Roma

Trastevere, Rome

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Rome. My first day ever in the Eternal city, by many named Caput Mundi. I had left Evjen in bitter cold and snow, now I was walking down Via Teatropace looking at balconies filled with flowering Cyclamens! I was heading towards Ponte Sisto, but first a short stop at Campo De’ Fiori. This means “fields of flowers”, situated at the east bank of the flood-prone Tiber. The Piazza was paved and built from 1496, in the middle of the Campo we find the statue erected 1887 of Giordano Bruno. He was burnt alive in 1600 by the Inquisition because of his heliocentric ideas (that the sun, not the earth, is the centre of the universe). The statue is defiantly facing the Vatican, overlooking the busy vegetable- and flower market. I promised myself to return and spend some time around the market.

On the nearby Piazza Farnese, I had a long stop to look at the magnificent Palazzo Farnese built in the 16th century. This is one of the grand high Renaissance palaces in Rome, now housing the French Embassy. Swedish tourists will instantly feel at home in front of this Michelangelo designed palace. The Royal Palace in Stockholm (Kungliga Slottet) is a large “copy” of the Palazzo Farnese.

Ponte Sisto was built 1479 as a replacement for the Roman bridge Pons Aurelius. At last, a whiff of fresh air! This bridge is a footbridge, I could sit down for while in the middle of Tiber enjoying a crumbled croissant. I was now looking at the Janiculum hill on the west bank of Tiber. The large forest of palms in the hillside is the Orto Botanico dell’Università di Roma, the botanical garden of Rome.

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I continued into Trastevere on the other side of the bridge. This is a very charming part of Rome with narrow cobbled streets lined by medieval houses. A short walk and I was in front of the very first Christian churches, it might be the one where the first mass was openly celebrated.

The lovely Santa Maria in Trastevere dates back to 340 AD. Septimius Severus, Roman Emperor 145-211 AD, gave this area consisting of a Taberna meritoris to the first Christians. In 220 AD Pope Callixtus I built a small church on the ruins of the Taberna.

The mosaics from the 12 th century on the facade depicts the Madonna enthroned and suckling the Child, flanked by ten women holding lamps. Inside the church the 22 granite columns, both Ionic and Corinthian, led my attention to the fantastic 13th-century mosaics in the apse. They are made 1291 by Pietro Cavallini and is centering on the “Corontation of the Virgin”. Regarding the 22 columns, they are all robbed from the Baths of Caracalla (south of Rome).

Next, a far less shiny attraction, Porta Settimiana. Built in 1498 by Pope Alexander IV, it is a gate in the Aurelian walls built by Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus back in 275 AD. Beyond the Porta are two large buildings, the renaissance Villa Farnesiana and the late-baroque palace Palazzo Corsini.

Via Corsini, first street to the left, led my way to the truly fantastic botanical garden. It was originally part of Palazzo Corsini, from 1883 a botanical garden, in 1983 the garden was sold to the Sapienza University of Rome. Today the garden contains more than 3,000 species, with a Japanese garden, bamboo groves, and a Giardino dei Semplici (medicinal plants). I have never walked in a “forest” of palms, most of the trees were the common Phoenix dactylifera (date palm). To my great pleasure I found that most of the subshrubs in fact were the Chamaerops humilis! It is the only palm species native to continental Europe, found in the south of Portugal, Spain, France and Italy.

Suddenly, it rained. I had just prepared to picnic at the pond with a couple of mallards. Instead I had to huddle in a spot under a dense bamboo nearby had to suffice for my luncheon. Luckily, the rain didn´t last long, and I hurried farther up the hillside. On the map it looked like a second entrance could be found close to the summit. Indeed, it was there, but closed with chains ! OK, I had seen the entire botanical garden in Rome, I had to walk down to Porta Settimiana and follow the long and winding road of Via G. Garribaldi to the top of Janiculum.

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It took close to an hour to get back to the entrance in chains. Here I got higly rewarded by the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, or Il Fontanone (“The big fountain”), across the street. Every tourist know the Trevi Fountain in Rome, in fact, that fountain is modelled from this. Il Fontanone was built 1610-12 to mark the end of the Acqua Paola acqueduct, which was restored by Pope Paul V, and took its name from him. These waters marks several significant events of the Roman Empire. The acqueduct is in fact the ancient Aqua Traiana, the 1st century Roman acqueduct built by Emperor Trajan. It channelled water from sources around Lake Bracciano, 40 km north-west of Rome. It fed water mills at the Janiculum. Second, the white marble is taken from the nearby ruins of the Roman Temple of Minerva (Forum of Nerva, one of the five Imperial Fora, close to Forum of Trajan).

After a short walk, I was at the crest of Janiculum, looking at the statue of Garibaldi. Hm, wrapped in white plastic, closed due to maintenance. Instead, I put on the telephoto lens and devoted myself to the skyline of Rome. What a truly breathtaking view of the innumerable domes and bell towers of a truly multi-hued architectural museum!

Now, I set my paces down the Vatican side of Janiculum. To my great grief, also the statue of Anita Garibaldi was wrapped in white. Anita is the Brazilian wife and comrade-in-arms of Giuseppe Garibaldi, their partnership epitomized the spirit of the 19th century’s age of romanticism and revolutionary liberalism. Across the street of Anita is Villa Lante al Gianicolo, designed by Giulio Romano during the early part of the 16th century. Today, the building houses the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae and the Vatican Embassy of Finland.

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I continued down to Piazza della Rovere close to the Tiber. Porta Santo Spirito, todays last tourist-attraction, is a amenable backdrop to the heavy traffic on Lungotevere Vaticano in front of me . It is one of the oldest ports of the wall that surrounds the Vatican, dating back to 850. The Porta as we can see it today, is built 1543-1544.

My first day in Rome was brought to an end. It was getting dark, I was kind of nervous walking about in the shadows, thus I pushed on and crossed the Tiber by the Ponto Vittorio Emmanuelle II. The bridge is decorated with high socles carrying colossal bronze winged Victories and allegorical travertine sculptural groups. Now, I was in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the main thoroughfare of Centro Storico, the historical Rome.

At Santa Maria in Vallicella (Chiesa Nuova) my life-long search for the real Italian food ended. In the cosy restaurant Da Mario Alla Chiesa Nuova I realized just how badly I overcook my pasta at home. They served a simply fantastic Spaghetti amatriciana, with bacon and chili. From the restaurant it was a short walk back to my hotel in Via del Teatro Pace. The locals and a few tourists had a big party and lots of beer in the nearby taverna, how simple-minded – I had since long reached Nirvana, with a little aid from Caput Mundi, the city of Rome!

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Første og siste gang jeg prøvde å skrive en turartikkel på engelsk, et fremmedspråk jeg ikke behersker skriftlig. Skjønner ikke hva jeg tenkte, det ble da også vanskelig å komme i mål.

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