Roma + Napoli: Urban Italia

Piazza dela Republica

From the dreamy cobbled streets of Firenze, we transferred to Roma by train.

In contrast to our first city, this one is full of avenues and sidestreets busy with moving vehicles and walking pedestrians.

Its warm weather allowed us to walk around the vicinity of our hotel where anything ancient-looking made us excited and curious. 

We dropped by a park, which happened to be Muzeo Nazionale Roma. It was a bit deserted by tourists.

A few steps from the park is Santa Maria Degli Angeli. It had colorful and lofty interiors, similar to most Churches in Italy. Void of pews meant for mass celebrations, this somewhat resembled a grand lobby of an old hotel.

Right across was Piazza dela Republica: a monumental building by a busy rotonda (see first photo). With Mc Donald's at the ground floor, it became a familiar refuge during our first day.

A walk along the main avenue gave us a glimpse of Roma.

A structure that stood out was Pallazo dell' Esposizioni. We only passed by this building but it gave us an idea of what will be in store for the succeeding 4 days.

Our 2nd day started early with a visit to our friend's aunt at Food and Agriculture Organizaion-United Nations Building. Our generous hosts treated us at the office cafeteria where it seemed to be a buffet to our deprived tummies. 

Here is a view from the balcony right outside the cafeteria. Palatine Palace could be seen at the left while on its right was the Colloseo.

Another view was the Vatican City. The dome of St. Peter's Basilica could be seen sticking out from its sea of neighbors. 

A short stroll from FAO lead us to the Palatine Palace. It was a backdrop for Roma's classical age set in the middle of a bustling city.


Palatine Palace was a complex of stone structures where one can see the Arch of Constantine and the Colloseo from its perimeter. Within this enclosed hill are the Circus Maximus, where chariot races were held, and the Forum Romanum, where early Romans used to gather informally.

Part of our Roman pilgrimage was to be able to visit the Vatican City. Unlike in Firenze wherein we traveled by foot to visit various sites, Roma was a big city where we were required to blend in with the locals and use public transport. On our way to the Vatican City during our 3rd day, we rode a bus but we stepped down on the wrong stop. We had to follow the footsteps of the main character in Angels and Demons so we could trace our way to St. Peter's Basilica.

 It was quite a long walk but our destination greeted us with this view.

St. Peter’s Basilica (thanks to the 12 architects behind it) is the most elaborate church that I’ve been to. It deserves to be the main seat of Roman Catholics.

Its monotone exteriors were grand in terms of their scale and details.

 Its interiors were just as inspiring but this time it had splashes of color on its intricate carvings adorning the ceilings and walls.

The original Pieta of Michelangelo could be found near its entrance.

 Near the altar, one could see the names of hundreds of Popes carved on a wall, beginning with St. Peter and ending with Pope John Paul II.

Our post-lunch agenda was to visit the Vatican Museum, which was several minutes away from the basilica. It hosted an archive of international treasures.

 Its enclosed main entrance lead us upstairs to an expansive courtyard where the museum was surrounded. 

Similar to St. Peter’s, its interiors were also intricately carved and painted. It had the ambiance of a lavish palace only with hundreds of tourists walking towards the same direction. Paintings and sculptures were found along hallways or inside rooms.

We took the shorter route to Sistine Chapel. It was just a small chapel entered through one of the museum's hallways. However, because it was considered a very sacred artwork, cameras were not allowed to be used. Some were able to take sneaky shots of its famous ceiling by Michelangelo despite the scattered guards roaming in the area.

Just outside was a view of another courtyard. Visitors were only allowed to view it from an elevated veranda. 

Exit from the Vatican Museum was through this descending ramp that gradually changed to steps as it reached the bottom.

Since we still had enough time, we traveled back to the heart of Roma and went inside the Colloseo.

Entrance was through a series of arched hallways found along its circumference.

Here are two different views inside. Dungeons for gladiators were found at the lowermost floor while spectators and nobles watched from the upper floors.

Day 3 in Roma ended with a sunset beside this classical architecture.

From the city, we transferred to the downtown area by train during our 4th Day.

We visited a small bazaar, as suggested by the aunt of my friend. It was relatively small compared to Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Merchants sold clothes and other vintage finds of books and posters in this area.

From classical structures of the previous days, we then traveled to another suburban side of Roma to see MAXXI Museum, a post-modern work of Zaha Hadid.

Amidst the sleepy neighborhood, this museum stood out.

It had cantilevered blocks of concrete where interesting installations are scattered in its outdoors.

Inside was equally fascinating. It had zones that allowed the interweaving of pathways and spaces. This museum showcased 21st century artwork, as suggested by its name. Mostly were installation pieces  while one section was dedicated to architecture. Just a year ago due to financial constraints, MAXXI Museum was almost closed. With the help of Italia's Cultural Ministry, this contemporary building was saved. 

From MAXXI's almost-empty neighborhood, we returned to the city proper and passed by  Piazza del Popolo on our way to the Pantheon. It was a spacious plaza of cobbled stones where busy streets of pedestrians converged.

We traversed one of its road full of tourists, locals and familiar shops. Along the way, there were street performers and artists.

It was already late in the afternoon when we reached the Pantheon. It was tucked in between buildings with a small piazza in front. We had to wait for a while because of an ongoing mass. This building was continuously being used ever since its construction during the Roman Empire.

It was already dark when we were able to peek at its oculus: the sole source of light and ventilation in the building.

Final day in Roma was spent on a day trip in Napoli, another Italian destination which was an hour train ride away. We arrived on a rather unwelcoming day with its gloomy weather and somewhat disturbed setting. Apparently, there had been riots earlier in the morning causing some chaos in the streets.

Nevertheless, this city had its distinct character different from our previous places. It was a port neighborhood fronting the Gulf of Naples. The ancient volcano of Vesuvius could be seen from the area. Unlike the other two cities, it had visibly taller buildings.

We rode a bus to see Castel Nuovo. However, since we had a perfect timing, the castle for the first king of Napoli was not open for public viewing during that day. We were only greeted by big stray dogs guarding the intricately-carved entrance.

We, instead, roamed around the vicinity and looked for interesting places. Since Napoli was the birthplace of pizza, we just had to taste this authentic Neapolitan dish. We sought for a restaurant while walking around.

We accidentally passed by Galleria Umberto I: a shopping gallery built in late 1800's. It was not too busy with people during our visit. Most shops were closed except for a few ones found near the road.

Here was a typical neighborhood parallel to the main road. Residences were much denser compared to what we witnessed from Firenze and Roma.

Upon further inquiries from Filipino locals, we were able to look for Solopizza, an Italian pizza chain. Food was relatively cheaper in this city. We ended up buying one whole orders each and took home our leftovers. These were eaten during our train ride to our final city: Venezia.

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