Day 3, Sunday, April 3, 2016: Roma and Performance at the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agnoe, Piazza Navona
Our first full day in Rome began with a early morning guided walking tour of Rome. Our charter bus left the hotel back tracking our route from the night before crossing the Arno River to run along the Vatican Walls. The Morning light of sunny blue sky day, fresh eyes, and spring in full blossom made it an amazing ride.
Our bus went through a few vatican permitter neighborhoods as it started to wind up a hill where we got our first glimpse of the Colosseum. The bus parked at the top of the hill at Parco del Colle Oppio which is the site of Nero’s Golden House. We met are guide here and made a short walk from the bus down to the back side of the Colosseum from the front entrance.
We were informed our timing was good, the scaffoldings were down from the cleaning and preservative measures of the Colosseum that had been up for a few years. Also being a Sunday, the roads around the Colosseum were closed for easy touring of the area. At this point in time we mainly saw locals doing their morning run, thinking we have beat most of the tourist to the colosseum. We were wrong because as we made the turn to the front, a massive multi-hour long wait line had formed to enter the Colosseum.
At the base of Colosseum we stood next to the Arch of Constantine, looking up at Palatine Hill to our left and the Colosseum to the right. Where our guide told us the history of the area we could see. The significance of leaders to pass through the arch as a symbolism of victory, including Napoleon and Hitler.
From the Arch of Constantine we continued our way past the Colosseum to get a great view of the Arch of Titus up to the Roman Ruins of Caesars Forum and Trajan’s Forum. From here we had some impressive views of Basilica Julia and the Arch of Septimius Severus.
Our walked continued to Piazza Venezia where we saw the Victor Emmanuel Monument. In the the Piazza we could see the balcony on Palazzo Venezia where Mussolini made many of his famous speeches and the building across where the Pope allowed Napoleons mother to live after he was banished from France.
From Piazza Venezia we made our way down some very narrow streets stoping to see the smallest Roman Church (Big enough for maybe 3 people) to the Trevi Fountain.
Once again our timing was awesome for Trevi Fountain, Jan informed me this was the first time in three years he had seen it without the scaffoldings up for cleaning and preserving the fountain. The fountain is the most massive, bright, clean, flowing fountain I have seen. The fountain was built to celebrate the reopening of several Romans Aqueducts and is a highlight of Baroque style architect and art. It is believed if you trow a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain you will return to Rome.
At Trevi Fountain we took a break to throw coins, take pictures and a much needed bathroom break. Luckily for us their was a bathroom in a gelato shop right across from the fountain. Bathrooms are very limited in Rome or Italy at this moment. To the complaints and apologizes from our Italian Hosts the bathrooms are closed for security reasons. I should also point out along this walk we have passed many combat ready soldiers guarding sites and routes, more on them later.
From Trevi Fountain we made our way to the Pantheon with a stop at the church of San Ignazio. We had a brief visit before we were asked to leave as a church service was beginning. The church is stunning with Baroque illusions of a false dome painted on the ceiling. At the Pantheon we are able to view the Piazza della Rotunda, the Egyptian obelisk known as Macuteo, and the Della Porta Fountain. The Pantheon was closed to tours for a church celebration in progress.
We made out way from Pantheon to Piazza Navona. We finished our guided tour at Piazza Navona. We learned the history that the Piazza was originally a stadium, the Four River Fountains represented the four known continents of 1650, and the history of the Church of Sant’Agnse in Agnoe who’s doors open to the center of the Piazza.
Our guided tour ended in Piazza Navona but we would spend the remainder of the day in the Piazza. The group had free time to get lunch on or around the Piazza, shop, relax, take in the sights etc. before the 4 PM performance at the Church of Sant’Agnse. For movie buffs Piazza Navona and the Four River Fountains was a major scene in the Tom Hanks movie Angels and Demons.
The Church of Sant’Agnse is one of Rome’s most famous churches. It was built in 86 AD over the remains of Roman emperor Domitian’s stadium. Its had many religious uses over the years but between 1644-1655 it was converted to the papal palace for Pope Innocent X. It was Pope Innocent X who commissioned Baroque architect Rinaldi to build the family chapel, the Piazza Navona and the Four River Fountains. The church has many years of frescos and statues commissioned throughout the ceilings and walls.
At at 2:30 we entered the Church of Sant’Agnse from the rear. Students changed into their uniforms in the family chapel. For us non performing members of the group we were able to tour the church, take pictures, and soak it all in to ourselves. At 3PM as the orchestra began to rehearse the church open it doors the tourists began to flood in. Hundreds, maybe even a thousand plus, of people stopped and watched the rehearsals and performance. The rotunda, the pews, and the lobby kept filling and rotating. The acoustics in the church were amazing, as can be heard in the performance of Capriccio Italien below.
After the performance we relaxed for a bit in the piazza for a dinner reservation on the opposite side of the piazza. The mood of the piazza changes in the afternoon to a very social hangout in the evening. Street entertainers, musicians, and dancers begin to fill the piazza trying to earn a few Euros from the crowds. One thing we learned was not to shop for shoes from DSW on your iPad while waiting in the piazza. Apparently, looking up at the church, typing on the iPad, looking up at soldiers, typing on the iPad, looking at the square, etc. will cause you to be surrounded by Italia Militia they think you might be on a recon mission. (I will leave our shopper nameless but if you need to hear the story from her or her sister.)
We finished up our day with dinner at Cantuccio Al Senato before heading back to the hotel. This day was one of the most memorable of the trip. Many sights seen and many more worth going back for longer stays to easily spend many days in Rome.
Note: Pictures and details of the trip will be posted over the next several days in chronological order of the trip.
More pictures of Day1-3 are on our Flickr Italy Group Page.