Sometimes, public transportation can save soles. Sunday morning, initially, that idea was more urgent than the state of my soul, though I was keen to reconnect with my home church community. After studying the public tram, bus, and metro options from Trastevere, I decided that none of the public mass transit options would actually save me time.
Besides, every walk is an opportunity for photographs of scenery, people watching – and pets, too. Perchè no/Why not? It was a sunny, mild autumn morning in Rome. Walking 45-50 minutes would be easy.
I allowed plenty of time to arrive at St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church, in time for coffee and a simple pastry or cookie, of course, in the Rectory before the10:30am service. “You never know who you might meet in there,” I mused, recalling a key reunion with my sculptor instructor from high school and friend, Peter Rockwell.
I set out a bit after 9am. On my map, I’d seen a path cutting straight through the ruins. I wore semi-enclosed flat shoes that were comfortable. Comfort, and style, but certainly comfort is always a wise consideration when treading on cobblestone streets. Wonky terrain at best.
As I approached the southern edge of the ruins, I passed two guards who were chit-chatting away. The open metal fencing gave a clear view to the lower level of exposed ruins: a playground for anyone interested in history or architecture, or simply exploring. I noticed a few people nosing around in the ruins. “Good – they’re open!” I thought hopefully. And about five or six people were on my side of the metal fence, peering through and pointing at distant areas.
“There’s the gate, exactly as I saw it on the map” I thought triumphantly. Now I walked with a spring in my step, ready to enter this curious realm of antiquity. A second later, my hopes were dashed. The gate was secured. I walked over to the guards. “A che ora apre quel cancello?” I asked of them, hoping they’d notice the time and unlock it. Oh, it’s closed today? Woe to the wanderer who sees a shortcut through the ruins in Rome.
To avoid completely doubling back, I chose a rather steep switch back just behind the guards as a car turned into it. I knew this way would eventually come to the top of the Capitoline Hill. This is the seat of power of Rome. The only hill never taken in conquest, and the site of the former Temple of Juno, now the site of Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio.
I nodded to the guards and proceeded along the sidewalk to the bottom of the hairpin turn that led steeply up hill. I rounded the corner and reminded myself that this is one of my favorite piazzas in Rome, and the view would be glorious. Besides, I was getting good exercise and still had plenty of time before walking almost all the way up the Via Nazionale to Piazza della Repubblica.
About a quarter of the way up, I was surprised when another car passed me. Then I heard voices and a whirring sound. A cyclist passed me, then a few more. I was witnessing a whole pack of maybe 200 cyclists as they labored to reach the summit.
All different colors of garb, a mix of men and women, various ages, many of them talking as they pumped away in low gear. It was quite a colorful parade of sorts, and they were certainly arriving at a time when almost no tourists were there.
Finally, I came to the top where the lead car was parked and there was hardly a place to stand as the cyclists filled the piazza.
There was plenty of chatter in between gulps from water bottles as even the cyclists seemed impressed by their destination. What a spectacular sight!
Sitting at the long wood table in the Rectory at St. Paul’s, I thought about what I’d have missed if I’d actually known the gate into the ruins was closed on Sunday, Domenica. It was so invigorating and fun to get a glimpse of a local cycling club’s practice giro/tour. There simply is no “wrong way” to walk in Rome. The rewards are everywhere, and the best are unplanned, so give yourself lots of extra time!