First Impressions from Rome

Pope Clement XIII had the Palazzo del Quirinale built as a summer palace on Rome's highest hill to escape the stench of the Tiber River.

Pope Clement XIII had the Palazzo del Quirinale built as a summer palace on Rome’s highest hill to escape the smell of raw sewage which flowed down the Tiber River.

We round the corner to enter the Quirinale Plaza and catch our first sight of The Vatican.

We round the corner to enter the Quirinale Plaza and catch our first sight of The Vatican.

This is my first visit to Rome.  My wife, Florence, has visited Rome on five occasions prior to this visit, so she is excited for me to experience awe and wonder of The Eternal City.   She loves to describe the sights I am about to lay my eyes on for the first time, and she is eager for my reactions.  However, her descriptions do little to prepare me for what I am experiencing.  There is simply no way to describe Rome to the first-time visitor.  It would be like trying to explain Disneyland to an alien.  One must see Rome for oneself.

Florence loves roasted chestnuts.  I bought cookies.

Florence loves fresh-roasted chestnuts.

As we start walking from our hotel near the central train station, I begin to notice the numerous locations that sell pizza.  My comment – ‘Look, another place that sells pizza!’ becomes tiresome, so I begin noticing shops with baked goods.  I had to stop.  After stocking up on a few essential goodies, we wander toward the President’s Palace, known officially as the Palazzo del Quirinale, the historic home of thirty popes dating back to the 16th century.  It is the sixth largest palace in the world and the largest home to any head of state.  From outside we have no idea about the scale of the palace on the inside, and the guards at the gate were not about to let us wander in to see for ourselves.

Mythological figures and horses seem to emerge from the rocks and pools of the Trevi Fountain.

Mythological figures and horses seem to emerge from the rocks and pools of the Trevi Fountain.

Descending from Piazza Quirinale on Rome’s highest hill, we see crowds of people ahead.  A quick check of the city map confirms they are converging on the Piazza di Trevi and the iconic Trevi Fountain.  There is so much happening artistically in the massive fountain that I can hardly take it all in at one time.  Also, I now realize how fortunate we are to be visiting Rome in the off season.  I think we would have had to wait an hour or more to get the photos that were available to us just by walking among the crowd to the edge of the observation area.

The Spanish Steps leading to the church above are the widest in the world.

The Spanish Steps leading to the church above are the widest in the world.

A few blocks beyond the Trevi Fountain is the Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Plaza) and the Spanish Steps.  These 135 steps ascend to the Church of Trinitá dei Monti.  This day was the eve of The Epiphany, the day when the three magi appeared in Jerusalem following the birth of Jesus, so there was still in place a Nativity scene on the upper terrace of the steps.

Massa, the lovely sales clerk at Vinovip near the Trevi Fountain, cheerfully offers samples of liqueurs, which I am happy to taste.

Massa, the lovely sales clerk at Vinovip near the Trevi Fountain, cheerfully offers samples of liqueurs, which I am happy to taste.

We encountered numerous sights on our initial stroll through the city.  The fascinating thing about Rome is one can walk a mere block or two in any direction and suddenly you come upon a park, a plaza, a fountain, a palace, or one of the dozens of architectural wonders which abound, and we have barely scratched the surface.  Fortunately, Florence scheduled our stay here for a week.  She knew not to cut short our time in this great city.  All these legendary places are now coming to life right before my eyes.

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14 comments on “First Impressions from Rome

  1. dfrantz1953 says:

    I’ll never forget walking through the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s in 2000 and bursting in tears! I was in awe! I’ve been to Rome twice. So glad you are spending a week!

  2. nantubre says:

    One day I hope to visit Rome. I have one question; back up to the picture of the 2 fellas roasting chestnuts…..what is that big yellow horn looking thing? a tree? a sculpture? Very unusual.

    • Mike Lince says:

      Good question, Nan. It did not occur to me that a viewer would not perceive what I saw in person.
      That yellow thing is a rack full of pre-rolled paper cones. The roaster pulls one out for each customer and uses it to serve the hot chestnuts. Each cone holds six or seven chestnuts, so the servings are pre-measured for each customer.

  3. It looks like you’ve hit the ground running Mike. The only problem with Rome is that for the first-time visitor, there’s almost too much to see. There are ruins, antiquities, museums, and other sites that you’ve read about all your life, and they’re all in one place. This will be a busy week for you my friend. Enjoy! ~James

  4. Hey Mike and Florence, (the second Vance chiming in here), looks like you’re off to a great start! I wanted to let you know that we just did a feature on Ostia Antica and invited people to take a look at your Rome adventures and Six Monther’s strategy. Have fun in Rome! 🙂 ~Terri

  5. I like your description of the food vendors!

  6. Mike, this is a wonderful recap of your experience in Rome! It is all rushing back to me much more vividly….I feel like i’m walking right along with you through Rome. It is fathomless, and I love returning. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Mike Lince says:

      I guess there is nothing like re-visiting through the eyes of a first-timer in Rome, which I am. My wife seems more interested in my reactions to all the sights than she is in the sights themselves because she has seen the major attractions.

      Since we walk everywhere, I like to take different streets each time, and the most amazing thing about Rome is that there is something new to see on almost every route we take. Thank you for sharing your comments. – Mike

      • My husband and I walk everywhere as well. I have to say it is the only way to really see a place. If we were with a tour group it would never happen. I’ve always loved exploring a place and finding all the nooks and crannies…with camera in had to capture them! Happy travels….

  7. reocochran says:

    I like the way your enthusiasm just pours out of this post! I am in awe, as you are, of the diversity of sights to see! I treasure the fact you tried to explain the Trevi Fountain. I also am so happy, even in this first post about Rome, that you included a distant photograph of the Vatican. I feel like a good movie to have watched prior to this trip (maybe you saw this when it came out years ago?) “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” shows a lot of the area around the Vatican while Anthony Quinn, the Pope in the movie, wanders and explores the surrounding city. I am so excited to read more about your trip and so happy that Florence is a knowledgeable guide and she is probably excited to be able to share this all with you! Smiles, Robin

    • Mike Lince says:

      Rome is certainly one of a kind. The attractions are seemingly never ending. A student of history or art would likely find Rome irresistible. To me it is almost overwhelming. It is also very expensive. I am glad to be experiencing Rome, but I am more of a small city type of person. Once we leave Rome we will be happy with the memories. There are other places in Italy I would prefer to visit when we return. Admittedly, some of my enthusiasm for Rome has been dampened by having my wallet stolen. I have myself to blame for not taking proper precautions. – Mike

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