From our apartment on Viale di Trastevere, the Number 8 tram (across the street) takes us to its end at Piazza Venezia in just 10 minutes, and we are in the heart of the Centro Historico.
The tram and bus systems are easy, especially with Google Maps (you can download an offline version to use if you don’t get a local Sim Card or use roaming). SEE BELOW FOR PHONE AND TRANSPORT CARD INFO.
While any guide book (like Rick Steves’ Rome and Lonely Planet Rome) gives detailed information, history and significance of each site, I am after the feeling, and am frequently overwhelmed.
A short walk and we come upon Chiesa di Gesú, the first Jesuit church to be built in Rome. The outside is plain but the inside a Baroque spectacle. Besides all the gold adornments, statuary, and paintings of heaven, hell, saints and such, the soaring ceiling is a complex masterpiece of trompe l’oeil… 3-D at its best, (and earliest… remember, perspective had only recently been discovered in the early Renaissance with the use of mirrors) convincing the viewer (er, faithful adherent) that you’re looking deeply into a vibrantly real scenes.
Then came the Pantheon, considered the most influential building in art history. From the back, it’s a big, round rough-brick exterior, but from the front, with its Greek-style portico, it is magnificent.
As I walked beneath the portico (dating from Emperor Hadian, 120 A.D.) to enter the main temple, I was stopped… not by the crowds or surprisingly few security guards, but by a sense of its magnificence. A visceral “wow!” I stood at the doorway for a minute or more, unable to move, just sensing the age, perfect symmetry and extraordinary connection through time and space to the countless millions of famous and “regular” lives that had also stood in this awesome place.
Amid the crowds of tourists, busy Romans, the vast cadre of unemployed youth (I’m told there is a 40% unemployment rate) hanging out in the piazzas, especially in the evenings, I can still find for myself a sense of connection to the past that is both extraordinarily familiar and wildly unexpected. Ahh, Rome!
More soon, and please leave your comments and share this blog. Thanks!
Notes on Telephone and Transport
I went to the Vodaphone office and bought a Sim card and 4 months of service for 40€. I can’t say exactly how many calls and data it includes but I was assured it would be sufficient. WhatsApp (text messaging and audio calls) remains my Mexico cell phone number (essentially an ID) and is the way most popular means of communication all over Europe, as it is free. So, if you are traveling in Europe and have a smart phone, you should setup (and understand) WhatsApp beforehand. If you have a carrier contract, you can likely add on an international roaming package but be sure you understand the costs.
I bought a monthly pass (38€), based on the calendar month, at a Tobacco shop. It includes trams, buses and metro. However, due to the lack of government – I mean, really, Italians consider themselves without an official government at the moment – no one is enforcing using a ticket or pass on the trams or buses. I’m told you need one for the Metro, but individual tickets can be purchased for 1€ on site. With trams being so easy and fast, I’ve not yet figured out the buses or Metro, but Google map directions are invaluable in getting from point A to B.