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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rome - Day 3

The saga of the internet continues and it's still out. I have managed to track down a lab that isn't too far away so that will be first destination of the day.

We catch a taxi at the rank in front of the Colosseum and before you know it we have arrived. I go in and it all looks fine as they can do both the B&W and colour. Unfortunately they wouldn't be ready until Wednesday afternoon. Umm, not good since we'll be leaving Tuesday morning! I leave the store uncertain of what the next step will be.

We eventually decide to head back to the Porta Maggiore and figure out what to do there as there's nothing else here.

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This is the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker, built somewhere between 50-20BC. 80 years later it then became part of the wall during the reign of Emperor Claudius. What is notable about this tomb is that it was built by a freedman (a former slave) for himself and his wife.

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The inscription states "This is the Monument of Macus Vergilius Eurysaces, baker, contractor, public servant." A further nod to his profession of baking, each of those holes are the size of one unit of grain.

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Now onto the Porta Maggiore itself. This is part of the 3rd century walls around Rome.

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The white travertine gate was built around 50AD by Emperor Claudius and was originally known as the Porta Prenestina - if you look through the left arch you can see the Tomb of Eurysaces.

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In 271 the gate was made part of the Aurelian Wall by Emperor Aurelian with further modification under Emperor Honorius in 405.

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These days Porta Maggiore seems to be a hub for bus, tram and train lines - we decide to take advantage of this and get ourselves a daily ticket. After consulting our maps we hop on a tram to take us to our next port of call, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

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This is one church we failed to visit last time much to my mother's amazement, so I was adamant we would get to see it this time.

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The first church on this site dates from 350 while this current structure is a product of the 18th century.

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The Campanile is the tallest in Rome and was rebuilt in the 14th Century while the spire was added in the 16th Century

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It is hard to see but upstairs hiding in the loggia is the 13th century mosaic that graced the earlier façade.

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Attached to each side of the church are two palaces - the one on the right built in 1605 and the one of the left built in 1743.

After admiring the exterior, it's time to head inside

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The nave is marked by a series of Athenian Marble colums - between the windows and above the columns are a series of mosaics recounting tales from the Old Testament. The guilded ceiling is thought to have used gold that was a gift from Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.

A transept has been added - on the right we find the Blessed Sacrament or Sistine Chapel.

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The Blessed Sacrament Chapel or Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope Sixtus and work begin in 1585.

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The tabernacle is held up by four bronze angels and is only opened on Holy Thursday.

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The altar and its canopy was designed by Fuga who was also responsible for the current façade. This is a papal altar and can only be used by the Pope.

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This is the statue of Pope Pius IX made in 1880 and is placed underneath the altar and in front of the Confessio.

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It is said that St Matthias the Apostle is buried here - he is the 13th apostle. The confessio also contains five pieces of wood thought to be from the Holy Manger bought to Rome by Pope Theodore around 638. These relics are on display on the 25th of each month, we miss out by a day!

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To the left of the High Altar in the transept is the Borghese Chapel or Pauline Chapel.

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The altar contains an icon of the Virgin Mary, said to have been carried by Pope St Gregory the Great through the streets of Rome in 593 during a time of plague. It was also carried through the city in 1837 during a cholera outbreak.

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Members of the Borghese family are also buried under this chapel.

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There are many other smaller chapels, like this one facing into the nave.


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One final look and it's time to head out

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The Porta Santa (Holy Door) is only opened during Holy Years (the next one is in 2025)

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Located in front of the Basilica in the Piazza is La Colonna Della Pace (The Column of Peace) built in 1615. It is topped by a bronze statue of the Virgin and Child.


As the morning is fast disappearing we indulge ourselves somewhat and sit down for coffee and cake right in front of the Basilica at a place called Antico Caffè Santamaria.

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Yes, we could have stood at the bar but sometimes you just want to take a little time out to savour things. Paalo had the rum baba and I had the other cherry liqueur soaked delight. The coffee was excellent, so good in fact we had two each!

The next church we visit is quite a gem, the Basilica di Santa Prassede. We were told about it as we were standing about looking at the exterior of Maria Maggiore. As I was taking photos a women had come up to us and to our surprise wasn't a beggar. She told us that just around the corner was another church and this one contained a relic that was the Pole in which Jesus was flogged before being crucified.

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One of the many things we just admired about this church are the floors

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I don't recall seeing a floor as intricate as this.

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It is a 20th century floor and was made my Antonio Munoz in what is called a Cosmatesque style.

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The church was built around 780 to house the bones of Saints Prassede and Pudenziana. These women were Christian converts of St Paul's and were murdered for providing Christian burials for martyrs.

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This is the entrance to the San Zeno Chapel - it was built by Pope Paschal I as a burial place for his mother and the enshrinment of relics of St Zeno and St Valentine. It is a wonder of Byzantine style mosiacs

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from its beautiful ceiling

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to its walls.

