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Many happy re-encounters

Rome Travel Blog

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Spanish steps
 

I took the subway to Piazza di Spagna, to start my day at another one of Rome’s iconic sights, the Spanish steps. These marble steps, leading up to the Chiesa Della Trinitá Dei Monti, have since long been the prime attraction for tourists, hawkers and fornicating teenagers.


I headed down the main street, the Via del Corso towards the political heart of Rome, the parliament buildings and Piazza Colonna, a square marked by a single 30m high column which was erected in honour of Marcus Antonius in 193. The area here, called Centro Storico is absolutely brilliant. Many of the buildings here originate from the Roman times, and have been amended over the centuries. However, one of them has remained in almost the exact same state for almost 1900 years: The Pantheon.

The Pantheon


When in South America I was appalled at what the Spanish conquistadores had done to the indigenous culture “in the name of God”. Basically all temples were razed and its materials used to build churches. The early Catholics in Rome were not quite so sophisticated though, so rather than going through all the trouble of demolishing and rebuilding, they simply converted old Roman temples into churches.

So its conversion to a church in 608 has saved the Pantheon from the decline and neglect other Roman buildings have seen through the centuries. Sure, the bronze and marble has disappeared from the outside, but the main structure is still intact, making it -as far as I know- the only Roman building which is still structurally fully intact.


And it is mind-boggling.

inside the Pantheon
The entrance is graced by huge granite columns, and inside is the largest masonry vault in the world. It is said that even with today’s technology they would not be able to recreate the concrete dome of the Pantheon, and it is a testament of Roman ingenuity that this building is still standing nearly 2000 years later.


Inside the dome is perfectly symmetrical (the diameter is equal to the interior height) and looks stunning because the only light inside is natural light, which comes in through an oculus in the ceiling. Must be a bit of a bummer to attend a mass here when it is raining, but on a sunny day like today the atmosphere inside is wonderful. (despite the 1.5 million tourists who tried to enter the Pantheon all at the same time).


 

I continued my walk to the Piazza Navona, a large ellipse-shaped square dominated by two large baroque fountains, designed in the 16th and 17th centuries by Giacomo della Porta and Gian Lorenzo Bernini respectively.

Crossing the Tiber
This seemed as good a place as any for my daily dose of Italian ice cream, so I spent the next 15 minutes sitting in the sun on a little bench, watching the world go by and eating some more of the Italian delicacy - holidays don't come much better than this!


I continued my walk across the river Tiber to the Trastevere area. While crossing the river it struck me how high the bridges and banks were, and how there was just no boat traffic on the river. Later I learned that the river is hard to navigate because of the rapids and the water level fluctuates from season to seasons, sometimes rising as high as street level (at least 10 metres higher than the current level).


Trastevere is a beautiful neighbourhood, which turns into one of Rome's prime night-life spots once the sun sets.

Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
During the day it is a wonderful area to stroll though, with picturesque cobblestone streets and renaissance era houses.


I visited the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, a beautiful 3rd century church (rebuilt in the 1100's), which features a beautiful gold mosaic ceiling inside.


In the afternoon I went to the concert venue, which was so far from the centre you can't really call this Rome any more. I had to take the subway literally to the end of the line, then a bus for 20 minutes and then walk for another 45 minutes to the venue, which was in the middle of a residential area. It made me wonder, Rome is a city of nearly 4 million. Whose idea was it to put a concert hall / night club here, in the middle of nowhere? How on earth am I going to get back to the hotel tonight??


It was great seeing the guys of the band again, even though I'd seen them only 4 days earlier in Cologne.

Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Lisa, the wife of guitarplayer Jon, had also joined the band for a short section of the tour, and it was great catching up with her again. It also meant that I didn't have to sit and have dinner all by myself.


 

Yeah, about dinner, the concert setting was a bit of a strange affair. Stazione Birra is a converted beer brewery which now serves as a concert hall and night club. Their 'speciality' is that they sell special dinner packages, where a concert ticket is combined with a meal. However, as the pre-sales were rather disappointing, they had decided not to clear the tables before the gig, so people were still sitting, eating and drinking while the band played. I dunno, but it felt really strange, like some sort of matinée, rather than a rock concert.


The venue still brews its own beer, and they had 6 different varieties on draught, with alcohol percentages ranging from 5.

Gazpacho playing Bravo @ Stazione Birra 2009
5% to 10%. I started with the lightest beer, and worked my way up from there.


Another happy re-encounter tonight was a much more special one. Two years ago I'd met a guy from Rome while travelling in Jordan (click here for my blog of that trip), named Alessandro. We'd stayed in touch and when I told him I'd be visiting Rome he immediately invited me over for the weekend. He was interested in seeing the gig as well, so together with his girlfriend Flaminia he had travelled to the venue to see a concert by a Norwegian band which he'd never heard of before.


The gig itself was solid, if a little awkward because of all the people sitting behind their tables.

Despite the fact that there were only about 90 people there, the crowd reaction was phenomenal, as was evident from the amount of merchandise sold and even more so from the message directed at the band's bass-player, which was found written on the tour bus!


 

At night Alessandro and Flaminia gave me a lift back to the hotel, which saved me a long journey by night bus.

You know you're a rock star when.... girls leave messages like these on your tour bus!

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Spanish steps
Spanish steps
The Pantheon
The Pantheon
inside the Pantheon
inside the Pantheon
Crossing the Tiber
Crossing the Tiber
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastev…
Basilica di Santa Maria in Traste…
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastev…
Basilica di Santa Maria in Traste…
Gazpacho playing Bravo @ Stazione…
You know youre a rock star when..…
You know you're a rock star when.…
at the top of the Spanish Steps
at the top of the Spanish Steps
Chiesa della Trinitá dei Monti
Chiesa della Trinitá dei Monti
view from the top of the Spanish S…
view from the top of the Spanish …
Colonna di Marco Aurelio
Colonna di Marco Aurelio
in front of the Pantheon
in front of the Pantheon
getting questioned by a centurion
getting questioned by a centurion
inside the Pantheon
inside the Pantheon
the Pantheon oculus
the Pantheon oculus
The Pantheon
The Pantheon
just a random building in Rome
just a random building in Rome
Piazza Navano
Piazza Navano
Fountain at Piazza Navano
Fountain at Piazza Navano
Piazza Navano
Piazza Navano
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastev…
Basilica di Santa Maria in Traste…
Gazpacho playing Desert Flight @ …
Gazpacho playing Tick Tock pt 3 @…
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photo by: vulindlela