Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tivoli and Baroque Rome

Wow, what a day! Busy from morning to night. We were up at 7:00am, showered and dressed, then went down for breakfast. After a good breakfast of eggs, bacon, croissants, cereal, orange juice and coffee we returned to the room to get our things. We then headed  to the lobby at 8:50am and were on board the bus at 8:55am. From the hotel we headed to Tivoli. The drive took us between 30 and 45 minutes to reach the town of Tivoli. We stepped off the bus and walked a short distance to the Villa d’Este. After getting our tickets we entered a small courtyard and our tour director gave us instructions and a meeting time and place. We were then left to explore the villa and gardens.
Organ Fountain at Villa d'Este, Tivoli
We first went out to the gardens to hear the organ play. They have a pipe organ that plays music when water is pumped through it. And it only plays once every two hours – and it was set to play at 10:30am. So we headed to that area and took pictures of the different fountains and the fountain where the organ was. Right at 10:30am, on cue the doors on the fountain opened and a pipe organ appeared and began to play. It was incredible to hear this knowing that the music being produced was only done so via water movement. When the organ stopped Thomas and I wandered throughout the gardens and enjoyed all the fountains. They were all incredible We even befriended a cat that was wandering around the gardens. After 30 minutes or so of walking around and taking pictures we got caught in a downpour. So we headed back into the villa and walked through the rooms – we really liked the frescoed walls and ceilings. We then headed back into town with Mark, Sue, Dave and Deanne. As we exited the villa we noticed that the church right outside the walls of the villa was getting ready for a wedding. A young groom was standing outside and then we saw bridesmaids arrive. Then a couple of young men rolled out a red  carpet. As we rounded the corner of the church we saw an old model car with the bride. By this time the rain had stopped and they put the top down on the car and she was driven up to the front of the car – what a pleasant surprise to witness  this in an old town in Italy.

We then started walking up and down some of the streets of Tivoli and stopped in a small restaurant called Antica Pizzeria Rosticceria. Thomas had a fried rice and cheese ball (Arancini di Riso) and I had a fried potato and mozzarella ball (Crocche). We ate outside while walking and then did a little shopping. Thomas and I decided a little while later that we wanted to sit and have a snack. So we went to Arist Bar and had some pasteries and caffe lattes. We sat at a table by the window and just relaxed. It was then time to meet our group at the designated area so we made our way outside. Once the group had all gathered we walked back to the bus and made our way to Rome. Once we arrived in Rome we picked up our tour guide, Antonetta and we began our tour of Rome. We drove past the Baths of Caracalla, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, Santa Maria in Cosmedin and Bocca della Verita, Victor Emmanuel Memorial, around the Piazza Venezia and past the balcony where Mussolini gave some of his more famous speeches. We then left the bus and walked a short distance to the Trevi Fountain.
Trevi Fountain
Here we had about 30 minutes to go to the bathroom, throw coins in the fountain (for a return trip to Rome) and just relax and enjoy the surroundings. So Thomas and I threw our coins in the fountain and took some pictures and then walked around the area to do a little people watching. Our group then gathered and we continued our walk to St. Ignazio Church. We stopped here to see the ceiling. In the center of the church is a painting that is meant to look like a dome. When you walk in it appears that there is a dome with a center area but as you get directly underneath you can see that the center area is actually off to one side. This was some incredible perspective. From here we made our way to the Pantheon. We had about 30 minutes here to walk around inside. The place was packed inside as well as outside. We found Raphael’s tomb, Victor Emmanuel’s tomb and enjoyed this incredible structure that is preserved in its original state since between AD 118-125.

Next we made our way to Piazza Navona. We viewed the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (The Fountain of the Four Rivers) and got a little history lesson on Pope Innocent X – I gathered from this that he wasn’t all that innocent. This ended our time with the tour guide and the plan was to return to the bus and go back to the hotel and rest for a while. Then we would leave later to return to town for dinner. Thomas and I (and a few other people decided to stay in town and do some more things and then meet the group at the restaurant later on.

So Thomas and I walked around the other edges of Piazza Navona, took pictures, watched a street performer and then walked through a large gathering of street artists selling paintings and doing portraits of people. We then slow made our way back to the Pantheon area. We stopped in to the Creameria for some gelato (Thomas had chocolate and I had caffe). We sat on a bench outside the shop and ate our gelato. When done with that we walked around a little more and then stopped in at Tazza d'Oro for a granita di caffe con panna and a caffe latte. We stood at the bar and had our beverages and when we were finished we went out and sat by the obelisk in front of the Pantheon. We had made plans to meet a few people there at around 6:00pm. Dave, Deanne, Mark, Sue, Jack and Carol eventually joined Thomas and I and then we all headed in the direction of the restaurant that we needed to be at to meet the group. We got there early so we decided to explore this area.
Victor Emmanuel Memorial
We walked down a small street and eventually emerged near the Victor Emmanual Memorial. So we walked to the front of the memorial and took some pictures before returning to Piazza Margana.

We had a little time to wait for the group so we sat on the curb and listened to a woman playing an accordion. It was such a pleasant way to start the evening. The whole setting – the music, the piazza and the old buildings made for an incredible image of what living in Italy might be like. Once the rest of the group arrived we were shown to our tables at La Taverna degli Amici and the feast began. Of course there was wine on the table and some crusty bread. Then the courses started coming. First we had prosciutto and mozzarella, then they brought out the pasta, penne with meat sauce. Our next course was beef and potatoes and we ended with a cake and caffe for dessert. I think we all had a great time if judged by the level of chatter and all the laughing. The meal was delicious and the company & conversation were fantastic. Like I said earlier – it was a very busy day but also an incredible day.

We didn’t get back to the hotel until after 10:00pm. I am still wide awake (probably from all the coffee I had today) and I was able to get this post done for today – and anyway we get an extra hour of sleep tonight since Italy turns back its clocks tonight. Tomorrow we have a tour of Ancient Rome in the morning and then the afternoon to do whatever we want.

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