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In this mosiac, the four figures from left to right are Theodora (the Pope's mother), St Prassede, St Pudenziana and the Virgin Mary. You might be able to make out that the halo on Theodora is drawn as a square, this means that she was still alive when this mosaic was made.

It is also through this chapel that we can access to the relic

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There are various stories on the history of this portion of the pillar, one claims that it was collected in the early 4th century by Saint Helena, mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine another that it was brought back in the 13th century by Giovanni Gardinal Colonna the Younger.

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This mosaic is from the 13th Century and depicts the Virgin Mary and Child flanked my St Prassede and St Pudenziana.

Back in the main church it was time to look more closely at the main altar.

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The painting behind the high altar is my Domenico Muratori and is "St Prassede gathering the blood of Martyrs" (1735)

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Underneath the main altar is a Confessio which houses the relics of St Prassede and St Pudenziana - on the furthest wall you can find this well worn fresco

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Unfortunately we would have liked to stay longer but the bells were ringing and the church was closing for the afternoon. Time to head off.

As it had just turned 12, too early for lunch, we thought we might hop on the train for a quick trip to visit the Pyramid and then the Circus Maximus.

On the way to the station we passed another photo lab, they could do my film but once again it wouldn't be ready until Wednesday. My options are certainly narrowing.

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There's nothing historic or Roman about this but I'm curious, what exactly is an Irish breakfast? Does it include Guinesss instead of tea?

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It's only 3 stations but by the time we reach the Pyramid of Cestius the sky is looking ominous. I thought it looked a lot bigger than I had imagined, Paalo thinks it looks smaller! If you want to know its exact measurement it is 125 Roman feet tall (36 meters) and 100 roman feet (30 meters) at the base.

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The Pyramid was built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius Epulo around 18BC. Like many other tombs, the burial chamber was plundered in the distant past, well before it was rediscovered in the 17th century.

Like the Tomb of Eurysaces, the Pyramid was also made part of the Aurelian Walls in the 3th century.

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You can get a bit of an idea of how much higher Rome is now when you see the depth of the excavations needed to uncover the base of the Pyramid. It's hard to imagine when you walk through places like the Forum that much of it was buried with the passing of time. The building to the left is the Porta San Paolo.

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There are a few inscriptions on the Pyramid, the last of which is near the uncovered base. It reads Instavratvm an Domini MDCLXIII, commemorating the restoration work carried out by Pope Alexander VII in 1663.

With the sky looking grayer we headed back to the station, the train arriving soon after to take us to Cirus Maximus.

I have no photos of Circus Maximus because there really isn't anything to take photos of - it just looks like an oval lawn that is a bit run down.

As the rain started to spit we took that as a sign to head back home but by the time we emerged from the station, the rain was starting to tumble down harder. We decided to wait it out under the eaves of the Colosseum.

As we waited it out I decided to amuse myself and take photos of the tourist buses - days like today you don't want to be on the upper deck

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There are some brave souls huddling under little sheets of plastic on the top level!

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These people are even holding the plastic up maybe they should just head back downstairs.

As we waiting we lost count of the umbrella sellers that approached us. More interesting was the game of cat and mouse between these unlicensed vendors and the municipal police that were circling the Colosseum. During one of the last turns we seemed to notice a sad looking umbrella seller in the back seat of the van.

With the rain almost stopped we dashed out and headed back to apartment to dry off a little before heading out again for lunch. We decided something quick was in order and tried out a nearby place called La Pace del Cervello.

Our meal of choice, pizza!

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Paalo had the house special which was sausage, porcini and egg.

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I had the onion and borlotti beans. These were wood fired and had to have one of the thinnest bases we've ever seen. These are pizza Ladro (or any "authentic" pizza place back home) wishes it makes.

Once we overheard that they had Torta di Nonna we just had to order it

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The rest of the afternoon is a wash out due to rain but we do venture out for dinner, returning to sample the delights of Osteria Il Bocconcino

For starters

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Paalo once again has the Crostini Bocconcino

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and I have the Antipasto Bocconcino which is full of regional specialities. There's a portion of spinach pie, frittata, mozzarella and two local salami, the one on the far right is extremely soft almost pâté like while the other is much denser and richer in flavour.

For mains

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Paalo has the Spezzatino, a rich beef stew with a gorgeous sauce that cries out for bread

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and I have a dish that was called Rabbit porchetta - it's a rolled loin of rabbit filled with a spiced sausage stuffing. Once again the chef does amazing things with rabbit and best of all, we're experiencing real local food.

To drink, we enjoy a bottle of Casale del Giglio 2005 Petit Verdot from Lazio.

For desert, Paalo can't go past the Zabaglione but I decide to try the Crema Pasticcera with lemon

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A silky smooth custard alive with lemon zest, it is a great way to end the meal.


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