Our second day in Rome wasn’t as intense as the first, at least in places visited. However my feet certainly felt the strain. As did my general health, it seemed. It’s become a little bit of a pattern that I’ve noticed whilst on holiday, that on the second full day I tend to end up feeling completely and utterly rubbish – I’ve no explanation for it but one thing was for sure, I wasn’t about to let it ruin the day.
For the first part of the day we decided to head back to somewhere that we had been before – the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Upon our last visit, we cut the trip to the Forum short due to the fact that it was seriously hot. And when I say hot, I mean 40 degrees centigrade which made it practically impossible to wander around the place. Thankfully for us, this time it was raining. Though it didn’t keep the crowds away.
We also discovered that it’s possible to walk from our Vatican City hotel to the Colosseum. It took a while but it’s possible! Who needs the metro, eh?
We spent a good couple of hours in the forums, much of which was incredibly quiet thanks to the sheer size of the place as well as the weather. Occasionally we came into contact with huge crowds, particularly down towards the exit. But it was lovely to soak up the vibe of the place, to walk in the footsteps of the ancient Romans who once lived and worked there.
After the forums, we wandered off in search of more Borgia places. The Salita dei Borgia are within walking distance of the Colosseum but are quite easy to miss. We ended up walking straight past it the first time and found ourselves in some quaint little back streets. Thankfully we found what we were looking for…
The Salita dei Borgia, or Borgia steps, is the area said to be the very last place that Juan Borgia was seen alive before his murder in 1497. Cesare and Juan had spent the evening having dinner with their mother and following the dinner, Juan split away from Cesare with a strange masked man on a horse. He was never seen alive again.
We sat beneath the tunnel for a while as the rain fell and I couldn’t help but think of Juan Borgia leaving his brother on this spot. Had he decided to head back to the Vatican with his brother then the history of the Borgia family would have taken a very different course.
Rumour took hold across Italy and in Rome that it was Cesare who murdered his brother – he was incredibly jealous of Juan after all, and desperately wanted what his brother had. However Cesare did not benefit from his brother’s death for over a year and the first rumours started over a year later in Venice. I’ve written about Juan’s death in detail both here on the blog and there’s also a chapter on it in my book ‘Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell‘ – the evidence points to it being the Orsini family who did the deed.
Just at the top of the steps is the basilica of St. Peter in Chains where Pope Julius II is buried in his magnificent tomb, created by Michelangelo. However when we got up there, they were closed. So rather than wait we decided to head back to the hotel – via the wonderful ossuary of the Convento dei Cappuchini, near the Barberini metro station. This is another place that we had visited the last time we were in Rome but it has lost none of its charm – it was rather busy when we were there this time which was a shame, but I suppose that’s what happens when it ends up on the internet on every single ‘top 10 secret places in Rome’ list. I’ll write more about the Convento and the Ossuary on another occasion as it does deserve a HUGE post all of its own, but in the meantime do have a read of the post I wrote on it back in 2012.
Following our time at the Convento, pondering our own mortality, we headed back to our hotel. We were far too footsore to walk so hopped on the metro.
After a bit of a rest we took a walk in the rain and headed across the river to the Piazza del Popolo to visit the little church of Santa Maria del Popolo. Our main reason for the visit was because this is the church in which Vanozza Cattanei and Juan Borgia are buried. However there are no grave markers for either of them within the church – Vanozza’s gravestone is now in San Marco but there is absolutely nothing to say where Juan is buried. I found it rather sad that Juan, 2nd Duke of Gandia, had nothing to mark his final resting place in the sweet little church – but at the same time it was a rather strange feeling to know that two people who I have spent so long researching that I feel as if I know them, were buried in the soil beneath my feet.
And whilst in Rome, you have to have pizza. So dinner that night involved an absolutely delicious Buffalo Mozzarella and seasoned ham, along with a bottle vino bianco. An absolutely perfect end to another busy day.