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Skiddoo Blog

Sep 2015
2

Secret Spaces, Forbidden Places: Rome

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Won’t you consider a trip to Rome? There are so many secret spaces to check out in Rome as well as places, often ignored by tour groups, which are fascinating to discover on your own. Check out the intriguing Borromini Perspective hidden at Palazzo Spada. You’ll be looking at what seems to be a 37-metre long colonnade, which is in fact only nine metres long. The statue within seem life-sized although it is only 60 centimeters tall.

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Remember Russell Crowe’s Gladiator? Tour the real Colosseum and have some pictures taken in front of it. Visit the 22-hectare well-manicured gardens of the Vatican, or shop either at Via del Corso or at Via dei Condotti if you have cash to spare or you can also try the Monti area, where several funky boutiques are located. Do not miss a visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, to make your trip to Rome complete. But did you know that Rome’s cathedral is called San Giovanni? Across from it is Scala Sancta, which is believed to be the steps that Jesus climbed when He was brought to Pontius Pilate. The 28 steps are encased in wood for protection and could only be climbed on your knees.

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Witness the old grandeur and opulence of Rome within the walls of the Palazzo Colonna; the exquisite marble pieces, such as Michelangelo’s Pieta at the St. Peter’s Basilica or throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Delis and coffee shops are plentiful, but it is best to avoid the touristy shops at Via Veneto. Only Paris rivals Rome in the number of attractions. So prepare to have an awesome Roman holiday as soon as you arrive and get ready to check out some of its secrets and forbidden places.

Best Time To Travel To Rome

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Rome is at its best in spring to early summer and fall, that’s from April to early June and from late September until October. During these periods, the temperatures are mild and the city isn’t too crowded. By all means, do not attempt to visit Rome in August because it will be hot and muggy and most Italians are on vacation, which means many shops, restaurants and hotels are closed. The islands, beaches and spas are open but those will be crowded with Italians. From late October until Easter, attractions in Rome close early, and some even undergo renovation at these times. Between November and February, many restaurants and hotels in Rome are also closed and the beaches and spas become deserted. On the average, Rome is warm all throughout the year, and around June, average high temperature is about 28°C or 82°F, going to 31°C (87°F) in July and August.

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History

Rome is one of the world’s oldest cities, thus it is indeed fitting to call it “the eternal city,” having been founded during civilization’s early days, which many historians believed to be about 625 BC. Julius Caesar, who ruled as a dictator, was the most famous citizen of Rome. At a young age he realized that money was needed in politics and when he was in power, he employed all means necessary, including bribery to buy favours to increase his popularity. While serving in Spain, he learned that wars could be both politically and economically profitable. Despite being a despot, he knew how the lower classes suffered and had taxes on farmers removed and distributed lands to families with three or more children. He was able to conquer many lands, including Egypt.

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In the end, the Roman Empire crumbled in the hands of barbarians from the east and north of Europe. The final blow came in AD 476 when Visigoth Odoacer and his army conquered the once mighty city of Rome, except the eastern empire that included Constantinople. It was almost a thousand years later before it fell to the Turks under the leadership of Mohammed II.Today, Rome is still a commanding city, a favourite destination for international tourists with the city’s history, its historic landmarks and the other things that could be discovered, if one is keen enough to search beyond the regular tourist attractions.

San Clemente

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The Church of San Clemente is quite unique, as it was built upon a 2nd century pagan temple then over a 4th century church. Locals call it the layer cake, and there is nowhere else in Rome where you could see such a historical layering with each layer beautiful in its own right. While there are other churches in some parts of the world that were built over other structures, what’s unique in San Clemente is that the two lower levels are accessible, although fees are charged for these two layers. The lowest features a buried Roman palazzo and a Temple to Mithras, whose priests sacrificed bulls to their god, with the acolytes bathing in the bulls’ blood. The sound of water running through ancient pipes could still be heard in the rooms of the palazzo. The second layer still has some preserved Paleo-Christian era frescoes. The topmost layer has beautiful frescoes, a lavishly decorated marble choir, a lovely 12th century mosaic of the Triumph of the Cross and a pre-Cosmatesque pavement.

Antica Birreria Peroni

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This is an antiquated Roman-style pub that is very popular among tourists and locals in need of a meat and carb fix, accompanied by a local draught beer, Peroni. Pasta dishes served here change daily and there are other choices, from salads to grilled scamorza cheese, to goulash, steaks and sausages, which is the main feature in the pub. Antica Birreria Peroni had been a pub long before Irish pubs existed and is a great place to grab a cheap yet very filling meal between 3pm and 7pm. If you are in a hurry to have lunch, there is a pasta bar where you can eat standing up together with regular customers from nearby offices. Service charge is included in your tab, which is very unusual in Rome.

Keyhole

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You will never be accused of being a Peeping Tom when you peek through this particular keyhole. Instead you will be treated to a very surprising view – that of the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. The door’s unique position on Mount Aventine perfectly lines up for a great view of a magnificent garden and the dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance. Beyond the door lies the Priory of the Knights of Malta, the legendary religious and knights order of old. The property used to belong to the Roman ruler, Alberico II before it was turned into a Benedictine monastery. In the 1100s, it was a property of the Knights Templar before it changed owners once again in the 1400s. The Knights of Malta is officially known as the Knights of St. John Hospitaler and while they own the property, it is used by the Ambassador of the ancient military order while the Knights’ headquarters are located at Via Condotti 68, which is close to the Spanish Steps. The garden beyond the Keyhole could be visited by appointment only.

Church of St. Ignatius Loyola

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On the outside, the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola looks like a typical Baroque church. However, what you can see inside will astound you. Construction of the church started in 1626 with funds provided by a nephew of Pope Gregory XV, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi. It was built to honor the founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Ignatius Loyola. What attracts visitors to the church are the magnificent trompe l’oeil and frescoes by Andrea Pozzo, particularly those on its ceilings. People living around the church opposed the addition of a dome because that would cast shadows on their gardens. Even without the dome, the frescoes of Pozzo gave the impression of an actual dome, through the clever use of perspective when the figures were painted. Stand on the marble disc located at the center of the church to view in full the great effect that Pozzo was able to achieve even if the ceiling was flat.

Villa Doria Pamphili

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Most tour groups ignore the largest park in Rome called the Villa Doria Pamphili, but it is very popular with the locals. Its French-style garden is beautiful and there are fountains that have been carved into the faces of statues. It’s a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The huge villa is still used for official functions by the government and at the centre of the garden is the Casino del Belrespiro, which is the summer residence of the prince. The centrally-located Villa Vecchia is now a museum where you can see the grandeur of the fully furnished apartments and the well-preserved art collections of the Pamphili family. The private chapel at the park has excellent murals on its ceilings.

 

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