Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Final Swing Through Rome

Very early on the second last day of our Italian vacation, at 5:30 AM, we took a vaporatto to St.Lucia stazione. Our visit to Venice was nearly over and another few hours to explore Rome were on the cards. But before that we first had to complete a four and a half hour train ride to there.

At our arrival in Rome we walked the short distance to the Hotel RomAntica, unpacked the necessary and then headed back to the Rome Termini to take the Red 110 bus for a two hour drive to look at Rome’s architecture from a different view, the top of an open bus. Sure the view was different and we saw a few places we missed the first time we were in Rome, but nothing special to really report. Upon our return Monica went for a walkabout to do last minute shopping.

Late the afternoon she and I went for a walk to visit the Santa Maria Maggiore church. It was one of the churches on my list that I wanted to see on our first visit, but time ran out and we never got to it. I was so glad we made time for it on our last sightseeing day in Italy. What a beauty! Make that with a capital B! St Peters was impressive with all its big name artists and sculptures and St. Mark’s basilica in Venice was beautiful with its incredible mosaics, but both felt cold. There were a lot of treasures but no feelings, no warmth. Santa Maria Maggiore was totally different. It was alive! There was warmth and spirit and it felt like a dignified place were people come to give something, say thank you, or just wanted to be at. The place was full of people that came to prayer, and a service was actually in progress when we arrived there, which limited our access to certain areas of the church, understandably so. No wonder so many popes decided to be buried in this church. Maybe they also felt the difference.

That evening a thunderstorm dampened our plan to take a last, open air terrace dinner under the Roman sky. We were forced indoors at the La Mense il Bucco ristorante, where we also had lunch earlier the day. The dinner (and the lunch) was simple, real Roman food, but excellent. One of the few good dinners we had in Italy. During our trip we seldom ate indoors, mostly under an umbrella on the sidewalk. I loved that, gives one time to do people watching and in Italy it just feels do natural to eat outdoors. Being indoors makes me feel separated from the experience of traveling.

The last morning was a whirl of activity to get to the train station and then to the airport. What was supposed to be a non-stopped train to the airport, the train stopped several times because of maintenance work on the tracks and caused us to have very little time at the airport to board the plane. We certainly would have missed the plane if it was not for the fact that the plane was late at leaving by 30 minutes. Thank goodness for that.

We left Italy with a little sadness because it was a monumental experience for us and there is so much beauty, in all forms, in this country. No wonder it is most people’s favorite country to travel to and the country where most travelers return to for a second and third visit. But we also felt good to go home again. We were tired. We needed a real, don’t-disturb-me, do-very-little, late-sleeping vacation. Even though we walked every evening a mile or so for weeks before our trip to get ourselves in shape, the real thing made us understand that we have to walk five to ten miles every day to be ready and fit before the next trip of this kind.

Monica takes a last look at Venice from the water bus that took us to the train station.

Rome: The Temple of Herculus Victor on Forum Boarium. One of the best preserved buldings from Republic era (509 BC when the monarchy was overthrow until 44 BC when Julius Caesar was appointed live long dictator.)

Castel Sant'Angelo, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Built in 135-139 AD, the ashes of many emporers were scattered or stored here. In the 14th century the popes converted it into a castle and built a fortified corridor that link the castle with St. Peter's as an escape route for popes.

Rome: Trajan's forum and obelix with the Virgin Mary on top of the obelix. It is not strange for Rome to see Christian symbols mixed with pagan buildings. It is simple, who ever rules at the time takes over buildings from the previous rulers and use it for their own purposes.

One of the front doors of Santa Maria Maggiore Church.

The rose window above the entrance of Santa Maria Maggiore Church.

The altar of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the largest and most important place of prayer dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The altar was done by Pietro Bracci, who also sculptured Neptune of the Trevi fountain.

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