Rome, City of Eternal Monuments - Day 15

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Threading the Heart of Rome on an Electric Minibus

Emerging into the noontime heat, we strolled along Viale Vaticano and settled for our first lunch in Italy at a local pizzeria located off a shaded side street. Amalfi la Grigla Ristoriante served traditionally wood fired pizzas and unaware of the size of a standard Italian pizza, we decided to order a pizza each as we were famished from the walking tour in the morning. A basic pizza comprising of a tomato sauce base with cheese costs only €6 but was at least 25% larger than a typical large pizza from Pizza Hut and it certainly took quite an effort for us to finish our meal!

We decided to drop in at a Gelato shop to sample the wide array of exotic flavours which were available. However, an attempt by one of us to pay for his order with a €50 note was rejected by the shop owner which left us puzzled as the shop enjoyed good patronage. The ice cold dessert provided instant relief from the summer heat but we were left slightly disappointed by the rather weak flavour as we were used to the rich taste of the conventional dairy based ice cream back home.
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As it was already early afternoon, the sunlight direction at Piazza del Risorgimento had shifted and we made use of the opportunity to obtain more photos of the trams and buses that pass through the square.

Tram service 19 also employs more modern Socimi (Società Costruzioni Industriali Milano) T8000 trams in addition to the antique Stanga trams introduced in the previous post. Manufactured in Milan and introduced into service between 1990 and 1991, the angular bodywork of these trams was a marked departure from the rounded features of the post-war era Stanga trams.
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7019 is a BredaMenarinibus M230MU working on route 982. The light blue livery indicates that it is a suburban route and absence of ATAC titles suggests that it is operated by a private bus company.
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The Iveco 491E.12.29 CityClass form the backbone of ATAC's fleet with over a thousand units in active service. 5117 in the operator's silver livery was photographed laying over at Piazza del Risorgimento.
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Our next item on the itinerary was a ride on a TecnoBus Gulliver electric minibus. We had previously identified service 116 which calls at Terminal Gianicolo near the Vatican City during our planning. To combat the sweltering 35 degree heat and stifling humidity, some of us patronised a roadside kiosk and bought bottles of frozen mineral water for €2 each.

Skirting the fringes of the semi-circular colonnades of Piazza San Pietro, we stopped by Via della Conciliazione to photograph the constant stream of open top sightseeing buses from various operators that call near the Vatican City.

Service 110open is operated by Trambus Open S.p.A on behalf of ATAC and costs €20 for a 48hr Hop-On Hop-Off pass or €12 for a single trip ticket. Trambus Open was formed as a joint venture between Trambus (which manages the operational aspects of ATAC,60%) and Les Cars Rouges of Paris (40%). The route is operated by a full fleet of distinctive red open top buses, such as fleet number 15 which is an Irisbus 491E.10.29 CityClass UNVI OpenTop. ATAC also operates a fleet of Volvo B7TL on this popular tourist route.
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DV490SL is a Guleryuz Cobra DD ferrying visitors on the Roma Christiana open top sightseeing tour. The Turkish manufactured bus has a perspex roof added to the upper deck to shield passengers from the relentless summer sun. Operated by Trambus Open S.p.A on behalf of ORP (Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi), this tour focuses on the numerous religious sites located around the city.
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DK336LL is a Volvo B9TL bodied with Ayats Bravo Ubis bodywork operated by Cityrama Italia S.R.L. on its Rome Open Tour sightseeing service.
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With its dramatic swept back upper deck windscreen and modern curved styling, the Ayats Bravo Ubis bodywork is a popular choice among Rome Open Top double deck operators, such as DA619HT Volvo B9TL operated by Appian Line on its Ciao Roma open top sightseeing tours.
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Green Line Tours is run by the national sightseeing agency and operates a fleet of open top double deck on its Arrivedercia Roma sightseeing services. AR/12 is an Irisbus 491E.10.29 CityClass UNVI OpenTop which was introduced into service in 2007 with 47 seats on the upper deck.
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CN667TL is an Irisbus Domino 2001 HDH / Orlandi operated by Reali Tours on behalf of Solbec Tours of Switzerland and Tours Chanteclerc of France.
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While it had received a fair share of critics from travel purists, Google Streetview allowed us to plan ahead and recognise important landmarks which would help us in the navigation of a new and unfamiliar city. As such, we had known beforehand that Terminal Gianicolo is an indoor tourist bus park with a roundabout linking the separate entrance and exit to the access road. Relying on a map, we headed in the general direction of the terminal and continued to make use of the favourable sunlight direction to snap more photos of citybuses along the way. We chanced upon an underpass and dutifully followed the signs - only to reach a dead end or found ourselves looping back to where we had started from. After a couple of frustrating attempts, we gave up on locating the indoor terminal decided to walk through the vehicular tunnel of Via di Porta Cavallegeri along the narrow footpath to intercept and board service 116 at Piazza Della Rovere instead.

