Part III: Roman Holiday – Night Tour
On the morning of our third day in Rome we breakfast in another famous café along the Via Condotti known as Café Greco, established in 1760. The elegant ambiance is similar to the coffee houses in Vienna and it’s lovely to sit here amongst the pictures of Goethe, Byron, and Keats who all used to come here for coffee in the early nineteenth century.
At the Fontana di Trevi we throw three coins into the fountain (assuring our return trip to Rome!) and look for the doorway of the Barber shop where Ann first had her hair cut short in Roman Holiday. Although no longer in business it is still recognisable from the film and can be found in the building to the right of the Trevi Fountain. We continue our long walk on and spend the rest of the afternoon at the Colosseum. Completed in 80 AD it was able to hold up to fifty-five thousand spectators and impresses all of us just as it did Ann in the film.
To understand how Ann must have felt sitting on the back of Joe’s scooter in Roman Holiday, we meet Stefano and Epatzio from Nerone Tours back at the Hotel Centrale. Stefano and Epatzio are our ‘Gregory Pecks’ for the evening and arrive promptly to take us on a Night Tour of the City whilst Kaye enjoys the fashionable shops of Rome.
With our helmets and glasses on we head off to the Ponte Milvio to look at the love locks on the bridge, the idea of which fascinates me. Couples come here to lock their love in – for eternity – throwing the key away forever into the river below. It’s symbolism fits well with the idea of the ‘eternal’ city and romantic love.
As twilight falls we head out of the city, and the scooters climb up a steep, winding hill towards ‘Monte Mario’ (also known as ‘Monte Malo’) to reach the highest point in Rome. Here at the top we see the Ponte Milvio again far below and admire far reaching views across the whole of Rome. It’s beautiful here and we have time to enjoy coffee and ice cream with our Nerone guides. Dusk descends rapidly, and after admiring the view once more we head back down the hill, our scooters happily zipping along, back into the heart of the city.
As we ride i can’t help but wonder what is the etiquette when it comes to riding a scooter with a man you’ve only just met! Is a light touch the more polite way to ride or do you wrap your arms tightly around them so you don’t come off? Having always ridden a motorbike, i find myself really enjoying being a passenger at night though. The warm air and breeze on my face feels invigorating, and it’s wonderful to see so many beautifully illuminated sights as the journey into the night unfolds. Perhaps romance really does equal Rome and a scooter!
Yellow lamps herald our arrival at the Vatican, and we notice that the Pope’s light is still on as we get off the vespas.
It’s the second light on the top floor on the right as you face it, and from March 2013 this room will now have a new occupant – Pope Francis!
Stefano shows us how the three semicircles of ionic columns that emanate out from St Peters Basilica all merge into just one set – but only when you stand in a particular place known as the ‘Centre Point’. It’s a clever optical illusion.
Our next stop is the Castel Sant’Angelo (known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian) and we park the scooters and walk for a little while along the Ponte Sant Angelo – one of my favourite bridges in Rome.
The Bridge of Angels’ is breathtaking to see at night and all ten of the angels are beautifully lit up. Each one is exquisite in it’s own right – Bernini sculpted two of them – and each one symbolizes a part of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death by crucifixion.
From the bridge i notice the boats and barges on the river down below where Ann and Joe went dancing in the film. Tonight the barges are shrouded in darkness but i can imagine how wonderful they would look lit up and the lively sound of music playing out across the moonlit water.
Back on the scooters we zip on into the night again to discover an area of Rome that i haven’t visited before – the Campo dei Fiori. Here Stefano and Epatzio introduce us to the darker, hooded statue of Giordano Bruno also known as ‘The Forgotten Philosopher’. Bruno was found guilty of heresy at the Roman Inquisition and burned at the stake in 1600 for believing that the universe contained an infinite number of inhabited worlds populated by other intelligent beings, and that the sun was a star. He was ahead of his time and tragically punished for having the courage to say openly what he thought. From the Campo dei Fiori we stop briefly at the Piazza Navona which is wonderful to see at night. With it’s fountains and restaurants softly lit, it has a different feel at night than during the day.
Towards the end of the tour Stefano’s clutch breaks in the Via del Governo Vecchio. He’s able to make a temporary repair and brilliantly negotiates the vespa as we head for the Via Laurina and the Hotel Centrale. We follow a wonderful route back and it’s so much fun riding through Rome’s many narrow sidestreets. I notice the street names of Via delle Coppelle and Via di Sant’Agostino in particular and make a note to come back to them again one day to revisit their colour, vibrance, restaurants and bookshops!
Stefano and Epatzio are wonderful vespa guides and great ambassadors for Nerone Tours, and the Night Tour presents an amazingly unique view of Rome. If all roads in Italy lead to Rome i’d gladly ride them all on a vespa!
by Jackie Moreton
Co-Founder of Abeona Adventures