Amsterdam & Italy 2011: Day 12 - Morning in Siena; evening in Rome 26Apr2011

We broke all the rules tonight. We could not stop ourselves from exploring too much of Rome in just a few hours. The day started smoothly with no train problems coming from Siena where we were exploring this morning. What a day!

Horse hitch in SienaSiena state flags with Daniel, Laura and DenaThis morning in Siena we learned more about Il Palio that takes place each year in Il Campo, the main square. Representatives from the 17 historic states of Siena fight it out on horseback in Il Campo to a crowd of 110,000 spectators; 80,000 free standing room in the middle and another 30,000 reserved seats outside the shops and cafes on the outer portion of the ring. We learned most of this from one of the shopkeepers who is very proud of his own state of origin. We now have some flags from some of these states as well as dishtowels as souvenirs.

Synagogue in SienaAnother interesting site that we visited was an ancient synagogue. There were two marble plaques on the outside, as well as 3 new wreaths from the prior day’s National Day celebration honouring the end of Italy’s occupation. One plaque honoured the Jews who were burned in the piazza in the 1700s and the other stone was in honour of those Jews of Siena who died in the Holocaust. The building itself is now used as an Israeli society.

We are fortunate to have added an extra day to our Rome portion of our trip as we had read that there was so much to see here. Tomorrow we will see the Colosseum that we were probably going to otherwise miss. We did not expect to not be able to stop ourselves tonight from covering a lot of ground. It sounds like something both my parents and Laura’s parents would do to themselves as well, so we come by it honestly, plus we were driven by amazement.

Our room at You Bed B & B, Rome, ItalyI should start by mentioning our beautiful B & B run by Barbara and her twin sister. We had not realized that this is their third B & B apartment that they now operate and this one has only been open for 7 days so far. Located at 278 Via Gracchi, puts it a 5 minute walk from the Vatican and 10 minutes from the Piazza del Popolo more or less.

Our walking route took us first to that very Piazza del Popolo, after first getting used to crossing the crazy streets here. You have to wait for some breaks in the flow of traffic, put your hand up in front of the cars as you look the drivers in the eyes, and walk with authority. Or, you can try to find crosswalks, push the buttons, and often wait for nothing to happen. Our route took us down Via del Corso for a fair stretch, to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Campo de Fiori, Piazza Navono, a very late night stop for pizza and lasagna, then home.

Dena and Daniel at Piaza del PopoloThe Piazza del Popolo amazed us with its grandeur as our first exposure to Rome. Ancient buildings, tons of people of all ages, folks filling water bottles from the public fountains, as cars zipped around the piazza. This seems to be the norm in the Rome that we saw tonight.

Spanish StepsThe Spanish Steps were just packed with mostly younger people, a lot of whom were just sitting there, while others were doing the tourist thing and taking pictures like us. Of course, almost no tourist spot in Italy would be complete without people trying to sell you junky flying light-up toys while they whistle with these bird chirps so there was a lot of that going on as well.

Trevi FountainThe Trevi Fountain, like so many things in Rome, is just hiding behind another building. It’s really an incredible work of art, steeped in some deep meaning that will lead me to read more, and a lot of people taking it all in.

The Pantheon in RomeThe Pantheon was an unexpected incredible site. We just picked that as something that was on our route to Campo de Fiori, but were not expecting it to be even more amazing on the inside than the outside might lead you to believe. It must have been bricked over at some point in its life to make it look like just a ruin, but the incredible detail of the interior was something to behold.Pantheon interior photo by Dena

Campo de Fiori was sort of set as a spot to check out based on Rick Steves’ guide book but was less special than the other cherished sites we already came across. We were also hoping to find a place for Pizza Bianco that was referred to in the guidebook but it was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, Piazza Navono redeemed the sense of beauty, and a little pizza and pasta restaurant refuelled us…Sale Miele at Piazza tor Sanguigna 12. Home-made pizza margherita, lasagne, insalata mista and we were ready to head back here by 10 pm.Piazza Navona at sunset

Tomorrow we will head to the Colosseum after first finding out whether the Canucks were able to overcome the jinks that is the Chicago Blackhawks and get past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s almost 11 pm here in Rome and the game will be starting at 4 am local time…I think I’ll be sleeping but may be up before the game ends.View of St Peter’s from near our B & B