After we emerged from the tunnel, we immediately caught sight of the cute Tecnobus Gulliver U.520 ESP heading up towards the terminal in the opposite direction. It was also an unexpected bonus for our efforts that there was a stretch of road just ahead of the bus stop which allowed us to photograph the bus in perfect sunlight. Before continuing our journey, we dropped by a minimart near the bus stop and took the chance to stock up on reasonably priced bottles of chilled mineral water in view of the stifling summer heat.

With a length of only 5.3m, the unusually short wheelbase of the bus was put to good use in navigating the tight back lanes of Rome's City Centre. 100 units of the locally built U.520 ESP variant were purchased in 2003 and each vehicle has a carrying capacity of 22 passengers with 2 rows of 4 seats each above the wheel arches.
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After a short ride along the River Tiber, passengers were requested to switch to another bus at the layover point at Largo dei Fiorentini.
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The amicable bus driver from the bus that we had alighted from also noted our interest in the unique bus and allowed us to obtain interior photos of the bus. The TecnoBus Gulliver is a wheelchair accessible bus and a twin bifold jacknife door is used to minimise the intrusion of the folding doors into the crammed interior.
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The short length of the electric bus was put to good use as the driver drove through the convoluted back lanes of the historic quarter. The monotonous drone of the electric motor and the constant rocking of the bus over the cobbled streets had soon lulled us to an early afternoon siesta throughout much of the ride.


A Carabinieri station at Piazza Di S. Ignazio with the Italian and European Union flags displayed above the entrance.
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Slices of Rome's cobbled back lanes which are littered with al-fresco seating from cafes and seedy alleyways. Service 116 also brings visitors to the Pantheon, which is the oldest surviving Roman temple in the city and allows one to appreciate the classical grandeur of such structures of its time.
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We alighted from the Tecnobus Gulliver near Barberini metro station. After consultation with our maps, we proceeded to a bus stop at Tritone to take service 63 to our next destination. It was our first ride on an Iveco CityClass Cursor but the stiff suspension did no favours when the bus bounced over the cobbled streets to Piazza Monte Savello.
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Interior of the Iveco 491.12.29 CityClass Cursor photographed at the terminating point for service 63. The bus is fitted with plastic bucket seats and the layout is optimised for the efficient carriage of high volume of passengers for short journeys.
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Theatre of Marcellus

We moved on to Via del Teatro di Marcello where we had identified from Google Streetview that it would favourable for obtaining nearside photos of passing buses based on the prevailing sunlight direction. Paved with cobbled stones that had been worn smooth with the passage of time, Via del Teatro di Marcello also serves as the boundary between the district of Campo de Fiori to the west and the Capitoline district to the east.

The Theatre of Marcellus (left) was built and dedicated by Emperor Augustus to his nephew and son-in-law Marcellus who had passed away in 23 BC at the age of 19. The vast Roman amphitheatre was subsequently converted into the fortress for the Savelli family in the 13th century. The site was finally used to build a grand palace for the Orsini family in the 16th century. The 3 remaining Corinthian columns opposite the theatre (right) were formerly part of the Temple of Apollo which had used to exhibit priceless works of art that were seized by the Romans from the Greeks in the 2nd century BC.
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Green Line Tours DZ 501 XC fleet no. AR/15 is an Irisbus 491E.10.29 CityClass UNVI OpenTop with Ayats bodywork working on the operator's Arrivedercia Roma sightseeing tour with a healthy load of passengers on board.
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4340 is an Irisbus 491E.12.27 CNG CityClass Cursor which was introduced into service in 2006. It was photographed working route 95 to Partigiani.
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5480 is similar to the Iveco 491E.12.29 CityClass that we had rode on service 63 earlier and was decked out in the striking red trimmed ATAC livery variant. The type was introduced in 2003 and is diesel powered as compared to the newer CityClass which are powered by CNG instead.
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A comparatively small batch of Irisbus Citelis CNG was bought and added to ATAC's fleet in 2010, such as 4523 on route 81 with a heavy load of passengers to Piazza R. Malatesta.
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Painted in the simple blue livery which identify it as a suburban route, 6118 is a Mercedes Benz Citaro Ü. Due to the lower passenger boarding and alighting activity, the Citaro Ü has a half width entrance and a single full width exit as compared to the standard Citaro version that has 3 full width doors to facilitate passenger movement and minimise dwell time.
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Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio)

