how do you explain Rome?

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I arrived at Rome’s Termini Train Station on Friday night around 10:00pm and made my way to the Airbnb apartment where I was staying about 10 minutes away in Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele II. Rome becomes a city for the rich during the summer months, as prices for everything from hotels to meals to taxis to museum entrances rise along with the temperatures. Thus, I had to stay well out of the city center to remain within my budget. I decided to take a stroll after meeting my host and putting my backpack in the apartment. I walked through the Piazza, where an open air cinema was set up showing a movie in Italian. Then I walked down the Palatine hill towards the Coliseum. I entered the Palatine hill park through the open gates, but 10 minutes later once I reached the bottom of the hill, the gates leading to the Coliseum road were locked. I was not walking back 10 minutes uphill then another 10 minutes downhill for no reason; I creatively climbed over the spiky fence using an elevated piece of hillside. Once on the ground, I was standing in the far edge of the large traffic circle which encompasses the Coliseum. It was a perfect night for pictures of the historic building because the moon was almost full; it looked like a scene from a postcard.

I snapped some pictures then began the long ascent back up the Palentine hill on Via Cavour, one of Rome’s main streets. People were out and about drinking since it was Friday night. I had planned to stop for some wine, but many of the decent bars were crowded. I also as a rule avoid any place that has a group of men sitting around outside because it is always a hassle to walk past them. Roman men in particular are very forward, a most unflattering characteristic. I made it back to the safety and comfort of my air conditioned room and fell fast asleep. Five days of watching the boys is tiring, which meant I slept an hour longer than I intended to. I also don’t have air conditioning in my Pisa apartment, so I was loving sleeping with a sheet and everything! When I woke up, I was ready for a day of exploring in Rome.

My first stop was Villa Farnese, a villa used by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of Rome’s most famous Renaissance figures. The villa includes colorful frescoes by Raphael, Baldassare Peruzzi, Sodoma, and Sebastiano del Pimbo. The walls were all painted between 1508 and 1519 and are stunning. The details of the artwork make one feel as though entering a museum and not a residence. I enjoyed visiting the Villa and the small gardens around it, then headed across the street. I wanted to visit Palazzo Corsini, which now serves as an art gallery, however, there was a hand written sign in Italian that said that due to staffing difficulties, the gallery would not open until that afternoon; typical Italian hours… I was very nearby to the Botanical Gardens, so decided to head there next. Upon entering, I saw that a classical concert was scheduled for noon, so decided to buy a ticket.

By this point, I was feeling quite famished, as the walk from my apartment to Villa Farnese had taken over an hour, and a granola bar wasn’t quite enough. I decided to go for a Panini and a cappuccino before the concert started. I walked to a small café just down the street and ordered. As I was waiting for my food, a woman approached me and asked me to join her at her table because she had heard me speaking English with the bartender of the café. I joined her and she turned out to be a most interesting person; an art professor living in Rome to work on ceramics. She was on sabbatical, so she left her husband at home for the summer and visited one different place in Rome each day before beginning her work in the studio. After finishing my Panini and cappuccino, I said goodbye to my new acquaintance and went back to the Botanical Gardens for the concert, which was a combination of piano and clarinet. I found the concert to be quite enjoyable, set in a room with large windows with views out over the garden. The music was appropriate for the time of day; nothing too slow or boring, but rather high energy pieces. I felt lucky to have stumbled across it. I was the only person in the audience of 30 or so people who wasn’t Italian.

After the concert, I explored the Botanical Gardens for about 30 minutes before walking down the river to the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo. I decided to purchase the audio guide for the museum and thankfully I did, because almost nothing you see is labeled or has any sort of explanation. The Castel was a most interesting piece of history, which has had many functions throughout the years. After watching “The Borgias” with Joey, my curiosity about the castle was further intensified. On my tour, I saw where Caesare Borgia used to torture prisoners, the room of the Papal Treasury, the Pope’s room in the castle, and more. I spent about two hours exploring the four floors of the museum, and then crossed over the Bridge with Bernini’s angel sculptures back towards Piazza Navonna. I was not headed to the piazza, though, instead I went to La Connoleria Siciliana, home of the very best cannoli I have ever tasted. On this day, I choose a hazelnut cannoli with some almond flavored wine from Sicily and enjoyed both immensely. I was still in need of a break before exploring another museum, so I headed towards Piazza Spagna and one of my favorite respites in the city…

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