Week 7: Part 1: Day 42 & 43
23rd & 24th January, 2017
Day 42 of our “Winter Weg” trip saw us wave good-bye to our good friends in pleasant Pesaro and hitting the rails for the last time. We reflected that we had come all the way from Copenhagen (including our train being carried across the Baltic sea by rail) more than 2500km of train tracks, across five countries in Europe. We also realised that we were on our last week of travel. The happy / sad of our journey reaching its end lingers…
We change trains at Ancona, wound our way across the Apennine Mountains, though snowy meadows and past hill towns – destination Rome. We had been to the Italian capital on our honeymoon trip years ago – this would be a return to Rome with a family in tow.
“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.”
-Augustus, Roman emperor
First we sated our hunger on a big Italian lunch in the basement restaurant near the Termini railway station. We buy six 72hr transit pass’s before catching the Metro (admiring the funky street art) and bus to the home of our couchsurfing hosts Max and family in Municipio XIII.
The next day we revisited many of the famous Rome sites to show Pamela this stunning city. First stop Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to climb the 135 treads of the Spanish steps. This marvel was designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi following a competition in 1717 and built between 1723 – 1725 to link the Bourbon Spanish Embassy and the Trinità dei Monti church. At it’s foot sits “the fountain of the ugly boat” and on the right the house where English poet John Keats lived and died.
“Some say the world is a vale of tears, I say it is a place of soul-making.”
— John Keats
Next through the hipster laneways, a stop for a tasty bite, a quick visit to the 1699 Baroque style church, Santa Maria Maddalena with it’s unusual Rococo facade, to probably our favourite Rome icon …
The Pantheon or “[place] of every God”, formally a Roman temple.
The present building was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD. He retained Agrippa’s original inscription, which has confused its date of construction as the original Pantheon burnt down…
The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet (43 m).
It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs”…- Wiki
We enjoy a simple picnic lunch of thickly sliced bread filled with delicious sliced meats, cheese and salad. (The man we buy it from laughs to contemplate the construction of such a huge roll, unaware that it will be shared). We stop to ponder the exact spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by his senators.
We admire the wonder of the forum from the upper viewing platforms and onwards to the famous colosseum. Graham takes the boys inside to marvel at its history and structure. Pamela and I walk up the nearby hill seeking out a tiny non-tourist backstreet cafe, soaking in it’s busy atmosphere over a glorious coffee.
Reunited we had to visit a real temple to Mithras at the ancient Basilica de San Clemente, before stopping for gelati – pistachio of course – then homewards on the metro.
The Basilica of Saint Clement is a Roman Catholic minor basilica dedicated to Pope Clement I … Archaeologically speaking, the structure is a three-tiered complex of buildings: (1) the present basilica built just before the year 1100 during the height of the Middle Ages; (2) beneath the present basilica is a 4th-century basilica that had been converted out of the home of a Roman nobleman, part of which had in the 1st century briefly served as an early church, and the basement of which had in the 2nd century briefly served as a mithraeum; (3) the home of the Roman nobleman had been built on the foundations of republican era villa and warehouse that had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 64 AD. – Wiki
Even just flashing by on the bus you cannot help but see wonders in the Eternal City. We again saw the glaringly prominent Altare della Patria. Over the years the Romans have given it many humorous nicknames such as; la torta nuziale (“the wedding cake”), la dentiera (“the set of false teeth”), macchina da scrivere (“the typewriter”) and la zuppa inglese (“English soup” dessert). Plus who could not be awed by the Roman Triumphal Column of Trajan and another of Rome’s locals the Rose-ringed Parakeet.
Once back, Graham and Prunella diligently set out again in a sudden downpour to buy supplies for tonights duel family feast of chips and burgers. So lovely, after a long day of sightseeing, to cook in a local home surrounded by new friends. A warm end to our grand day out in Roma – ” il meglio”.