Satisfied with our haul, we proceeded to tour the nearby Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio), one of the Seven Hills of Rome within the walls of the ancient city. Since its foundation more than 2500 years ago, the Capitoline Hill has been the political and religious centre of the city. The name derives from its position as the caput mundi (head of the world). Today, the hill still wields considerable clout as seat of Rome’s municipal government.

It came as a pleasant surprise that we were within walking distance from the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II), which we were not aware of previously and caught our attention with its distinctive and imposing white façade, when we passed by onboard the Service 63 bus. Otherwise known colloquially as Il Vittoriano, the monument was built to honour Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. Designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885 in a competition, the monument was inaugurated by Victor Emmanuel III on 4 June 1911, during the International Exposition for the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy. However, works continued and the complex was completed only in 1935.
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The monument has been subjected to controversy since its construction, as it destroyed a large area of medieval neighbourhood on the northern slope of the Capitoline Hill overlooking Piazza Venezia. Built with pure white marble from Brescia, the monument is perceived to be too glaring and incompatible with the ochre tones of nearby buildings. Nonetheless, it is widely regarded by many visitors to be one of the most beautiful structures in Rome and the monument also house the Museum of Italian Reunification and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Visitors may also take a lift up to top of the monument for a bird's eye view of the historical Capitoline district.
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Despite criticisms by most Romans and earning derisive nicknames such as “wedding cake” and “typewriter” due to the stacked and crowded tiered design of the monument, we generally found that it formed an impressive backdrop for a few photos of passing by coaches. It was our second time encountering CS441CY in the day, and the black full body advertisement and electronic display sign indicated that it was operating a shuttle service to the Castel Romano Designer Outlets.
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We then backtracked to the Cordonata, the gateway to Capitoline Hill. Along the way, we dropped by the Piazza Venezia bus terminal, where we boarded a suburban blue livery Citaro for interior photos and realized that the bus was actually suburban Citaro Ü with all seats fitted on platforms. The practical blue vinyl seats were certainly a far cry from the fabric monogrammed seats of the PostAuto Citaro Ü that we had seen in Switzerland earlier in the trip.
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DN623MP is a Volvo B9TL with Ayats Bravo Ubis bodywork and is operated by Florentia Bus. The company operates the Citysightseeing Roma open top double deck tours as part of the worldwide Citysightseeing franchise.
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Located on the highest point of the Capitoline Hill behind Il Vittoriano is the 6th century church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, or St Mary of the Altar in the Sky, on the site of the ancient Roman temple to Juno Moneta. The Aracoeli Staircase leading to the entrance of the church was, however, added only in the 14th century by Simone Andreozzi and completed in 1348. There are differing popular beliefs on ascending the 124 marble steps (or 122 from the right) on one’s knees – ranging from relinquishing one’s sin to striking the Italian national lottery!
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Even though Capitoline Hill is where the city’s first and holiest temples stood, most of the buildings that survive today are from the Renaissance period. In fact, Capitoline Hill is best known for the works of Michelangelo Buonarroti, who was commissioned by Pope Paul III to re-establish the grandeur of Rome in preparation for a visit by Emperor Charles V in 1536. However, works completed only in the late 17th century after more than a hundred years, largely to the original designs of Michelangelo. Next to the Aracoeli Staircase, the Cordonata, the graceful and gently rising monumental staircase, leads up to Piazza del Campidoglio. Michelangelo’s great staircase changed the orientation of the Capitoline Hill towards the developing section of the city to the west in the direction of Papal Rome and St Peter’s Basilica, away from the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum. The top of the staircase is guarded by restored classical statues of the Dioscuri twin brothers in Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux.
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Located at the top of the Cordonata, the Michelangelo designed Piazza del Campidoglio is bordered by three palazzi (buildings) - Palazzo Nuovo to the north, Palazzo Senatorio straight ahead and Palazzo dei Conservatori to the south. Today, Palazzo Senatorio houses the Rome city council, while Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo are home to the Capitoline Museums, which feature some of the city’s most important ancient sculptures. In the middle of the Piazza stands a replica of the bronze equestrian statue of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The original statue dates from the 2nd century AD and was placed in the piazza from 1538 until 1981, when it was moved to Palazzo Nuovo to protect it from erosion.
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After several wrong turns and asking around for directions, we finally found the vantage point where we had an expansive view of the Roman Forum. Steeped in history, this hallowed ground was once the centre of one of the greatest civilisations in the world. It would be hard to describe the feeling I had when I finally saw this site myself after reading so much about it from one of my favourite comics, Asterix.
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The next item on our itinerary was to visit the Roman Forum. We had purchased a combined e-ticket for the Roman Forum, Colosseum and the Palatine Hill online for €12 (excluding a mandatory booking fee of €1.50), which would allow us to explore these 3 famed archaeological sites over two days. The surcharge was a small price to pay for the ability to skip the snaking queues which are typical in one of the most visited cities of the world. Although there is a gate which leads from the Capitoline Hill to the Roman Forum, it was only for exit and visitors were directed to the main entrance along Via dei Fori Imperali.

