My dad very generously invited me and my son (just turned 11) to Rome
for a long weekend. We arrived Wed 1 May and left on Sunday.
We had a great time although you really need a much longer time to see
all of the sights of Rome. Here’s a rough itinerary of what we saw and
A map of our wanderings can be seen here. In total, we covered 35km on foot, but that’s not counting interior walking around in some museums.
Decent walking shoes are a must in Rome.
Navigation: First day, second day, third day. Photography notes.
Our hotel (the Villa San Pio) was situated on the Aventine Hill, not
far from the famous keyhole through which you can see the dome of St
Peters framed. It’s a nice quiet neighborhood, rendered almost
sepulchral by May Day. Viking and I arrived first and spent the afternoon doing some sightseeing (and buying icecream!) before meeting Jan.
We walked from the Aventine to the Colosseum. A long queue to get in
may be bypassed by the Roma Pass which
also has a 3-day travel card. We never got it but check it out before
going to Rome. There are a lot of museums that accept it, but not the
Included in the ticket to the Colosseum is access to the Forum, right
next door. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit it. Budget a
whole day to these two sights.
Next, we walked a few hundred meters to the tourist information center
just off Via dei Fori Imperiali. This is situated in a quiet courtyard
and there’s a little café serving foccacia and the like. It has a
bathroom too, recommended.
We then headed past the Vittoriano and up towards the Trevi
Fountain. If you’re not sure if this is one of the most famous sights
in the world the crowds of tourists will remind you. It was
almost comical. One wonders how much it costs to close off the streets
to make a movie with the fountain as a backdrop.
Last stop was the Spanish Steps, also absolutely packed with
tourists. After that we headed home via the Metro.
In the evening, we walked to Trastevere across the Tiber and found a
decent if not great pizza place.
The Vatican Museum was mentioned in our guidebooks as being an
absolute beast, one of the largest in the world, but if you were in a
hurry (which we kinda were, dragging an 11-year old with limited
patience for ancient artworks) you can sprint to the Sixtine chapel
and back, hitting the highlights on the way.
We got up early on Friday morning and took the no. 23 bus to the
neighborhood of the Vatican. However, when we arrived, the queue to
the museum stretched around 2 blocks (half a kilometer according to Google
Maps)! We took a long look at is then headed south to the basilica
itself. A later perusal of the website suggested that booking a guided
tour allows you to bypass the queues, check that out if you’re in a
The queue to the basilica was long as well (doubling back on itself
while we dithered), leading us to take the command decision to try
later in the day, and instead head across the Tiber to the Campus
Martius. We visited the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and then wound
our way southwards to the Campo dei Fiori. After a rather
disappointing lunch we hopped on the no. 23 again and revisited the
Basilica, arriving at around 5pm.
Success! The crowds were gone. The reason for this may have been the
fact that half the cathedral was reserved for a procession of German
Catholics on a pilgrimage, so we never got the chance to visit the
crypt. We did however ascend to the cupola an its magnificent view.
A final journey on the no. 23 (we were now quite fond of this bus)
deposited us back in the Testaccio and a fine dinner of liver at a
local restaurant (Il Cantinone, opposite Piazza Testaccio).
Our plans for this day was to visit the Galleria Colonna, a (still)
private palace open once a week for visitors. But first I wanted to
get my fix of Bernini, so we took the Metro to Republicca and walked a
few blocks to S. Maria del Vittoria, where his Ecstasy of S. Teresa of
Avila resides. Then we followed Via del Quirinale to his elliptical
Sant’Andrea al Quirinale.
We passed the Quirinal Palace, which has a museum annex, the Scuderie,
showing an exhibition of Titian’s best works. This was not to be
missed, on the risk of emptying Viking’s limited reservoir of
enthusiasm for art. We saw some famous works, among them the portrait
of Charles V and Danaë and the shower of gold.
The contrast between this exhibit and the Galleria Colonna couldn’t be
greater. The Titian was clean and stark, the famous works lighted
in dim gray rooms, protected by wireless alarms. Each was a legitimate
priceless piece of art. The Galleria showed how art was exhibited in
the 18th and 19th centuries, not carefully curated, but quantity
before quality. The walls and ceiling are a riot of colour and gold
leaf, all designed to convey the wealth and status of the Colonnas.
After this we found a very nice restaurant (Antica Birreria Peroni,
Via si San Marcello, 19) for lunch, then wandered back to Repubblica,
looking at shops. We swung by the Capuchin monastery by Piazza
Barberini to check out their creepy crypt skeleton sculptures, then
meandered through small streets, getting more and more tired in the
heat and crowds.
Finally we got a bus and hopped off near the Campidoglio. Our last
stop was Michelangelo’s famous piazza, filled with elegantly clothed
people waiting for wedding couples to register in the town hall,
watched by the statue (or copy thereof) of the mounted Marcus
Aurelius. A fine summation of the different stages of Roman history.
After getting on yet another bus we rounded out our evening with
cut-to-measure pizzas at Volpetti Più, around the corner from
Volpetti’s famous delicatessen.
On the last day the rain started, matching our mood at having to leave
this fascinating city!
I shot with my D700 and a 3-prime kit: 28mm ƒ/3.5, 50mm ƒ/1.8 AF, and
105mm ƒ/2.4. The 28mm was used most, followed by the 50mm, and the
105mm only used for a panorama.
The use of the 28mm has led me to try to get a light travel zoom
starting at that focal length at the wide end. I felt I missed a few
shots (mostly of architectural details) because it was too much of a
hassle to change lenses.
This was also the first time I used the Peak Design Capture system for a longer time, and I must say I was very happy with it. I used the clip attached to my Domke strap and it really helped to have the camera on hand all the time. I only used the Cuff when shooting my pano form the cupola, not wanting to earn eternal damnation by dropping my Nikon onto the head of the Pope.