Compendium // Rome > The Perfect Navona Morning
Compendium // a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication. The word says it all, and as The Daily Norm enters a new millennia of posts and travel shares, I have decided to collect thoughts and tips from my own travels in a series of Compendia. Starting in Rome.
Rome is not just a city. It is an experience ripe like an overflowing cornucopia of delicious fruit, waiting to be savoured across a broad spectrum enveloped in richly historical heritage, diva attitude and unabashed street-by-street beauty all bathed in the most glorious terracotta light. But its global reach today is as mighty as its ancient Empire two millennia ago, not so much for its political prowess but for its tourist pull. So to do Rome well, you need to avoid the pitfalls, the dodgy restaurants, and wherever possible the flag-led, headphone-donned, selfie-stick sustained coach parties. Eugh.
Today’s tip for doing Rome well is to get up early, and savour the delights which come of having this stunning city all to yourself. Even in January, when last I went, the sweet seduction of Rome’s ever present sun invited an early rise and made venturing into the still quiet-streets an easy exercise. Hotel location is always important, especially on a short weekender, and my locality, mere steps from the Piazza Navona, meant that I could enjoy this most spectacular of Roman Piazzas as the first rays of Winter sunshine hit the sculptural masterpieces which have made the Square such an icon of Baroque Rome.
Baroque is certainly the word. For this oblong square, which lends its shape to the Stadium of Domition on whose foundations it has been built, is more of an artfest than it is a mere city space. For it was here that, at the height of Baroque splendour and Papal theatricals, Pope Innocent X commissioned Bernini to create the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) as part of his grand plan to put Rome firmly back on the artistic and power-map of Europe. It is, by far, one of the most spectacular fountains you are ever likely to see, and enjoyed first thing in the morning, before those damned selfie-sticks start sneaking their way into every one of your photos, it makes for the perfect commencement to your Roman day.
Turn away from Bernini’s masterpiece, and two other fountain wonders by Giacomo della Porta depicting a Moor wrestling with a Dolphin, and a statute of water-God Neptune respectively can be enjoyed, as can the oval encirclement of the kind of russet, terracotta, pink and butterscotch buildings which make Rome such a year-round place of warmth and splendour. Then, once you’ve soaked in this highlight of Rome, sneak in another anti-crowd coup, and head to my favourite cafe in all of Rome: Caffe Tazza d’Oro on the Piazza della Rotunda, where a simple pastry and a coffee taken standing up at the bar, Italian style, takes on new Roman authenticity, especially with the immaculate ancient Pantheon stands just outside the door.
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