Leaving Locarno I make my way to Piazza del Popolo. Known as the traditional north entrance to the city, it is the starting point for local Romans on their evening passegiata. The center of the piazza features a 10-story Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome in 1589. A trident of streets leads people to the heart of Rome: Via Babuino (to Piazza di Spagna), Via Ripetta (along the Tiber River) and Via del Corso (toward the city center).
Via del Corso runs from Piazza del Popolo to Via Venezia, the famed roundabout that boasts traffic as crazy as il Palio di Siena. It is known for its shopping, and most resembles the stretch of Broadway that runs south of Union Square (New York).
City life is similar to my hometown though it appears more colorful and light. I find myself amidst the hustle and bustle of commuters, families with school children (déjà vu a la Park Slope) and my fellow tourists. My first impression of the eternal city, is its walkability. There’s no reason one could not cover a lot of ground over the course of a week. Though one truth is certain: the cobblestone streets are unforgiving, and aplenty. It is an absolute must that you bring the right walking shoes. And despite what you might hear, sneakers are not taboo, Romans wear them and other sensible footwear, too.
Rome is a city of undocumented (in my prep research sources noted anywhere from 400 to a thousand) churches; and they are everywhere. Behind piazzas, around corners, secretly lurking down narrow alleyways and streets. There are just as many monuments and archaeological ruins, and I’m pleased to say that I found a random selection of complementary modern art sculpture.
Passing the Piazza del Parlamento I take a left and wander off the beaten path to find the Fontana di Trevi dry, with not a drop (turned off for cleaning) of water spouting. Quite a sight to see, considering the rows of spectators lining the perimeter in anticipation for the grand water show. I admire the magnificence of the sculptures and continue south toward Via dell’ Umilta, stumbling onto the Quirinale–one of the Seven Hills of Rome. Busloads of children and escorted tours alike populate the Piazza.
The walk south toward the Imperial Forum is lovely, and the weather fantastic. The sky is a clear blue, the sun bright and high with a steady temperature in the mid-70s. La dolce vita indeed!