Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Rome, day 4 - Santa Maria del Popolo

After lunch, we walked down to Santa Maria del Popolo - a lovely square, with fountains at either end and an obelisk, overlooked by Napoleon's House. The 25m-high obelisk is one of the oldest in Rome (1200 BC); Augustus put it in the Circus Maximus but Pope Sixtus V moved it here in 1589.

The eastern side of the square holds a fountain by Ceccinari with a statue of Neptune and two tritons.

The western side of the square holds another fountain by Ceccinari, this time with statues representing Rome between Tevere and Aniene.

Allegedly Nero died on the site of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo and haunted the area in the form of demon crows; Pope Paschal II had the tree cut down and built a chapel on the site in 1099 (which was itself rebuilt in the 15th century).

Inside, there are some beautiful Caravaggios, and the church itself is quite spectacular.

We climbed up the steps behind the piazza for a great view.

Then we had a small wander in Pincio park. We particularly liked the fountain with a 19th-century water clock, lovely wisteria and lilac trees.

This is a very famous view across the square between Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. Before the railways, this was the first view of Rome for travellers from the north, and at one point was known as the ‘hayfork’. The road on the left leads to the Piazza di Spagna, the middle (obscured by the obelisk) leads to the Piazza Venezia, and the one on the right leads to the Porto di Repetta.

We caught the Metro back, then went out for dinner: bruschetta, then a traditional Roman dish, cacio e pepe (pasta with a sauce of pecorino cheese and black pepper - very nice).

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