By now those who have read my earlier posts on Rome know that I was smitten. The history, ancient ruins and towering monuments called to me at every turn. I could have easily spent a month here, diving deeper into all she offered. Our week slipped by quickly and we left the city on a rainy pre-dawn with the news that a couple of earthquakes had hit nearby Umbria and Marched, areas that had been hit two months earlier, resulting in the loss of 300 lives. This was a solid reminder that, although we spent our week walking streets littered with evocative ruins that have stood the test of time, Mother Nature can wreak havoc in the blink of an eye.
As we walk away from our time in Italy, I leave you with a few more sights to consider should you find yourself in romantic Roma.
Rome’s first Christian church, built in A.D. 318 by Constantine, the first Christian emperor, was the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano. It was the most important church during medieval times and today is the home church of the Bishop of Rome, the pope. This church was the model for all those to follow, even St. Peter’s Basilica. Her tall green bronze doors once greeted those entering Rome’s Senate House in the Forum.
Directly across the street from the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano are the Holy Stairs, sacred steps taken from the home of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, believed to be those that Jesus climbed on the day he was sentenced to death. Today it is the place where those seeking atonement climb on their knees, reciting prayers. These steps lead to the “Holy of Holies”, the private chapel of the popes in the Middle Ages, still used today. For those who want to save themselves from aching knees, a separate set of stairs can be walked.
Down the street from the Colosseum sits a large multiplex of ruins, thought to be the world’s oldest shopping mall. Trajan’s Market, built in A.D. 100 was part mall, warehouse, and a series of government offices.
The first monument we saw as our driver carried us across the city to our apartment was the Victor Emmanuel Monument, hard to miss as it rises skyward 230 feet and spans 443 feet. If its size didn’t capture your attention, its stark-white marble in a sea of surrounding earth-tone ruins certainly will. This massive shrine celebrates Italy’s unification and honor’s her first king. The 43-foot statue of Victor Emmanuel sitting proudly on his horse is one of the largest equestrian statues in the world. At the base is the museum of Italian Unification and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with the eternal flame. A lift was added in 2007, allowing all who visit to breathe in sweeping views of Rome. For all of its grandeur, many locals consider it to be ostentatious.
We awoke to rain our last day in Rome, and although the Borghese Gallery is best seen on a sunny day, as this villa turned museum is set amid lovely gardens, we had no choice but to brave the weather. The opulence-loving Borghese family commissioned all the artwork, which still stands in the rooms for which they were originally intended. Beautiful frescoes and marble add to the grandeur.
The cardinal who commissioned the artwork was controversial as he wasn’t religious. But nepotism was alive and thriving in the 17th-century so being a nephew of the pope put him on the fast track to being a cardinal. It’s hard to believe that this family of religious figures introduced so much artwork laced with erotic themes but they felt that all forms of human expression celebrated God.
Our final week in Rome was spent in a beautifully appointed apartment in the bohemian neighborhood of Trastevere, a delightful place to wander. Our favorite restaurant became Cajo & Gajo, which we frequented three times, for its food, atmosphere, the yummy homemade biscuits and limoncello served after a meal, and the lovely young waitstaff.
Our time in Italy may have ended but so many wonderful memories remain.