Piazzas, Churches and Gardens

Today is our final day in continental Europe for a while. Tomorrow around midday we fly to London to begin a three-week stint in the United Kingdom. Having covered many of the tourist attractions we intended to see whilst in Rome, we thought we might just go for a walk in a new direction and visit some public spaces and churches and hope for a few unexpected surprises along the way. It’s another hot day in Rome, the third day of summer and we have a top temperature of 27 degrees, although in the middle of the day with the sun reflecting off the cobbled streets it feels much hotter than that.

We left our apartment and walked through the busy market place that is Campo de’ Fiori as we do every day. We crossed the main road and headed towards Piazza Navona. There are many churches on the map in this part of Old Rome and they’re always worth stopping for a visit, so we came across our first one for the day and went inside. The art work in these churches is centuries old and generally in immaculate condition, so a church visit for us usually involves us walking around the interior perimeter of the church looking at all the beautiful paintings and sculptures that adorn the walls and ceilings, and marvelling at how these amazing buildings were constructed so well so long ago. There are always people sitting silently in the pews or praying, and we’re very careful to be respectful in their presence and not disruptive in any way. By the time we returned to our apartment in the middle of the afternoon we’d visited several more churches and every one of them was something to be admired.

Marg and I have really enjoyed Italy’s public squares, the piazzas. They bustle with activity. People come and go, often market stalls are doing a busy trade, restaurants and cafes are popular, especially the tables in the open, buskers entertain, pigeons move around pecking at food scraps on the cobblestones, pet owners walk their dogs, music or singing can often be heard and sometimes there’s a statue or a fountain or two where people hang around and chat. And there are usually shops, many of which are quite cool, housed in historic buildings, selling quality leather goods, shoes, jewellery, craft items or clothing.

Piazza Navona was one of the biggest we’ve seen here in Rome. It has three very impressive fountains and a large Egyptian obelisk. Some very large buildings surround the piazza and there are many places to dine here. We moved on to Piazza del Popolo, even bigger than Piazza Navona, and featuring yet another Egyptian obelisk. Here we came across a number of tourists getting the hang of operating their hired Segways before they were game enough to take them out on the roads.

The sun was quite hot in the centre of the piazza. We climbed the stairs into the large park that houses the Villa Borghese. There it was good to walk around for a while in the shade of the trees. This was quite a popular park with both tourists and locals. Many people were hiring pedal-operated tuk tuks and riding along the paths that criss-crossed the gardens. We sat by the small lake for a while, watching the ducks, then found a panini place and ordered take away so we could sit on a park bench and eat our lunch in the park.

We took a different route back to our apartment, finding a few more churches to explore. It’s so cool inside, a welcome relief from the heat and the glare of the sun, and there’s always plenty to see and admire. We did a bit of shopping too, once more enjoying the break from the heat. 27 degrees was feeling much more like 30 plus, and when we got lost at one point, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for an ice cream break. It gave me a chance to get my bearings on Google Maps and discover that Piazza Navona was just around the next corner. From there we knew where we were going, and soon we were back in our apartment.

This afternoon, when it cools down a little, we’ll go out for one last walk around our favourite Roman neighbourhood. We’ve really enjoyed our five day stay.

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