Weekend Markets – Rome

Market at top of the Spanish Steps, Rome, 2012
Market at top of the Spanish Steps, Rome, 2012

It took me a few trips to Rome to finally take advantage of the many weekend markets.  Partially because these markets don’t occur in the same place and you have to know the schedule to take advantage of them.  I have listed some of my favorites and by no means are these all of the markets.  I encourage you to share any markets that you have found and enjoy.  Spending a weekend morning wandering the many stalls is one of my favorite activities.  Getting to and from the markets is also a wonderful way to discover new rione of Rome.  A special thanks to my friend at the American Embassy in Rome who guided me to many of these incredible markets!!

Ponte Milvio Market – 1st Sunday of every month.  Located just next to the Ponte Milvio Bridge north of the city.  Accessible by taxi or the # 2 tram from Piazza del Popolo.  This is one of my favorite markets not only due to its location along the river and near the bridge but for the wide array of antiques, old prints, rugs, jewelry, silver, glass, linens, and objet d’art.

Porta Portese Market – Every sunday.  Located next to the old gate Porta Portese in Trestevere this market is HUGE and gets very crowded.  If you are looking for kitchen items, new and used clothing, dvd’s, small electronics, shoes, and knick knacks then you will love this hodge podge of vendors.

Verdi Market – 4th Sunday of every month.  Located near the Borghese Gardens.  This market is not to terribly large and has some very good quality antiques, linens, furniture, rugs, prints, books, housewares, ceramics, silver, and jewelry.   I highly recommend going if you can.

Borghetto Flamino Market – Every Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm.  This market charges a nominal entry fee of 1.60 euros.  Antiques, vintage clothing, handcrafted items, vintage signs – postcards – jewelry, unusual items.

Day Tripping – Rome to Florence

View of Duomo from San Miniato
View of Duomo from San Miniato al Monte, Florence, 2012

There are many day trips to nearby towns and cities that you can take from Rome.  Florence, Frascati, Tivoli, and Ostia Antica are among some of my favorites.  Taking the high speed Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) or Frecciargento (Silver Arrow) from Roma Termini Station to Firenze located just under 300 km to the northwest from downtown Rome, takes 90 minutes.  Italy’s high speed trains are a great way to travel, comfortable and ultra modern,   maximizing your time.

Among Florence’s many treasures are Michelangelo’s David, Brunelleschi’s Duomo, and Masaccio’s frescoes of Adam and Eve. Depending on how much time and energy you have it is possible to see all three.  I recommend buying tickets to the Galleria dell’Accademia (David) and the church of Santa Maria del Carmine (Adam and Eve frescoes) in advance to avoid long lines and wasting valuable time.

View of San Miniato From Boboli Gardens, Florence, 2013
View of San Miniato al Monte From Boboli Gardens, Florence, 2013

One of my favorite itineraries for a day in Florence includes arriving at Santa Maria Novella Station and taking a taxi up to San Miniato al Monte for an incredible view of the city. From the basilica walk the short distance to Piazzale Michaelangelo for another incredible view of the Tuscan valley.  From the piazzale look for the stair case at the northwest corner and wind your way down the footpath past the Giardino delle Rose, a hidden gem, to the old city gate at Piazzetta San Miniato.  From this point you can wander toward Ponte alle Grazie and cross the bridge from the oltrarno, “beyond the Arno”, quarter of the city into the historic center of the city toward Santa Crocce.   This is about a two and one half hour walk of incredible vista’s which allows you to avoid large crowds and plenty of time to visit some of the major attractions.  As you wander this particularly beautiful corner of Firenze stop to enjoy a caffe, browse some of the incredible shops, and take as many pictures as you can. You will remember this city for the rest of your life!!

Room with a View, Friends on Their Terrace, Florence, 2013
Room with a View, Friends on Their Terrace, Florence, 2013

How Many Obelisks Are There in Rome? – Creating Your Own Walking Tour

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome 2012My favorite obelisk is located in front of Santa Maria sopra Minerva near the Pantheon

As many times as I have been to the eternal city I have never seen all thirteen obelisks (8 ancient egyptian and 5 ancient roman) – Rome harbors the most obelisks in the world.   If you are looking for an adventure for yourself, for visitors, or for your family,  setting out to see all of the obelisks is one of the best.

Many times throughout my stay in Rome I would think about something that I was interested in: Bernini statues, Caravaggio paintings, fountains, remnants of the ancient aqueducts, places in Rome featured in movies – and then I would set off to see as many of them as I could.  This is a great way to learn about the history of the city, become more familiar with the city, and discover all sorts of new favorite destinations.

Create your own walking tour!!

Modern Italian History – Royal Family, House of Savoy

Coat_of_arms_of_the_King_of_Italy_(1890)

The House of Savoy (Casa di Savoia) formed in the early 11th century, through gradual expansion, grew from ruling a small county in the Savoy Region to eventually rule the unified Kingdom of Italy (1860-1946).  Ruling for 85 years the four most recent monarchs include Victor Emmanuel IIUmberto IVictor Emmanuel III, and Umberto II. The last monarch ruled for a few weeks before being overthrown by a Constitutional Referendum, and a new republic and government was then proclaimed.  Both Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I are buried in the Pantheon.  Today’s descendants are a lively cast of characters who occasionally appear in the papers.

