When travelling around the world it is, of course, enjoyable to see the famous sites up close, but what I enjoy most is seeing those places that are less well-known, but equally as beautiful, meaningful and amazing. On a recent trip to Rome, I saw some sites that I previously had known nothing of. It was interesting to get to know these places during my stay, since it eventually left me feeling I knew the city much more than when I had arrived. Amongst the places that left an impression on me were the Piazza di Spagna, the Piazza Navona, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Piazza di Spagna, Italian for the Spanish Square, is found at the bottom of what are known as the Spanish Steps. Though I didn’t know when I visited it, it is actually one of the most famous squares to visit in the city. It is given its name since it is bordered by the Palazzo di Spagna, inside which the Spanish Embassy is found and in the centre of the square, is the Fontana della Barcaccia, a fountain which strangely is in English called the Fountain of the Ugly Boat. This makes more sense up close, since it is in the shape of a boat that is half sunk, with water overflowing from it. Also found on one edge of the square is the old house of the famous poet John Keats.
The Piazza Navona is found nearby, and is built on the old cite of a Roman stadium. It is one of the largest squares in the capital and also one of the most beautiful. Featuring 3 large fountains it offers a magnificent display of traditional Baroque Roman architecture. The central of these fountains is the largest and most famous, called the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers, which features an Egyptian obelisk surrounded by various figures. This was one of the first sites I saw in the capital that really made me feel like I was in Rome, because it had the typical over-grand white stone styling that I had been expecting and really wanted to see.
Finally, a monument that stands out from the crowd of buildings in the centre of the city is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a large white building, with two Italian soldiers, or Fanti, standing on either side of the central section, at the top of a grand flight of stairs. This monument contains the remains of an unknown soldier from World War I and is meant to commemorate the lives of all of the unidentifiable soldiers who lost their lives during the war, as well as to signify the importance of every single soldier who contributed to the war. Though this building may not have had the tourism value of somewhere like the Coliseum or the Pantheon, objectively I felt it was one of the prettiest buildings I saw during my time in Italy and it left a bigger impression on me than many others when I returned home.
There was something so intriguing about learning more about the culture of the city through these sites and about spending time away from the crowds of tourists which seem to be everywhere in the summer months and the natural and unspoilt beauty of these areas had a very different kind of impact to the more popular tourist destinations.
Image from: http://www.understandingitaly.com/images/regions/lazio/altare-01.jpg