Realization struck early in the day: It’s our last day to explore and soak in the essence of Rome. We subjected ourselves to the Metro to reduce travel time. A hot day at the end of September, combined with giggling teenagers, thousands of tourists and everyday Romans we endured the crowded Metro car. It felt as if we inhaled when the doors closed, only to exhale when we reached our point of interest five stops later at Piazza di Spagna.
A short walk and we spotted Bernini’s La Barcaccia, a boat-shaped fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps, our actual destination. With the mid-day sun pushing down we were not alone in drawing water from the spout to cool down.
Noon at the Spanish Steps – a place to rest weary feet and soak up the sun. Piazza di Spagna was named after the Spanish Embassy housed here. The steps were a later addition, built from 1723 – 1725 to connect Piazza di Spagna with Santissima Tinitá dei Monti, a Renaissance church on the hilltop above. Once here, the steps have to be climbed, if for no other reason than enjoy the view from above.
The higher we climbed the more the crowds disappeared. 135 steps in total – not for the faint of heart, or those already overheated from the sun.
Photography was not permitted in Santissima Tinitá dei Monti. The church offered a tranquil and cool place to reflect, admire the architecture and art. Refreshed and rested we descended the 135 steps recalling that during Christmas time a 19th-century Cresh is displayed on the first landing of the staircase. In May, part of the steps are covered with potted azaleas. As a rule, the steps are not a place for eating lunch or licking ice cream. Hefty fines are enforced by Roman urban regulations. Just sitting and enjoying a rest is still acceptable.
Once back at La Barcaccia my attention was drawn to the left and I pushed my way through the crowd to take a closer look. Piazza di Spagna is bordered by Piazza Mignanelli with its Colonna dell’Immaculata.
Luigi Poletti constructed the column, dedicated in 1857. The structure consists of a marble base. The 12 meter tall column itself is actually much older. It was discovered by chance during excavations in the Campus Marzius. The bronze statue of the Madonna is the work of Giuseppe Obici.
It is dedicated to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. According to this dogma Madonna is the only human being born free of original sin.
Every year on December 8 the festivities of the Immaculate Conception are celebrated. The Pope comes to bless the statue and those attending and the Fire Brigade, with the aid of a crane, puts a garland of flowers around the Madonna’s neck.
The day was nearing its end, and with only an hour left before meeting friends for dinner we made our way back to Fontana de Trevi – one last time, our fourth visit in six days. This has to be one of the biggest cliches when visiting Rome: Toss a coin into the fountain and you will return to the eternal city.
My wish was to capture the fountain without huge crowds. A tour guide recommended to stop by early in the morning (which we didn’t manage) or late afternoon. I am not sure where he received his information from, whenever we stepped into the piazza that houses the fountain the crowds were equally dense.
I almost made it – then this tall, dark and handsome individual stepped into the frame… Several attempts to push my way through the lines of visitors were abandoned to just stand on the sidelines, enjoy the rush of the water drowning out the voices and capture a few last images.
Abruzzo will be perfect. Here we come, Sulmona!