We took a short detour down the southern flank of Capitoline Hill along the well-trodden cobbled street of Clivo Argentario. While walking down the street, visitors are greeted with the cell-like remains of the Marmertine Prison which was known as Tullianum in Roman times. The prison was reportedly used to imprison St Peter according to Christian legend and was also the site of execution of several high profile Roman enemies such as the defeated Gaulish leader, Vercingetorix. The early medieval church of Santi Luca e Martina in the background was rebuilt in the 17th century by Pietro da Cortona and a church wedding was in progress during our time of visit.
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Retracing our steps towards the main road, we encountered several gypsies who were readily identified by their choice of clothing and headscarves. While most of them were hardworking immigrants who worked or begged to make ends meet, they had gained a certain amount of notoriety for their pickpocketing skills in heavily touristed areas and on public transport.

Seen from Via di San Pietro in Carcare and partially shrouded in the shadows from the setting evening sun, the Forum of Caesar was the first of such Imperial fora to be built in the Eternal City. The three Corinthian columns was all that remained of an extravagant temple that was dedicated to the Goddess Genetrix from whom Caesar claimed descent.
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The Fori Imperali were built by the leaders of the Roman Empire to glorify themselves and create additional space for the social and political needs of the population. Once integrated, the five imperial fora had been divided today with the construction of the Via dei Fori Imperali by the Fascist regime in the early 20th century for military parades.
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We were distracted along the way by the ruins of the Imperial Forum and the ATAC buses which passed through the wide boulevard in gorgeous evening light that we had lost track of time. Therefore, it came as no surprise that the Roman Forum was closed for the day and we also noted to our disappointment that it was scheduled to open at only 11am the next day. This meant that one of us would unfortunately be unable to tour the Roman Forum with us as he had to make his way to Rome-Fiumicino airport for his return flight back to Singapore. The Colosseum had similarly stopped admitting visitors for the day and we decided to focus on getting exterior photos of the famed monument instead. The tiered structure of the amphitheatre allowed visitors to admire the different styles of columns that supported the structure - the plain Doric columns at the bottom, Ionic columns at the second level and finally the sculpted Corinthian columns which held up the third level. It was also observed that in this era where most independent travellers would had read up on multiple travel guides and online websites before the trip, the street artistes dressed up in plastic gladiator costumes had a hard time trying to get tourists to pose for a grossly overpriced photo with them!
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Although we chanced upon a tram replacement service which passed by near the Colosseum, a quick check of our reference materials revealed that it did not passed by anywhere close to the rest of our destinations for the day.

