Buon giorno and welcome to A Road Retraveled Travel Videos and Blog.
Piazza Venezia is quite popular being next to the Capitoline Hill, the Roman Forum, Trajan’s Market, the Colosseum, and all the shopping your heart desires on Via del Corso.
You can spend a whole day in this area visiting all the attractions surrounding it. But we’re going to spend just an afternoon strolling through some of its off the beaten path neighborhoods as we Roam through Rome.
It’s quite amazing that just a few minutes from the major tourist hotspot and insane traffic of Piazza Venezia you find yourself in such a quiet and peaceful neighborhood with barely any tourists around and void of trinket vendors. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes because like in Trastevere, you’ll find yourself walking on cobble stone streets!
As we stroll beyond Piazza Venezia along the charming alleys we run into the cozy Piazza Mattei with an interesting, and yet often overlooked fountain: La Fontana delle Tartarughe, or The Fountain of the Turtles.
This charming fountain was commissioned in 1581 by the Mattei family, who also owned all the palazzi around this square, and was designed by Giacomo della Porta.
Della Porta was by no means a small timer, but an important architect and sculptor who finished Michelangelo’s Dome of St Peter’s. The water in this fountain is said to come from the Acqua Vergine, virgin water – the best water of all the aquaducts.
The turtles were added by Lorenzo Bernini some time later during a restoration requested by Pope Alexander VII in 1658. In 1979 one of the turtles was stolen, if you can believe it, so of course the three remaining turtles were removed and placed in the Capitoline Museum nearby. What you see here are copies of the originals. The fountain was also recently renovated at a cost of about 250,000 Euros, in a plan by the city council for a fully renovated historic center.
If you stop to think about this fully functioning and well preserved fountain, and not to mention all the other fountains, buildings and monuments in Italy, being as old and often even older than Colonial America…. it’s mind blowing!
Nearby, west of here, and on the right of Via Arenula is Largo di Torre Argentina. It’s also a popular bus stop area, as well as the terminal for Tram number 8 that goes to Trastevere. Four Ancient Roman temples and part of Pompey’s Theater dating back to the Republic Era were discovered here. History buffs would be interested to know that Julius Caesar was killed in this area on the steps of the Theater of Pompey. Not sure if he actually said: E Tu Brute? So this bit of real estate in the middle of a major transportation hub has important historical significance. You’ll also notice cats lounging around…that’s because this is also a Cat Sanctuary.
Walking back on Via Arenula past Piazza Mattei folowing Via dei Funari and then via Monanara to Via del Teatro Marcello is an ancient theater in the charming Jewish Quarter that’s quite overlooked but worth a visit for its typical Roman merging of old and new.
Here you see more modern structures built on top of the ancient Theater, Teatro Marcello, that was completed by Emperor Augustus around 13 BC. The ancient theater served as a fortified palace for various families from Medieval times onward.
While here, venture through the Jewish Quarter, or as it was also known, the Jewish Ghetto. Ghetto was a word originally used to describe areas where Jews were compelled to live. For more than 300 years between 16th century and until the Italian unification in the 1800′s, the Roman Jewish population was forced to live here under most dire restrictions. Most of the old ghetto has been torn down, and it turned into a charming and eclectic neighborhood famous for some of the best food in Rome, like the Jewish specialty of fried artichokes.
Now we’re just a short walk away from Piazza Venezia, back to where we started.