Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Roma (part 4)

New Year's Eve! In Rome!! This was a pretty busy day for us.

Day 4:
Got up fairly early (in time for breakfast at the hotel) and caught the subway to the bus that would take us to the outskirts of Rome towards the catacombs. We had discussed taking a particular bus that would drop us right at the Catacombs of St. Sebastian, but somehow we ended up on another bus that dropped us at one end of the Appian Way and we had to walk about 1/2 mile to the catacombs. This turned out to be great because it was a beautiful walk.
Standing at the bus stop, looking towards the direction we needed to walk
Ruins along the Appian Way

Ancient tollbooth on Appian Way

The Appian Way is a few thousand years old - in pretty good condition (the sidewalks are original!)

After a lovely stroll, we finally reached St. Sebastian. We walked in to discover that mass had just begun - in English! Not just English, but American! We had come upon a tour group having mass said and so we just snuck into the back pew and were able to attend mass there in St. Sebastian. After mass, we joined a tour of the catacombs. This was really interesting, but fast. I wish we had been allowed more time to see things down there. Very cool, though - not only is St. Sebastian here, but they also have pieces of the original arrows used to try to kill him.

Exterior of San Sebastiano

St. Sebastian

Close-up of St. Sebastian

After the catacombs, we walked around the area (beautiful countryside) before jumping on the bus to head back towards the city. Once back in the city, we hopped off the bus to visit St. John Lateran. A beautiful church, but very touristy.

St. John Lateran

After John Lateran, we walked a few blocks to visit Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. This was a quiet church, off the beaten path. The chapel is part of the Sessorian Palace, owned by St. Helen (Constantine's mother). This church houses relics of the true cross, a fragment of the Titulus Crucis, as well as a full size replica of the Shroud of Turin. An incredible church that doesn't seem to be visited as often as the relics it contains deserve.

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

All this, and our day wasn't nearly done. We headed back to the hotel to put our feet up for awhile, then headed off to the Borghese Gallery. No pictures allowed, so I didn't even take my camera. On the way to the Borghese, we stopped by the crypt of the Capuchin Monks - these are the monks that used bones as decoration. Interesting but creepy! The Borghese gallery was wonderful. I was most impressed by the Bernini marble statues. One of my favorites was Pluto and Proserpina. The incredible detail and the ability to somehow make marble look soft - it blew me away.

After this, our plan was to head over to the Piazza del Popolo for the big New Years celebration. Instead, we headed back to the hotel because it was starting to rain and we needed our umbrella. So, a few more subway rides, and we finally arrived at the Piazza to find that it was pouring rain and nothing was going on. We wandered around, discovered the Spanish Steps, and finally found a little restaurant that wasn't completely overcrowded for dinner. We had a wonderful meal in this little, family run restaurant. At midnight, there was much celebration and free champagne for everyone in the restaurant. After we left, we discovered that the rain had stopped and thousands and thousands of people had come out into the piazzas to celebrate. Vendors were selling small bottles of champagne, people were throwing firecrackers and empty champagne bottles into the middle of the piazzas. The police were present, even if only to watch the revelry. In the end, definitely a unique experience.

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