Skipping the long lines at the ticket vending machines with our day pass, we headed back into the depths of the Eternal City for a short train ride back from Colosseo to Rome Termini on Linea B.
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It was a refreshing change to get onboard an older AnsaldoBreda MB100 trainset for this journey. In addition, the manually operated doors and utilitarian interior of the carriages reminded us of the older trainsets that we had rode in Paris a week ago.
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A graffiti covered AnsaldoBreda MB100 trainset at Rome Termini.
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A comparatively clean CAF MB300 trainset with its clean, defined lines. The unobstructed station platform made it conducive to obtain photos of the metro trains but it was too soon that the resident transit security officer noticed our presence and shouted at us for taking photographs.
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We made use of the remaining evening sun to explore the surrounding area of Rome Termini and successfully located the adjacent terminal which was obscured from view by the construction hoardings. One of our main bus spotting targets in Rome, a BredaMenariBus M321U articulated bus was spotted laying over at the terminal with a paper destination sign that indicated that it was working on route 105. These classic non-airconditioned buses were introduced on ATAC's high density routes between 1997 to 2001.
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The self-service restaurant at Rome Termini provided a convenient venue to settle our dinner. Styled after a food court, the restaurant consisted of several counters and a self-service salad bar where patrons could help themselves to the dishes before paying at a common check-out counter. The restaurant was also the only place during our trip where we had to pay to use the toilet. The €0.60 fee however, was waived upon presenting a receipt for a meal from the restaurant. Patrons also have the option of presenting the receipt for the toilet visit to offset the cost of their meal.
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We unequivocally opted for the Amico set meal which allowed us to select a pasta dish, a side dish and a main dish for €9.90. The servings were rather generous and a large bottle of olive oil was available at each table to complement the dishes. Clockwise from top left: Tortelli Al Ragu (pasta with meat sauce), Fagiol. Carote E Pat (Diced Potatoes with Carrots) & Pollo Spezz. Pep. Olive (chicken with olives).
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With our hotel just a short walk from the station, we made use of the opportunity to adjourn back for a short rest before heading out again for dusk shots and to continue our itinerary for the day. We also managed to get our allocated triple room for the night but were disappointed to discover that only one of the charging points in the hotel worked. The hotel staff however, was not keen to change a room for us as he claimed that it was fully occupied.

Imperial Rome by Night

After admiring the grandeur of the sun-kissed Roman Forum and Colosseum in the late afternoon, we returned by the metro to Colosseo station. We were greeted by the understated grandeur of the spotlit Colosseum which blended with the colourful hues of the dusk sky to form a magical scene.
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Dusk shot of Via dei Fori Imperali. Once intended as a showpiece venue for grand military parades under the Fascist regime, the long term plan is to narrow it significantly and better integrate the Roman and Imperial Fora which flank both sides of the broad boulevard.
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Colosseum at dusk. Set against the darkening evening sky, the brightly lit exterior of the monument highlighted the distinctive arches and columns of the centuries old Roman amphitheatre.
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After spending a fair amount of time preserving our memories with our cameras, we set a course for the Spanish Steps.
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Located at Spagna which is on the metro's Linea A, we had to make a transfer from Linea B at Termini. Unlike certain portions of Paris's metro system, Rome's metro system allows passengers to remain in the paid area when transferring between lines and we simply followed the crowd through the maze of dimly lit corridors. One of us narrowly escaped being pickpocketed by two well-dressed men who were sitting on either side of him on the train but the attempt was thankfully thwarted by another sharp-eyed member of our group who was seated opposite him.
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The Spanish Steps, or Scalinata, had long been regarded as the focal point of modern Rome since its 138 travertine steps were carved out from the hillside to replace the footpath linking Piazza di Spagna to the French church of Trinita dei Monti. Instead of the romantic scene that we had been expecting, we were greeted by a massive crowd at the piazza which made the place felt more like a street bazaar than a venue which had spurred the inspiration of many an author. With the mass of humanity thronging the sidewalks and the monument, we lacked the motivation to obtain a proper photo of the Spanish Steps. We left the chaos and headed back into the relative calm of the metro system where we jumped onboard another Linea A train bound for Barberini.
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The confusing layout of the streets and the dearth of directional signs meant that we had to break out our reference materials and get our bearings before we could locate the correct direction towards the Trevi Fountain. With the aid of a map, we eventually located the Trevi Fountain which was hidden from view from the main street. As with the Spanish Steps, it was an irony that we had heard the noise from the crowd rather than the calming gush of water from the fountain when approaching the site!

The Trevi Fountain is synonymous with the Eternal City and still serves a practical purpose as the terminal point of the Acqua Vergine aqueduct since the aqueduct was repaired in the 15th century. It is a common practice for visitors to toss a coin over their shoulders in order to guarantee a repeat visit to the city. However, it was not an easy task to obtain a photo of the entire fountain as it required the use of an ultra-wide angle lens. We also took turns to get a photo of ourselves with the landmark since it was too packed and chaotic to set up a tripod properly.
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A short ride on the metro soon brought us back to Rome Termini from Barberini station. It came as a surprise that the supermarket located in the basement level of the transport hub was still open for business despite the late hours. We decided to buy bottles of Chinotto to try after one of us mentioned that the citrus flavoured soft drink was a close Italian substitute for Kinnie which we had grown rather fond of after our Malta sojourn.
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Next Post: Imperial Rome & Historic Pisa - Day 16

Previous Post: Vatican City - Day 15

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