommend the King Grande consisting of porcini, mushrooms, bacon and smoked cheese. It was quickly demolished.
If we needed any confirmation that we’d done a lot of walking that day, aside from the aching legs and sore back, the iPhone health app confirmed it. 18.7km. Solid shift.
Oh, and I may have purchased another gelato on the way home....