We always like to find a few off the beaten path places in every city we visit. So, after hitting the highlights, we planned out an off the beaten path self-guided walking tour of Rome (along with a few highlights we had missed the previous day).
We started our day in Quartiere Coppede, a small neighborhood fairly far from the main tourist sites and often called the fairy tale neighborhood. We didn’t walk here — we took the number 3 tram to Piazzo Buenos Aires, which is right outside the neighborhood. You enter Quartiere Coppede through an arch. Hanging from the arch is a chandelier, so immediately you know you are in for something special. The neighborhood was designed by architect Gino Coppedè back in the early 1900’s and is a mishmash of architectural styles. One of the highlights is the Fontana delle Rane (Fountain of Frogs), although it was unfortunately being worked on while we visited so we didn’t get to see it.
From there, we walked to Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. This was the most boring part of the walk, but we did pass by a couple of monuments to the unification of Italy and a gate into (or out of) the city. Anyway, we had read that the Basilica was beautiful and I guess if we hadn’t already seen about 100 churches at that point we might have liked it more.
Next we walked to Il Tempio di Adriano (Temple of Hadrian). The temple wasn’t that impressive (most of the building is gone and what is left has been incorporated into a more modern building), but on the way there we walked by a corner where there were some fun statues.
After that, we walked to the Piazza della Minerva. The main highlight of this square is an elephant and obelisk.
Then it was off to the Jewish Ghetto. The Jewish Ghetto was created in 1555 when Pope Paul IV decreed that all the Jewish citizens of Rome would be required to live in the neighborhood and pay for the privilege of doing so while only being allowed to engage in menial labor and being required to identify themselves as Jewish whenever outside the neighborhood. Walls were built around the neighborhood and the gates were locked at night. Believe it or not, that was the situation basically until 1870 with a year or so of freedom at one point while a relatively liberal Pope was in power.
We had come to see Piazza Mattei and the Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain). The fountain was built between 1580 and 1588 by the architect Giacomo della Porta and the sculptor Taddeo Landini, although the turtles weren’t added until about 100 years later. It was originally intended to be built on the site of a Jewish market so everyone would have easy access to the water, but a rich Catholic who lived in the Jewish quarter (and who had a key to the gates so his family could come and go at night) got it moved to the front of his house. Nice, huh? (Yes, that is sarcasm).
In the Jewish quarter we also wandered among some ancient Roman ruins.
Next, it was off to Circus Maximus, where they used to hold chariot races.
From there, we walked by Tempio di Ercole Vincitiore (Temple of Hercules Victor). We really have no idea what this is, and we just happened to stumble across it and thought it looked cool.
Right in front of the temple is a cool fountain too.
Then, it was off to the Santa Maria in Cosmedin. We had planned to see the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth). You know, the disc with a gaping hole where the mouth would be. Legend has it that, if you stick your hand inside and tell a lie, your hand will be bitten off. But, there was a huge line and all the silly tourists were squealing and pretending their hands got bitten off. But, there is something even better at Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The skull of St. Valentine! It seems nobody is sure if this is really St. Valentine or not, but it is a cool skull (and you know how we like creepy things like that).
After visiting the skull, it was off to the Pyramid of Caius Cestius. The Pyramid was built between 18-12 B.C. and is apparently a tomb for a wealthy Roman.
Finally, it was back to our favorite wine bar in Trastavere where we ingested enough calories to make up for the 6+ miles we walked that day.