Christmastime in Rome – a Day in the Eternal City

Last Sunday I spent a day in Rome visiting my daughter. The plan was to buy Christmas gifts for family in the USA, as Francesca was going for a visit.

It was a warmish grey day, perfect for tromping about the city, which at Christmastime is full of life, lights and great things to see.

We started out taking a metro to the Piramide.

piramid in Rome

The Pyramid of Cestius. You exit the metro and this is what you see.

Yup. In Rome there is an ancient Pyramid. Right next to an old gate in the old Roman walls. Porto San Paolo. Here is a great print of what this all used to look like before there was a metro station: Porto S. Paolo and the Pyramid.

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I love Rome. It’s so random!

I learned (sort of) how to take photos with my phone. Gosh, young people seem to instinctively know how to do things that take me hours to figure out. One day I’m just going to have to admit that I’m getting old. Yikes.

When I was a young girl, Christmastime in Rome was magical..lights, trees, vendors selling handmade candy, every corner with men selling hot roasted chestnuts, shepherds from Abruzzo playing bagpipes dressed in sheep’s skin.

Not much has changed except the vendors are more numerous, there is far more traffic and there are a lot more plastic toys for sale.

Next stop after a longish walk (public transportation on a Sunday in Rome is a bit random as well) was Porto Portese, another old gate. One day i want to visit all of the old gates.

When I was a child on Sundays there was an ENORMOUS flea market there and thank goodness, nothing has changed. It is the place to buy clothes, trinkets, and people watch. For a bit of corny entertainment, listen to Claudio Baglione’s song about Porto Portese, about a young man returning from the military, his day at the market, only to find out his girlfriend is with another.

And, for more fun and games here’s a short video that shows the market better than my phone camera.

And, esp. for those of you that understand some Italian, this video about a vendor Mustafa, who not only can sell ice to an Eskimo, but also make you smile. He has become pretty famous in Italy!

After a nice Chinese lunch, our next stop was the Colosseum in the hopes of catching a bus that will take us near Piazza Navona.

Oops. We forgot, it’s Sunday. The entire street from the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia along the Roman Forum is closed to traffic.

Christmas tree in font of the Colosseum

Christmas tree in font of the Colosseum

Walking along, you can look down on the Forum.

The Ancient Roman Forum

The Ancient Roman Forum

What a wonderful thing this is: no traffic on Sundays!  The usually busy noisy road becomes a peaceful huge promenade full of people taking a leisurely Sunday walk, and besides the forum to look at there a few amazing street artists, con men and ice cream vendors to entertain you.

Pretty amazing....

Pretty amazing trick. I wonder how they manage? See the Colosseum in the background?


Piazza Navona is to me, one of the most lovely of all the piazzas in Rome, with a central fountain by Bernini that is a masterpiece. I never tire seeing it, and I’ve seen this fountains hundreds of times.

Bernini s fountain

Berninis Fountain of the Rivers

Across from the fountain is a church built by Bernini’s rival Borromini. Both are examples of baroque architecture at it’s best.

Church of St. Agnes in Argone

Church of St. Agnes in Argone by Borromini. Notice the concave front.

It seems that being commissioned more or less at the same time to build amazing works of art right next to each other caused the rivals some stress. More about the rivalry here. I always like to imagine the figure of Rio de La Plata has his hand raised in front of the church as if to state “help! it’s so poorly built it’s going to fall on me!”

Rio De La Plata

Rio De La Plata

Piazza Navona at Christmastime is full of candy and toy vendors, street artists, musicians, games like the shoot the cans and you win a stuffed animal, and so on. A fabulous place if you like to people watch.

Santa was there too:

Santa in Piazza Navona

Santa in Piazza Navona. Poor reindeer has duck tape around his hoofs!

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Every year there is a great big old carousel from Germany with painted wooden horses near the center of the piazza, which by the way in ancient roman times was a sports stadium.

Maybe I’m not getting so old yet…I still like to look at all the wooden horses and decide which is my favorite!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

The old German carousel

The old German carousel






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