Day 14 – Rome (part 1)

This was the day we disembarked from the cruise ship – not at Rome, technically, but at Civitavecchia, a town on the coast. We ate breakfast, got off the ship, took a shuttle bus to the entrance of the port, and lugged our luggage up the street to the train station. We bought three tickets to the Termini station in Rome, and we were on our way in about an hour in a train packed with commuters and our fellow cruise ship passengers. We got to the train station, bought metro tickets, lugged our luggage down to the metro, and got to our B & B (at the Piazza Re di Roma, just south of the Basilica of St. John Lateran) without incident.

After dropping off our suitcases, we got right back out there to see as much Rome as we could in two days. Our first stop: a church whose name I unfortunately can’t remember. I will have to confer with my fellow travelers, but I am pretty sure that we were looking for a church that was built on the site of a house church from the early days of the Christian movement. I am also pretty sure that we didn’t find it, but went into this church instead. At any rate, I do remember our second stop: the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. Why this one first, you ask? Well, it is centrally located, just north of the Colosseum. And it has a great horned statue of Moses by Michelangelo.

And of course, those chains, which are supposed to be the ones Peter was brought to Rome in:

We headed south toward the Colosseum, and stopped for lunch along the way. By the time we got there, it was raining:

It ended up raining on and off for the rest of the day, and it was pretty humid. After looking at the outside of the Colosseum, we went over to the Forum and tried to get inside. Turns out you had to get an expensive all-in-one ticket that included the Colosseum, the Forum and something else if you wanted to get in. I had already seen the inside of the Colosseum on a previous trip to Rome, and neither my dad nor Mary wanted to go inside all that badly (especially with the lines, and all we still wanted to do that day.) We ended up walking around and seeing all that we could see from the outside. And that was enough for us.

Then we walked up the Via dei Fori Imperiali (I don’t speak Italian, but I know what that means) northwest. We saw Trajan’s Column:

and we saw the (probably excessive) monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy:

We walked west from there and stopped by the Church of the Gesu, the mother church of the Jesuits:

We headed further west and a little north and stepped inside the Pantheon for a while:

and took a picture or two of the outside as well:

Then we headed west toward Piazza Navona and stopped in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, which is the French national church in Rome. It was designed by Giacomo della Porta, the same guy who raised the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica:

Then we continued on to Piazza Navona. As you can see, the weather was still a bit drab:

Then we turned back east. After stopping to refresh ourselves with some gelato, we went on to the
Church of St. Ignatius, known for its “false” (i.e., painted on the ceiling) dome. The first time I went to Rome, when I was 15, my mom and I sang in a pilgrimage choir sent by our local Catholic church. One evening, we performed a concert in this church.

Then we kept going east and stopped at the Pontifical North American College to pick up the tickets that we had reserved for the papal audience the next day. They were very kind and friendly to us, and a nun explained to us and a few others who were visiting how the weekly papal audiences usually worked. Mary put it well when she said later about our experience there: “This was the first place on our trip that I really felt welcomed.”

After our stop there, we turned north and went to the Trevi Fountain. Here is a cute couple standing in front of it:

And here were a few of the other people there:

Following our stop at the fountain, we decided to venture onto Rome’s bus system to see if we could make it to another church we wanted to see: St. Mary Major.

We didn’t find it. At least not right away. We got off the bus a few stops too soon, but we did get to see a church at Piazza della Republica that we would not have seen otherwise: St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs, which was designed by Michelangelo and placed within the ruins of the baths of Diocletian.

We did end up finding St. Mary Major, so we walked down there and got inside a few minutes before it closed for the night. There are often things you find out when you get inside one of these huge churches in Rome that you didn’t know before, and the one that we found out here was that Gianlorenzo Bernini is buried inside, to the right of the main altar.

After that, we were spent. We had dinner (pizza and pasta, of course) at a restaurant near Termini, then took the metro back to our B&B. In the evening, we enjoyed watching Italy’s soccer team play France in Euro 2008 on TV. Whenever anything good happened for Italy, you could hear shouting and horns honking up and down the street. Since Italy won that game, there were horns honking well into the night.

As you can see, we did a lot that day. If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I commend you.


3 thoughts on “Day 14 – Rome (part 1)

  1. The first church we were looking for was Santa Pudenziana. It is supposedly built on the site of the house of Quintus Cornelius Pudens, a member of the Roman senate and an early believer; he’s mentioned in I Timothy 4:21. Supposesdly St. Peter lived in his house for several years after arriving in Rome. We found the street and the location where Google maps indicated the church was, but the church at that spot was San Lorenzo in Fonte, or St. Laurence at the Font. It was the only time during the trip that Google maps weren’t accurate. We went into San Lorenzo briefly, and I picked up a flyer describing the church and the saint in whose honor it was built. The story is kind of neat. St. Laurence was a deacon of the Roman church in the middle of the third century, and was known for his work gathering food for the poor. In 258, Emperor Valerian launched a persecution of Christians, and Laurence was captured along with Pope Sixtus II and some other Christians. Before he was martyred, Pope Sixtus had entrusted the treasury of the church to Lawrence and instructed that Laurence sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. Laurence was ordered by his captors to hand over to the state coffers the treasures of the church. At his request, he was supposedly given a few days to comply with this order. At the end of three days, he brought to the prefect’s office a crowd of starving beggars, and said, “Behold, these are the treasures of the church.” What a great line!

    Supposedly Laurence was briefly held as a prisoner in a dungeon on the site of the church we visited. There are two other churches in Rome established in his honor: one at the place of his martyrdom (he was roasted alive) and one at the place he was buried. While held in the prison, he reportedly baptized a fellow prisoner named Lucillus with water from a spring that gushed from the ground within their cell; I guess that’s where the “font” comes from. Lucillus, who was blind, then received his sight, and Hippolytus, the centurion in charge of the prison, saw this and converted to Christianity–and then was promptly martyred. What amazing faith those early saints had, to openly profess Christ in the face of martyrdom!

    The church itself was dark and quiet. There are large paintings inside; the one I remember most clearly showed Laurence distributing bread to the poor. Though the church in its present form is Baroque and thus only three or four hundred years old, the lower level supposedly contains the remains of the prison and the fountain.

    This day was one of my favorites during the trip. There was so much to see, and the connection to ancient Rome and the early church was so evident. I was greatly impressed by the Pantheon, which is a wonderful structure that has been wonderfully preserved. Caravaggio is one of my favorite Italian painters (before this trip, he was my favorite, but now I’m equally partial to Tintoretto and Michelangelo), and we saw three of his paintings in San Luigi dei Francesi. Trevi fountain is an over-the-top extravagance that’s a neat place to hang out on a hot summer day. I think we all really enjoyed the places we went and things we saw.

  2. Great post! You should have bought the all-in-one ticket, the sights are worth admission alone. Pity about the rain but it would be hard for bad weather to dampen a great city like Rome.

  3. Hi! Great blog! We are leaving on a Med. cruise from Barcelona on Oct. 15. We are looking for information on the best way to get from the port in Civitavecchia to Rome and how much it costs. If you have additional information on ports to Venice, Florence, or Naples we would also really appreciate that!

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