Many happy re-encounters
Rome Travel Blog› entry 3 of 8 › view all entries
I took the subway to Piazza di Spagna, to start my day at another one of Romeâ€™s iconic sights, the Spanish steps. These marble steps, leading up to the Chiesa Della TrinitĂˇ 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.
When in South America I was appalled at what the Spanish conquistadores had done to the indigenous culture â€śin the name of Godâ€ť. 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 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.
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.
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.
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 matinĂ©e, 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.
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.