We bought an all-day transit pass at a news stand 1½ blocks from our hotel, I took a bus to the Coliseum Metro station to Spagna (Spanish Square) and the famous Spanish Steps (impressive, but I think over rated) and visit America Express to cash Amex Travelers’ Checks at the best rate we found in Italy.
Rearmed with euros, we reversed direction to the far end of the Square and went left on Via d. Croce, an attractive narrow street lined with trendy shops, to Via Corso, Rome’s main shopping street. San Carlo al Corso, with its impressive Baroque interior was almost directly across V. Corso. A short walk (two blocks) to the left on leaving the church brought us to V. Pontifici, where a left turn brought us to the Tomb of Emperor Augustus.
Although desecrated by the Popes, who stole the marble facing of the tomb and the ring of statues that circled the garden on top, Augustus’ Tomb remains impressive. To fully appreciate it, find the sign along the sidewalk circling the tomb that has a drawing of how it originally looked. Seeing this picture also helped understand the structure of Castle San Angelo (Hadrian’s Tomb).
The Alter in Honor of the Peace of Augustus (~10BC), celebrating the end of 22 years of civil war, is adjacent to the tomb, inside the modern building. The alter is considered the finest remaining ancient Roman art work.
Now on the banks of the Tiber, we crossed the river, turned left past the monumental Law Courts to Castle S. Angelo, which technically is only the top part of the structure, a Papal Palace built on top of the garden that surmounted the Emperor Hadrian’s Tomb. Note how the Popes used the massive ancient Roman building as the center piece of the fortifications protecting the Papal Palace. Don’t miss the Pope’s bathroom.
There is a decent public restroom just inside the entrance on the left, and if I recall correctly, it can be reached before the ticket booth. After a visit to the Papal Palace, we proceeded along the Tiber to the grand entrance way to the grand entrance to Bernini’s grand Vatican Square where we visited St Peter’s Cathedral, saw the Pieta, and took a bus from just outside the entrance to Vatican Square back to within one block of our hotel. St Peter’s is the largest church in the world, almost 700 feet long, with 500 pillars supporting the roof. It is said to have once held 60,000 people.
We thought the best view of the Pieta was from the right side, rather than head on. Scrunch right up to the wall.
Note: If you are going directly into St Peter’s (free) rather than to the Papal Tombs(fee) under the church, you can bypass the long, long line waiting to get into the catacombs.
Being Culture Week, admission to Augustus’ Peace Alter and Hadrian’s were free. All in all, a fascinating walk through history.