Italy has been declared a “red zone” for the Christmas (Natale) and New Years (Capodanno) periods. This means you can only leave the house for “essential reasons”. I knew this was coming and, although not daunted at the prospect of spending the big holidays indoors, I did make the most of the days leading up to this “zona rossa” to explore Rome without pesky people. My housemates (more on them later) P and E had both gone home to Puglia (Apulia…but who says that, really?), which meant I had the whole house to myself in the days leading up to Natale.
I do confess that I have no historical training whatsoever, but I guess that is why I find learning about history without and pressure of convoluted essays and assignments enthralling. I decided, before leaving the house during the zona gialla (yellow zone) and zona arancione (orange zone) days, that I would do a frantic Google of new things to see before heading out. Almost local (because this little Vegemite doesn’t really need a map anymore), I headed to my favourite local historical sites before trapesing across Roma, Nikon clinging for dear life to my neck. I usually stopped at one of my local favourites:
Il Mausoleo di Santa Costanza – A stunning mausoleum that I have written about before, I just love throwing in a coin to the “light machine” so that all of the Byzantine pagan and Christian mosaics are lit up like some kind of temple of wonders (yes, I am thinking of the “Cave of Wonders” from Aladdin). I love this spot because no one comes here and you can sit in this glorious 4th-century church. According to the traditional view, Santa Costanza was built around the reign of Constantine I as a mausoleum for his daughter Constantina, later also known as Constantia or Costanza, who died in AD 354. This has come into debate in recent years, but hey, I prefer this narrative as it fuels my imagination better.
After spending a splendid half hour here, I meandered towards the centre. It is always refreshing to take streets off the main road for two reasons: One, you reduce your risk of “assembramenti” or public gatherings, hence reducing your risk of COVID; and two, you always see something new and unexpected that the cliched tourist fails to see. Unfortunately, due to the current restrictions, archaeological sites are closed; however, I guess this has given me ample time to discover an alternative “hit-list” of lesser-known sites to visit once the dust of the pandemic settles a little. One of the places I discovered on this melodious (somewhat out-of-place adjective…whatever) jaunt was the “Aquedotto Vergine“. The Aqua Virgo was one of the eleven Roman aqueducts that supplied the city of ancient Rome. The aqueduct fell into disuse with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but was fully restored nearly a millennium later during the Italian Renaissance to take its current form as the Acqua Vergine. The Aqua Virgo was completed in 19 BC by Marcus Agrippa, during the reign of the emperor Augustus. The photos on the net have intrigued me enough to add it to my list of ad hoc Roman outtings.
Continuing towards Piazza del Tritone, always lurking on side streets, I enjoyed “stumbling” upon the usual tourist traps. I will sometimes be wondering to some obscure place and will be like “oh, there’s the Fontana di Trevi” or “Il Pantheon” or “Piazza di Spagna”. To be fair, they will never ever cease to burnish my senses with historical intrigue. Exploring around the Pantheon in this particular promenade, I fell in love with the little streets that have quaint historical shops. There was a divine antique bookstore “Libreria Borromini” that has glorious ancient and historical texts on a variety of subjects from art to history to medicine. Opposite, I also adored then “Penna Stilografiche” store. It made me long for times of handwritten correspondence à la Jane Austen Regency days.
The wandering was completed with a lunch in a hidden little restaurant not far from Piazza Navona, where I perched myself outdoors to bask in the chilly sunlight. I knew that I only had one more day of exploring the following day before the RED ZONE (total lockdown), so I had wine and toasted this solo outing.
Un bacio x