Roaming in Spring

A week in Rome during early spring has much to recommend itself:

I managed to escape both the poor weather at home and the tourist hordes that descend during the summer months. And, walking Rome’s seven hills whilst savouring the food & architecture left many great memories worth sharing.

When the muse speaks… The orange garden, Rome. After watching the sun setting over the Basilica from the orange garden I turned around to watch people enjoying the view. That was when I noticed her dancing in the sun’s last rays. It was not long before she was oblivious to the outside world. She was listening to her muse.

The Araceli Staircase

Evening mass.
Sunset on the Araceli Staircase.

One of my loveliest experiences was watching the sunset from the Araceli staircase with my camera in one hand and a beverage in the other. Close to Via Dei Fori Imperiali, the city’s flow around you is contrasted by the quiet sunset.

I shared this ample space with many lovers and travellers who, swept up by the moment, offered interesting moments to capture! But, I was here for the sunset, which was spectacular.

A quiet redoubt… Piazza di San Marco, Rome.

Across the road lay the Piazza di San Marco which offers a quiet escape from the noise and bustle of Rome’s city life. The quality of the light in this Piazza is spectacular. Especially mid afternoon when the sun brushes the rooftops and reflects off the terracotta coloured walls, filling the space with warm amber tones.

Photographing people who choose to linger here has a different cadence. It also requires sensitivity as you are in a private space where a shutter can be terribly intrusive.

Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla is a long walk or taxi ride from the heart of Rome. Which brings me to the practicalities of commuting in Rome.

I soon learned that taxis and buses are not the most efficient from of transport. Whilst buses are more economical in term of cost, both often get caught in traffic snarls that can last a while. Trams are great for a point-to-point journey, but unless you are very lucky nothing beats shoe leather!

There were few visitors at Caracalla. This happy outcome left ample space to spread out with a picnic or lounge on one of the many benches scattered about. I used the opportunity to rest and take in the sights after a long morning photographing the streets of Rome.

Caracalla was more than a (huge) public bathing house. It was a garden, gym, public library and, less obviously, a temple. Today little remains of the library and temple, but there is much to see of the original bathing house.

The ample size of this magnificent structure and the exquisite details on display tested the limits of the lenses I had on hand! For example, you can still see the mosaics on the floors and walls of the bathing rooms. They make for great images on their own or as textures in a composite.

Doria Pamphilj Gallery

Shopping for treats… Piazza San Marco, Rome. This mother & daughter due were shopping for sweats when, moments later, they spilt on the pavement. This happened as the scene moved towards its conclusion and I had lowered my camera to remain invisible! Agh! The one that got away! Still, she cuts an elegant figure in her spring outfit with matching accessories.

I did not spend much time pursuing Roman art, but for a visit to the Doria Pamphilj Gallery. The latter being rather disappointing as their lovely hall of sculptures was undergoing renovations at the time, a fact they did not advertise.

I thought their collection of paintings and frescos most suited to the interests of art historians. From an art lovers perspective, I found the rooms poorly lit and many paintings darkened with age.

The exception were two paintings by Caravaggio. Unfortunately it was hard to appreciate his mastery and the beauty of his work as both paintings were poorly lit.

For the most part I concentrated on getting to know Rome, its architecture and its food. There will be plenty of time to savour the more exquisite collections, such as the one on display at the Villa Borghese!

Trastevere

Food wise I highly recommend dining in the Trastevere neighbourhood which pays homage to traditional Roman food. Here you will find family run restaurants that open around seven-o’clock. I took an extended break from exploring at a nearby tavern, whose wine loving owner hailed from southern china. Feeling at home I made a good effort at surveying the local wines she selected for me.

Cocktails and social… The Trastevere, Rome. At sunset the Trastevere is the place to come for traditional Roman cuisine. The best restaurants open after seven, leaving plenty time for cocktails and a chat.

Dining at Puntarella was fantastic. I started with their cod ball and chickpea soup and for my main course I tried their black spaghetti with monkfish sauce to which I added broccoli. Apple pie, based on a recipe from Catalonia, completed my meal.

Feeling somewhat sated on the wine front I paired these with two glasses of the house red. Starting with a light chianti, followed by a full flavoured merlot from the Cotarella winery in Umbria.

Whilst both my starter and desert were tasty, I would recommend their black spaghetti paired with the merlot to most travellers.

End Notes

On my return I would like to spend more time exploring the city’s inner spaces, such as the Vallicelliana library or Casanata Library. I have also marked at least a dozen lesser churches and chapels in my dog-eared travel book, including San Luigi die Francesi, Sant’Agostino and the gallery at the Villa Borghese. The list is long.

At first I thought it strange that I am drawn to these spaces rather than the grand vistas this city offers. However, during a recent portfolio review, I realised that my city & urban photography sought out more intimate subjects and spaces compared to my nature photography.

I can only guess that the one is an innate choice and the other practical!