Very near the Hotel Savoy is Borghese Park, a beautiful respite from the incredibly busy streets of Rome. It is reminiscent of Central Park in New York City, from that respect.
From an impromptu soccer game to sunbathers to tourists, the park is teeming with people but doesn’t seem crowded.
Our destination, Galleria Borghese, is a villa built in the late 1600’s. It houses the collection of paintings and sculptures of Cardinal Scipione, nephew of Pope Paul V. The villa itself is a work of art, of course; and the collection contained within has grown to hundreds of pieces of marble and granite sculpture and beautiful paintings.
On our second day in Rome, we toured a few of the major tourist destinations. We had gotten a recommendation for J & J Services Italy, and had contracted with them for
an English-speaking guide and driver for this full-day tour. That was some of the best money spent! Guido Airoldi is an Egyptologist and an articulate guide. His depth of knowledge about the history, the politics, the economics, the art was superlative! All six of us agreed that we would never want to try to do sightseeing on our own in Rome!
Definitely, the two destinations in Rome that must be on your itinerary are the Vatican and the Coliseum. The Coliseum actually registers more visitors, but that is probably because you must go through a gate-counter, whereas there are visitors through the Vatican who are pilgrims and those who attend Mass, who are not counted in the total of visitors there.
The artwork within the Vatican Museum is a collection of much that has been pillaged from all over. Because of how it was obtained, there are not definite dates and artists labeled on many pieces but the beauty of the montage of artwork is unmatched.
The Sistine Chapel is undoubtedly one of the most visited locations. The history is inspiring, and the views are beyond anything I had experienced previously. Most of us were aware of Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; but Guido gave us far more background on the Old Testament and Gospel frescoes on the walls, the painting by Michelangelo of “The Last Judgment” on the wall behind the altar, and of course, the frescoes on the ceiling.
It was a bit disconcerting to enter the chapel, which was crowded with tourists, and hear attendants constantly shushing people; but the incredible feeling of being within those walls was well worth it.
From there we went to the Forum and Coliseum. While both are steeped in antiquity, we were constantly reminded that the huge stones and bare bricks were originally covered in marble and was beautifully decorated. The Coliseum was built to serve 60,000 to 70,000 people.
The floor of the Coliseum is long-since gone, so what you see is the areas under that floor that were where the gladiators, the slaves, and animals were held until being transferred by elevators to battle on the floor.
As we headed to our last destination, we passed Circus Maximus. This was built to hold 15 0,000 people to watch horse races and chariot races.
Our tour for the day ended at Trevi Fountain. Made famous by “Three Coins in the Fountain,” this site was also quite crowded but definitely worth the time and effort to get close and toss in a few coins.
Tomorrow – time to go sailing!