Rome: The Eternal City
Great Caesar’s Ghost! You might actually spot the fellow if you’re dining at Pancrazio, located in lively Campo dei Fiori. Home of a classic Roman Pasta Carbonara, Pancrazio rests on the foundations of the ancient theater in which Caesar was assassinated. Hence, the ghost. But enjoy your dinner anyway…
Pancrazio is just one of the hidden delights of the “Eternal City.” Once you’ve posed with the gladiators outside the Coliseum and marveled at the glories of the Sistine Chapel, you’re ready to explore off the beaten track.
One of your first stops should be the wonderfully intimate Villa Borghese Museum, located in the park of the same name. After years of renovation, the museum is once again open to show off its incomparable Bernini sculptures, as well as various works by Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio which grace the walls.
Don’t forget to look down at the floor and the ancient mosaics featuring gladiator themes.
Have you visited the small St. Peter in Chains church to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece, Moses? Perhaps you’re wondering why he sports a pair of horns on his head? The story is that when Michelangelo was about to carve the block of stone, he was searching for inspiration in the old Hebrew texts. Somehow, the translation of the Hebrew word for “light” (as in rays of…) was misinterpreted as “horns.”
When in Rome, do as the Romans do and take your evening stroll after dinner (called “the passeggiata”). You’ll find the Piazza Navona alive with magicians, living statues, and a musician or two, all basking in the glory of Bernini’s spotlit Fountain of the 4 Rivers. Don’t forget the gelato, the world’s best ice-cream! (I, myself, am partial to “Nocciolo” or hazelnut.)
A wonderful excursion just outside of the city is the 16th c. garden at the Villa d’Este in Tivoli. Easily accessible by train, the Villa d’Este marries Renaissance art, landscape, and water elements in a grand symphony for the senses. The Alley of the 100 Fountains, the city of Rome foundation, and Neptune’s fountain all have their charms. But show up at 11 a.m. to hear Bernini’s “water organ.” As originally designed in the 18th c., the fountain’s water is forced through the pipes in such a way as to make the organ “playable.” Sounds like trumpets.