Mirabilia Urbis: Rome Walking Tours

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Campus Martius: Rome's Historic Center

Rome's historical center used to be a field that ancient Romans referred to as Campus Martius. The field's name is in honor of the war god, Mars, whose temple was built there. Initially young men worked out and practiced their military drills in the shadow of their "patron saint's" temple. As Rome expanded, however, Augustus and other emperors developed the area until it became a ritzy neighborhood full of public baths, entertainment centers, and stores that sold luxury items. Archeologists have not been able to locate Mars' temple, but Italians still call this vast area Campo Marzio, which comes directly from the ancient Latin name.

 Our stroll takes us through a good portion of Campo Marzio where we'll admire a variety of sights from the very ancient to the Renaissance. We meet at Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps) built in 1725 and we then move on to the Trevi Fountain. One of the most interesting facts that come to the fore at the beginning of this visit is just how the Emperor Augustus, right at the cusp of the B.C/A.D. period, managed to provide this bustling metropolis of a million people with nearly the same amount of fresh, running water that we consume on a daily basis today.

 After meandering through some quaint side streets, we encounter the Emperor Hadrian's Pantheon, the most intact ancient Roman temple still standing today.  It offers an amazing selection of topics to discuss: How many times was it built? How was it built? Could it have been a 'tourist trap' even eighteen hundred years ago?  After focusing on it, we move on to other nearby attractions.  Among which, there is Piazza Navona.  This much-loved public square hides another ancient Roman marvel: Domitian's Stadium, which was used for Olympic events after its inauguration in 80 A.D.!

 

The tour ends with the wise words and friendly admonitions of Pasquino, one of Rome's "talking statues."  In the 1500s, as Roman citizens became frustrated with over-taxation and papal politics, they hung their caustic criticism, stinging epigrams and short satiric verses on different statues.  After all, a person could be punished for exercising his or her opinion publicly; it was more difficult to punish a statue!  Pasquino was the last "talking statue" in Rome to express his opinions -- until a restoration effort in the year 2000 silenced him by discouraging locals from posting sarcastic poems.

 

There are no entrance fees during this visit - but there ARE some great places to stop for coffee!

Note: This is a great tour for people who want to see and understand a sizeable portion of ancient and modern Rome.  With its changing focus (i.e. piazzas, fountains, gelateria, antiquity, etc.), it is also a fantastic visit for kids.