When it comes to choosing where to go on holiday, I can be very indecisive. I normally just feel bamboozled by choice. However this year, I knew straight away where I wanted to go – Italy. Glorious weather, some of the best art collections in the world, amazing historical sites, gelato extraordinaires…need I say more. Therefore, Rome and Florence were where we decided to jet off to. After a ridiculously early flight that involved waking up at 2.45am, as soon as we’d dropped our bags off in our room in Rome, we went out on the hunt for our first pizza. We each picked up a slice to go, oozing with mozzarella, and headed into the centre of the city. I was so hungry and chomped into my pizza so fast that I ended up spilling pizza topping down my blouse! Ooops. After a quick tidy up, we set off to explore the city, hopping from street to street and trying to avoid being mown down by the erratic Italian drivers!I had a couple of places that I knew I wanted to visit, and we decided to walk everywhere in the hope that we’d accidentally come across a bunch of other wonderful gems.
The first place I had on my list of ‘must sees’ was the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj after seeing it on India’s blog. En route, we stumbled across this beast of a monument. At 135m wide and 81m tall, this marble structure is the Altar of the Fatherland, built in honour of the first king of unified Italy and also holding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with an eternal flame, built under the statue. One of the guidebooks I’d read described it as an eyesore, and apparently it hasn’t been particularly popular with many Italians, earning itself various nicknames from the ‘wedding cake’ to the ‘typewriter’. However, whilst it is huge, I rather liked its grandness.After spending a few minutes admiring it, and trying to avoid invoking the wrath of the guarding police men who blew their whistles at anybody breaking any rules such as sitting on the steps or eating, we made our way to the Palazzo to get a taste of how the rich families of Rome used to live in the 18th century. The Doria Pamphilj family were linked to a succession of popes and certainly had plenty of spare cash which they used to great effect in elaborately decorating their palace here in Rome. Built around a beautifully peaceful central courtyard, where the hustle and bustle of the city’s noises seemed a million miles away, it has been described by many as a mini Versailles. Having picked up an audio guide each, Darren and I wandered around, marvelling at the beautiful decoration.Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a bathroom like this?
All of the rooms were so ornately decorated, with touches of gold leaf, beautiful paintings and twinkling chandeliers everywhere. Despite being such a lovely place to visit, it seems to have fallen under the radar of most tourists as it was relatively quiet when we visited, which meant that you could take the time to properly appreciate the features and artwork in all of the rooms.
After the beautiful palace, we set off for another amble around Rome, this time on a hunt for the Pantheon. En route, we sat down to rest our achy feet and heard a pair of American tourists exclaiming very loudly about a wonderful church they had just visited. Rome is full of churches (over six hundred!), of various shapes and sizes, and the Italians are known for decorating them very beautifully, so we headed in the direction that the Americans had just come from.This was the church of St Ignatius and was filled with gorgeous artwork everywhere you looked. A common theme throughout our time in Italy was that I ended up spending a lot of time staring at the beautiful ceilings! Out came my glasses, in order to properly enjoy the wonders high above our heads.It was just as incredible as the Americans had described. I particularly liked the story behind the dark fresco painting on this circular patch of the ceiling.The architect had originally wanted to add a tall dome with a cupola but the monks that lived nearby had complained that if such a dome was built, it would ruin their view. Therefore a compromise was reached where the artist painted the ceiling to make it look as if there was a 3D dome, when actually there wasn’t!
After giving ourselves neck ache staring at the beautiful frescoes, we made our way to the Pantheon. Built as a temple to the ancient gods of Rome almost 2000 years ago, the Pantheon has been in continuous use ever since, and with the rise of Christianity, was converted into a Roman Catholic church.Again, my eyes were drawn upwards, this time towards the bright light shining in through the nine metre wide opening to the sky, funneling in and illuminating the interior. Sometimes even the simplest of decorations can draw you in as much as the elaborately embellished frescoes of other churches. It was packed inside, so after a while we wriggled our way out and kept wandering around the city, passing more ancient Roman buildings……and the glorious Trevi Fountain……and headed to the heaving Spanish steps. After climbing all the way up, we sat down and just watched the world go by.We’d managed to see an amazing amount of wonderful sights in this glorious city, and it was only our first day. After a good rest, we headed for our second pizzas of the day, and a very big sleep. 2.45am starts and walking miles around Rome lead to a good night’s sleep!