Got up at 7am today. Had a leisurely breakfast and checked out of Hotel Caprice (good riddance). We needed something to do for the day. Priya Raju looked up the Fodor’s we brought with us and decided that we shall go to Villa Borghese.
We walked to the Villa and after a couple of mis-steps and some guidance from some friendly Italian, we reached the villa. The Italian lady who helped us spoke Italian and we spoke English, but somehow we understood the directions. Don’t believe it if someone says all of us should speak the same language (Ha).
Fodor’s has named the Villa one of the top 5 reasons for visiting Rome and it more than exceeded the hype. The Villa is set on a sprawling campus with lush greenery and is sometimes called the Central Park of Rome. The main attraction though is the art collection “Galleria Borghese” of Cardinal Scipione Borghese. There are art collections and then there is the Borghese collection. A typical collection has a few good ones and several so-so ones. Never have we seen a collection almost entirely filled with master pieces.
Got exposed to Bernini’s sculptures – considered to be the originator of Italian Baroque style. The Apollo/Daphne or the David aiming his slingshot will remain etched in our memories. Once you complete the ground floor where all the sculpture is kept, you are already overwhelmed. But it still didn’t prepare us for the picture gallery studded with even more master pieces.
Raphael’s Deposition of Christ gave me the goosebumps. Wow! There were Caravaggios, Titians, Rubens and others. It was 1pm by the time we finished.
We had already decided that we’ll go to Campo De Fiori to have lunch. Fodor’s had said this is the best place to have Pizza. We took a cab to the place and peeped into a few restaurants and selected one of them. We sat in the gazebo but this time it was a tent style as opposed to the glass covered ones we encountered on day #1. I ordered a pizza with cheese, peppers and tomatoes and Priya ordered a gnocchi.
The pizza came out and the smell of it fresh from the wood-burning oven took our senses. The crust was thin, not too much cheese with flavorful tomatoes and peppers. The taste was out of the world. Sorry Lombardi’s, even you can’t hold a candle to this one. (Lombardi’s is considered by many to be the best pizza in the USA).
We were done by 3.30 PM and we decided to stroll a bit. On our way to Campo De Fiori, we spotted a fantastic-looking monument and Priya wanted to see if we can walk to it. As we walked we stumbled upon the ruins of the Largo Di Torre Argentina. We could spot some broken Roman columns, stair ways etc. It turns out Julius Caesar was assassinated in the year 44 BC in that very same place. Everyone says Rome is filled with history. Now I really believe it. We walked further and we managed to reach the fantastic-looking monument. It is the Vittoriano – a monument in honor of Vittorio Emanuele II – the first king of Italy after the unification of Italy.
Its made of marble and a very very grand design. It also houses the eternal flame of the tomb of the unknown soldier. Got some good pictures and then walked to the nearby Campidoglio, another grand monument, which was built by Michelangelo at the behest of Pope Paul III. It also houses the Musei Capitolini (Capital Museum) which we couldn’t check out. Maybe if we get some time during the tour.
It was 4.45PM and it was time for our 5PM meeting with the tour director. We rushed to Hotel Albani on Via Adda. Our tour officially started today. We had a meeting with the tour director followed by a welcome dinner at a fine Italian restaurant. The vegetarian fare was pretty good but not as good as the one we ate on day #1. Hotel Albani is built in a modernist-theme with the rooms having plenty of pastel colors. But its an extremely good hotel in stark contrast to Hotel Caprice.
Tomorrow we are going to tour St. Peter’s Basilica. Can’t wait. More to come.