Piazza del Popolo
Hello again! I've had a couple busy days. It may take me a couple posts to catch up because I want to head to the Vatican right after breakfast today. I'll start out with Tuesday.
When I arrived, my host gave me a map and circled many areas of interest around Rome. When I set out, I usually have a main goal in mind and visit other places along the way that are circled on the map. Tuesday's endpoint was Piazza del Popolo and my first stop along the way was Santa Maria della Vittoria, the church where Bernini's sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is kept. Along the way, I got happily lost. I went down little alleyways with flower shops and cafes and enjoyed seeing Rome more off the beaten path.
It didn't occur to me to check which hours the church would be open because in Paris it seemed like they were open every time I tried to go in. The church was closed when I arrived, so I decided to stop by on my way back. In the meantime, I walked down more small streets and went into a couple bookstores. Whenever I go to foreign countries, even if I don't get anything, I love to check out bookstores and grocery stores.
I got Nutella mousse gelato at what looked like an exceptional gelateria next door and it was the best gelato that I can recall eating. It was like biting into a puffy chocolate cloud. After wandering about a block up the street with my gelato, I was a bit shocked to find that I was at the Spanish Steps. Swarms of people spilled over the steps onto the piazza below. A bunch of people were trying to sell toys that make a sound like a squeaky toy when they hit the ground and the steps were alive with a symphony of squeaks. The effect was hilarious. I somehow scaled the steps while eating gelato and holding in hysterical laughter. At the top, I was rewarded with a lovely view of Rome. It was warm, the sun was shining, and there were a few pretty clouds.
I saw many gardens and cafes and fancied having an Italian rooftop garden myself. I continued the journey north and got on one of the three main streets leading to the piazza. The street was lined with extremely expensive clothing stores, antique shops, and restaurants. It was fun to window shop and people watch.
Piazza del Popolo is a huge square with an obelisk in the center and fountains on two sides. Like many things in Rome, this square had its origin in ancient times. Now it's a popular hangout. I sat by a fountain (and almost fell in) and read about its history for a while. A huge park can be reached by climbing a hill behind one of the fountains. I climbed to the top and was greeted by another fantastic view of Rome. Some exploring in the park revealed a carousel, claw machine, water-powered clock, and a zoo.
Realizing that Santa Maria della Vittoria would be opening soon, I headed back down the hill. I got lost (again) on my way there and ended up at Fontana di Trevi. I've been meaning to save this for last and seeing it was like accidentally seeing spoilers for your favorite series. I hurried away. I got to the church right as it opened. On the outside it looks plain and unassuming, but on the inside it's a gorgeous baroque style. I took my time walking around and finally made it to Bernini's famous sculpture.
The sculpture is not only amazing in and of itself, but the way it's worked into the space is masterful. A stained glass window above the statue illuminates it with the afternoon sun, emphasized by the golden rays on the wall. St. Teresa is sculpted on a cloud, and directly overhead there is a fresco with clouds that appear to be spilling onto the walls. The whole effect is rather awe-inducing.
I took it all in for a few minutes and then headed back to my place. After regaining some energy, I went to dinner at a restaurant in the neighborhood called Pizzeria Ricci Est! Est! Est! I ordered a pizza and the house white wine and it was delicious. The waiters were all friendly and welcoming and I had a great time.
This still leaves yesterday, but it's getting late and I must go to the Vatican before it gets any later!