A Roman holiday: day 2 (II)

Invigorated by our coffee and a generous dose of sunshine, we spent a few more minutes walking around Piazza Navona soaking in the streets, the façades, the street musicians and other little surprises.

Somewhere in RomeSomewhere in Rome

Little surprises in RomeLittle surprises in Rome

Vatican City features prominently in every school quiz book as the smallest country in the world. The word country’ conjures up all kinds of imagery in your head - borders, security guards and checkposts. In reality, it’s hard to tell where Italy ends and Vatican City begins.

Vatican CityVatican City

The Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome is just a kilometer or so away from the Vatican (so much for the separation of Church and State).

Corte Suprema di CassazioneCorte Suprema di Cassazione

When you are approaching the Vatican from the Castle of St. Angelo, you run into a small flea market selling souvenirs, old books, LPs and B&W stills featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck from Roman Holiday. Paradise’ from Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto blared from a shopkeeper’s stereo as I browsed through LPs of Mozart’s symphonies, operas, and piano concertos. I wonder how many people these days get to experience the paradise that springs into existence each time the gramophone needle touches one of those LPs.

When we entered the Vatican City precincts, a large crowd of immacualately dressed people was leaving the Vatican. As we reached St. Peter’s Square, the reason for the mass exodus dawned upon us on seeing the rows of empty chairs - the Pope’s Sunday mass had just finished.

Somewhere in Vatican CitySomewhere in Vatican City

Somewhere in Vatican CitySomewhere in Vatican City

At St. Peter’s SquareAt St. Peter’s Square

Still, there were plenty of people queuing up to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. The queue was long enough to make us postpone our visit and go looking for lunch instead. We found a pizza shop in a small street doing brisk business - a sure sign that hot, delicious pizzas awaited us. Pizzas in street shops in Rome are sold in rectangular slices by weight (pizza al taglio). There were lots of vegetarian toppings to choose from - some a little unusual. What the wife took for pineapple turned out to be potato.

We spent some more time walking around the Vatican. It’s a funny sensation to be walking in a country that was just an answer to a trivia question for you until a few hours ago. It’s also easy to forget that people live here with the same mundane problems as ours - the Sunday load of laundry for instance:

Somewhere in Vatican CitySomewhere in Vatican City

Having bookmarked the pizza place for another visit, we left for the Spanish Steps. I kept seeing something interesting even in the commonplace buildings:

Somewhere in RomeSomewhere in Rome

The Spanish Steps were overrun with tourists, so we walked to the obelisk in the square at the base of the steps and sat there for a few minutes.

The square near the Spanish StepsThe square near the Spanish Steps

At the square near the Spanish StepsAt the square near the Spanish Steps

There were a plenty of interesting buildings around.

An interesting building near the Spanish StepsAn interesting building near the Spanish Steps

Many luxury brands have showrooms in the streets around the Spanish Steps. We were visiting a country deep in the financial crisis. Their prime minister, Silivio Berlusconi, had resigned the day before and the government had just passed austerity measures to save hundreds of billions of Euros. But it looked like business as usual here. I guess history isn’t as dramatic when you are living it.

One of the many luxury brand shops near the Spanish StepsOne of the many luxury brand shops near the Spanish Steps

U.S. Polo Assn.U.S. Polo Assn.


The old, grungy’ façades of the showrooms are a perfect foil to the glittering, expensive products selling inside. The Diors, the Pradas, the Cartiers, the Louis Vittons were all here. Our relationship with luxury products is limited to parodying the brand names. For example, Bulgari becomes Burglary. It’s not a case of grapes being sour, it’s just that we prefer mangoes. Have spare money, will travel.

The textured façadesThe textured façades


It was finally time to tackle the Spanish Steps and enjoy the view of the world along the way (and from the top).

At the Spanish StepsAt the Spanish Steps

At the Spanish StepsAt the Spanish Steps

Somewhere near Spanish StepsSomewhere near Spanish Steps

A view from the Spanish StepsA view from the Spanish Steps

Spanish StepsSpanish Steps

A view from the Spanish StepsA view from the Spanish Steps

By some quirk of fortune, we found ourselves at the Colosseum on every single day of our stay in Rome. Entry to the Colosseum closes at 3:30 PM and so we never got to go in till the very last day.



The Colosseo Metro station was undergoing repairs. Had it been any other Metro station, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed. But this station being next to a thousands of year old monument, the rubble seemed full of poignant irony.

The Colosseo Metro station under repairsThe Colosseo Metro station under repairs

The wife had singled out a nice dinner place while browsing a tourist guide at a bookstore at the Termini Station. We spent the evening looking for it. At one spot, as the wife raced ahead looking for street names to orient us on the map, I found myself standing across the road from the Ferrari store. A man stood at the stores’ door while his partner stood in the middle of the road to take his picture:

A Ferrari showroomA Ferrari showroom

The food at the restaurant justified the effort it took us to find it. There was something special about the vegetables in Italy - especially the tomatoes. They seemed so full of flavour that for the first time in Europe, we found vegetarianism worth the trouble.

Not your ordinary BruschettaNot your ordinary Bruschetta

December 18, 2011