A FIRST DAY IN ROME
After a very comfortable flight on Singapore Airlines and full day in Singapore, we usually arrive in Rome pretty fresh ,excited and ready and rearing to go.
After our private transfer to the hotel ( only minutes from St Peters Sq), we leave our luggage there and head straight out, to start exploring. I like to take my girls to my favourite little cafe a short walk from the hotel for a coffee ,panini or whatever take their fancy. As this is Sunday the Pope , (when in residence) appears at his window ,everyone regardless of their beliefs finds this quite spine tingling, well we have all seen pictures of St Peters Square filled with people awaiting the Pope on TV & in movies ,so to be a part of that is quite amazing!
We then head back to the hotel where we can check in to our rooms, for a well deserved rest.
At 4pm we catch taxis (included in the tour) to my favourite place in Rome, Trastavere
The love story between the Trastevere district and the Romans and foreigners begins long ago, way back in the past. Its name comes from the Latin Trans Tiber, which means “beyond the Tiber “,this is because, the district is located on the river Tiber’s right bank( while the other districts, during the ancient roman times, were located on left bank) and this location made the area become( since Roman times) the main port of the city .Since the old times( back to the Emperor Augustus era), Trastevere has been home to people coming from all over: Jewish traders, whose role has been relevant in the Middle Ages( they then moved , during the 15th century, to the other side of the river, in the Jewish Ghetto), people coming from all over the Italian peninsula and foreigners. In fact we walk past a small restaurant which was a Jewish Synagogue 1000 years ago , and you can still see the Hebrew lettering in the stonework!
Trastevere’s appeal has not changed over the centuries. Day or night, walking around this labyrinth of alleys will be a memorable experience.
We begin our walk in the middles of the Ponte Cestio which crosses over the River Tiber. It was rebuilt in 370AD but was already 400 years old then! From here we enter Piazza Piscinula, which features the oldest bell tower in Rome built in 1069 , we also enter a world of distressed earth toned buildings , cascading wit h foliage ,which reflect the extraordinary light in Rome and continue on to discover a hidden city, where real people live and die,. There are some Trastaverians that boast that they have never been to the other side of the river.
Our walk allows us to see Rome more intimately ,as we discover ancient cobblestoned lanes with names like Via dei Salumi ( Street of the Salame) and Vicolo dell’ Atleta ( Alley of the Athlete).
We also get a chance to pop our heads into the church of St Cecilia.
Saint Cecilia was a converted Christian during a time of persecution. Her husband devoted himself to Christian burials in the catacombs ,until he was also killed. When the Romans tried to kill Cecilia, they unsuccessfully tried to suffocate her with steam for three days to appear as an accident, until they ended up beheading her. This is a medieval church and far more popular with the younger people of Rome than the Baroque churches.
Therefore ,there is a two year waiting period to get married here. I have been lucky enough to be there as weddings where taking place.
I am still in awe of the women walking into the church from the cobblestoned piazza wearing 6 inch heels! How they do that without getting stuck in the cracks in an artform!
It’s so delightful to just stroll and take in the atmosphere , the streetscapes, the culture.
We wander until we come to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastavere the centre of the
neighbourhood, where locals gather to talk, watch soccer matches on big screens that are set up here or to just people watch, sitting on the steps of the central fountain, built for this purpose as the community living room.
Overlooked by one of the oldest medieval churches in the city ,Santa Maria in Trastavere, with it’s mismatched collection of columns taken from ancient Roman buildings, a highlight inside the golden mosaic s and the statue of St Anthony covered with notes stuck to him ,from people wanting his help to find their missing belongings .
And now for my favourite part of the day ,sitting at an outside cafe amongst all of this beauty, eating the best Pizza in Italy and imbibing in a few glasses of local vino , talking with the group about all of the wonderful things we have seen and done today and looking forward very much to Day Two in Rome tomorrow. As I write this, the excitement of knowing this is what I will be doing next Sunday fills me with joy and I am already preparing my taste buds for the pizza !
MARY HAMILTON– SMITH. AUSTRALIAN WOMENS TRAVEL