Renting a Car in Italy – Some Practical Advice

Tivoli, 2009Tivoli, 2009

If your plans have you headed to Italy for more than two weeks I would recommend that you consider renting a car and take advantage of a few driving adventures.  A wonderful article in the travel section of the New York TImes, that I often recommend, about the ins and outs of renting cars abroad is included in this post.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to book your rental car through the country website for the rental company of choice.  For example go to hertz.it vs. hertz.com.  Most large companies with international locations will allow you to choose the language you wish use on the site making it very easy.  You will often save 30% simply by doing this. The second piece of advice – know which credit card you will be using prior to booking and have a full understanding of the coverage your bank provides on rental cars outside of the U.S.   Note the related article about IDP’s below.  I have never been asked for anything other than my US drivers license.

Lastly enjoy the experience – driving through the hills of Tuscany or along the Amalfi Coast is a memory that you will keep for life and well worth the effort.

Recommended Reading

City Secrets of Rome

This little gem of a book makes a great gift for friends and family that may be headed to Rome and definitely is something to pack into your own suitcase.  I referred to this book often especially when having a “tourist block”.

City Secrets Rome brings together the recommendations of artists, writers, historians, architects, chefs, and other experts whose passionate opinions and highly informed perspectives illuminate well-known sites as well as overlooked treasures. These expert travel companions share with you their favorite little-known places including restaurants, cafés, art, architecture, shops, outdoor markets, strolls, daytrips, as well all manner of cultural and historic landmarks.

City Secrets Rome, Series Editor – Robert Kahn

Day Tripping – Rome to Tivoli

Villa d'este Fall 2013Large Fountain, Villa d’Este, Tivoli, 2012

There are many day trips to nearby towns and cities that you can take from Rome.  Florence, Frascati, Tivoli, and Ostia Antica are among some of my favorites.  Taking the train from Roma Termini Station to Tivoli, located about 30 km to the northeast from downtown Rome, takes about 45 minutes. As the train pulls out of the station and moves into the country you see parts of the city you normally wouldn’t experience and finally as you climb the gently curving hills toward Tivoli you can look forward to beautiful vistas including some waterfalls.

Among Tivoli’s many treasures are Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa).  Both exceptional in what they have to offer.  If you have to choose, Villa d’Este, would be my choice for the exquisite fountains, vistas, and greenery. (NOTE: Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana are closed on Mondays)

Upon arriving at the Tivoli Train station walk downhill on  Viale Giuseppe Mazzini.  When you arrive at the traffic circle, round the circle to your right, and stop at Il Ciocco for an espresso. From the back of the bar you can look down upon Villa Gregoriana.  From here you can follow the signs to Villa d’Este and enjoy your walk up into this ancient town.

Cafe Life – La Dolce Vita

Joe, Gerry, and Jochen at Cafe FarneseJoe, Gerry, and Jochen at Cafe Farnese, Rome, 2012

Relaxing outdoors in one of the thousands of cafes that line the streets is part of the Roman way of living.  Cafes come in all shapes and sizes from the very humble to the very chic. One attribute they all share – the waiters will not rush you.  In Italy no one will bring the check until you ask for it – a refreshing change to be sure. Nothing is more enjoyable that sitting outside with friends and family.  People watching,  discussing the news of the day, or planning where you may be going next can take hours!

You will undoubtedly discover a cafe to call your own, generally if you visit an establishment more than three times you are considered a regular, however if you need a suggestion or two some of my favorites areas/cafes include:

Campo di Fiori – Cafe Farnese

Via Veneto – Cafe de Paris

Navona/Piazza Pasquino – Il Piccolo

Piazza del Popolo – Canova

Via Marmorata – Tram Depot

Please share any of your favorites !!!!

Cafe de Paris, Rome, 2013

Color

View in the GhettoView of a building in the Ghetto, Rome, 2012

We all have our favorites – blues, greens, reds, pinks, oranges, yellows.  No two places seem to have used the same paint but rather are a variation of the other.  Every time I went for a walk I had the pleasure of discovering a new color – even routes travelled every day.   As hard as I might try with the camera to capture the authenticism of the colors in my photographs I felt it was impossible.

Only after I picked up a paintbrush and attempted to paint with watercolor, what was in front of me, did I feel I had a fighting chance to get it right.   If you ever wanted to try something new, artistically, Rome is the place to inspire you – Painting, Photography, Drawing.

My favorite store to visit and browse art supplies is Ditta G. Poggi, located near the Pantheon.  They carry everything you could possibly need or want to be creative. UNLEASH YOUR INNER ARTIST!

Hills with a View – Climb One!

View of the Vatican from the Aventine HillView of the Vatican from Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill, Rome, 2012

Within the ancient walls of Rome are the Seven Hills upon which the city was built – Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinial, and Viminal.  In addition there are many other hills outside the walls of the historic center – Cispian, Janiculium, Monte Mario, Oppian, Pinican, Vatican, and Velian.  All of them offer spectacular views and I encourage anyone visiting Rome to take the time to climb one or more.  One of my favorites is the Aventine.  There you can enjoy one of the best views of the city as well as the church of Santa Sabina, mother church for the order of Dominicans.  I recommend approaching the hill from the north near the Circus Maximus and departing down the hill toward Via Marmorata. Time permitting visit Vopetti and the Protestant Cemetery.  You can spend an entire day in this rione (Ripa)