On the first Sunday of every month in Rome many of the state museums offer free admittance to everyone. I am so glad I saw this mentioned on an Expat facebook group, as it saved us over 40 Euros total in admission between Joey and I this Sunday! I woke up early to head to the park near the Terme Caracalla for a personal training session and was surprised by a massive flea market set up all along the Via Portunese in Trastevere. The market began outside the Simply grocery store around the corner from our apartment and ran almost a mile down to the Tiber. Vendors set up tents selling all sorts of clothes, purses, household goods, books, CDs, and more. After an hour long training session I came back along the Via Portunese and stopped to shop. I was looking for a small, cute day backpack for a reasonable price and was able to purchase one after multiple negotiations. Yes, this is the kind of market where haggling is to be expected, but I found it fun.
I stopped into Simply to purchase some food to cook later for dinner and some food to carry with us on our long train ride to Milan tomorrow. After a shower, Joey and I headed to the Piazza Navonna. I came prepared in jeans with a scarf to enter the churches. We went into the Saint Agnese in Agone, primarily a work of Borromini completed in 1668. Visitors are kindly asked to refrain from taking photos in the church, but I can tell you that it is worth a visit for the dome’s colorful frescoes depicting the assumption of Mary. This dome definitely ranks amongst the most colorful and most detailed for a church of this size.
After a short time in the church we continued to walk towards the Tiber and onwards to the Castel Sant’ Angelo where we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes to gain free access to the ancient tomb of Hadrian turned battle fortress turned museum. The place was packed! We were still able to enjoy a visit to the monument, which I think is really all about the view from the top. The view from the top deck near the statue of the archangel Michael encompasses a beautiful panorama towards the Vatican and over the rest of Rome. The other part of the museum which I really enjoyed was an exhibit all about the history, uses, and design of the castle. One pope remained in the castle for 7 month during a siege!
Baguetteria del Fico was our destination for lunch, about a 10 minute walk from Castel Sant Angelo near the Piazza Navona. We had read great reviews online and for the area, it is a budget lovers dream! Gourmet sandwiches with fresh cut meat and cheeses, truffle sauce, mushrooms, and more plus local Italian beer for about 10 euros per person. I had the roast beef with cheese, truffle sauce, lettuce, and porcini mushrooms on a ciabatta loaf with an Italian pilsner and it was just the right size for a fulfilling lunch. The place is super tiny and only locals were there with us, I saw it as a gourmet Subway plus drinks. Delicious, flavorful, and budget friendly!
We walked back through the Piazza Navona to visit the Palazzo Altemps, a collection of Greek and Roman sculpture which belonged to many different noble Roman families in the 16th and 17th century. Although the sculptures are impressive, the second floor of the palazzo itself was even more impressive with its restored frescoes and decorated ceilings. Detailed descriptions in Italian and English accompanied each sculpture and each room, so an audio guide is not necessary for a visit. The frescoed second floor gallery was the most beautiful of the entire palazzo depicting whimsical outdoor scenes.
Now mid-afternoon, we stopped for some of Rome’s top rated gelato at San Crispino. San Crispino is frequently rated amongst the best gelato shops in Rome. I opted for two flavors; chocolate cream with rum and regular cream. Joey choose two as well; caramel and honey. Of the four, I really loved the honey flavor and the chocolate cream with rum came in second place. There is still so many more gelaterias to try through, so the jury is still out on which one will earn my vote for best pick!
Crossing once again through the Piazza Navona, we entered the small Museo de Sculptura Antica Giovanni Barracco, which offers free admittance on all days and is a nice respite from the crowds in the larger museums. The museum displays the private collection of collector Barracco who amassed a large amount of artifacts from ancient civilizations including the Etruscans, Assyrians, Greeks, and of course the Romans. I found it to be quite an impressive personal collection!
Our last museum visit of the day was the Palazzo Venezia near Piazza Venezia. The Palazzo contains a large collection of pottery (not really my thing) as well as some tapestries and painting. Comparatively, I would rate the collection as small and not worth a visit. We stayed only for about 20 minutes and I think our favorite part of the museum was the large central courtyard which took up an entire city block and was beautiful. On our way home we stopped at an athletic store so I could purchase a yoga mat and made it home just before the afternoon rain started. We prepared dinner at home in order to get some rest for our trip to Milan in the morning – we are going to Expo 2015!