Today Giorgio suggested we take the 360 bus
beyond Termini to Piazza San Giovanni to see the "Church
of San Giovanni", "Archbasilica of St. John
Lateran", "Cathedral of the Pope, "Mother-church
of Rome and of the World" and across the way on the
eastern side of the Piazza, in front of the Lateran
Palace in a separate building, the Holy Staircase. When
we arrived, the area was filled with groups of pilgrims
The property and land once belonged
to the Laterani family, which Constantine the Great gave
to the Supreme Pontiff, Silvester I, who consecrated the
first Christian Basilica here in the year 324, dedicating
it to the Savior. In the 9th century Pope Sergius III
dedicated it also to John the Baptist. Finally in the 12th
century Pope Lucius II added the name of St. John the
Evangelist to that of the Baptist.
Over time the first Basilica was
devastated by invading barbarians and suffered damage
from fires and earthquakes. It was always rebuilt,
repaired, enlarged and adorned. Today it is a glorious
sight to behold and why not; the exterior was designed by
Alessandro Galilei and the interior by Francesco
The main façade is a masterpiece.
The colossal travertine statues which surmount the
façade are 7 meters high. The frieze between the higher
and lower porticos declares the will of the Pope and of
the Emperor that this temple shall be considered the
first, and the Mother of all churches. Six sets of
spectacular columns separate the five doors of the
principal portico which in turn correspond to the five
naves of the Archbasilica.
Borromini transformed the ancient
Constantinian Basilica with three naves into a vast
baroque beauty with five. The central nave is adorned
with gorgeous side chapels, enriched with pilasters,
niches, marble statues and paintings. High above is a
masterful gilded, wood-paneled ceiling. The 4.6 meter
stupendous statues of the Apostles along the central nave
were done between 1700 and 1719 by various sculptors.
Above each niche of the Apostles are 12 stucco bas-reliefs
representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The
four naves are equally stunning, decorated with exquisite
art and religious symbolism.
The central altar is called the
Papal Altar because formerly only the Pope could
celebrate Mass there. The white marble altar is
ornamented with mosaic columns. The elegant Gothic
Tabernacle rises above. The tomb of Pope Martin V is in
The side door to the Archbasilica
at the north end of the Transept leads to a double
portico with marvelous frescoes and a bronze statue of
Henry IV, a benefactor of the church. Above the Loggia
delle Benedizioni, the gallery from which the Pope gave
his blessing to the people, are the two ancient bell
Since the mid-15th century the Holy
Staircase has commonly been identified with the marble
steps that Christ climbed and descended twice on his way
to trial. The Scala Pilati is therefore stained with
Christ's blood and the staircase is said to have been
brought to Rome from Jerusalem by Constantine's mother
and donated to Pope St. Sylvester I who placed it in
front of the old Cathedral. Devout pilgrims ascend the 28
marble steps on their knees. The steps are protected by
We passed through the ancient Porta
S. Giovanni into Piazzale Appio looking for a lunch spot.
There is a police booth in the roadway so we asked the
officers if they knew of a good tavola calda. The one who
spoke some English directed us to Papero Giallo, at Via
Taranto 66 at the corner of Via Aosta 60/C, Tel 06.70.20.546
which they all agreed was the best. Correct! By the way -
we have found that the police in Rome are a new breed -
friendly, smiling and helpful and some even speak English.
A long glass showcase-counter is
filled with all kinds of foods, prepared fresh daily.
Portions are substantial and prices incredibly low for
the quality. Linda had many-layered meat lasagna and I
chose baked fish (merluzo) and artichoke, and we shared
delicious frappes for dessert (fried dough), one dusted
with powdered sugar, the other dipped in dark chocolate.
It was a luscious lunch which we enjoyed so much we
returned another day because Linda needed a lasagna fix
and I wanted to try it. Superb!
San Giovanni is a wonderful fun
area with a huge daily market (Via Sannio) which starts
outdoors and extends into a large covered area. Next door
is a Coin department store and the adjoining street, Via
Appia is lined with quality shops. "SALDI"
signs were everywhere so the jacket try-on count zoomed
Jackets were hanging everywhere in
the market. All you need here is your bargaining power
and if youre a hard bargainer, every day is
sale day, which did not even come into play: 804 and
Shopping these markets is always
fun and can be rewarding. There are knock-offs of current
fashion trends that can be purchased at excellent prices
(after aggressive "negotiation" of course).
Just observing the characters that sell and buy and the
interaction is worth your time.
Bus 360 brought us back home with
time to relax a bit before dinner downstairs. The hotel
was full so the dining rooms were busy. In addition to
the extensive regular menu, the kitchen has been
introducing daily special menus, which has resulted in
more and more guests choosing to have lunch and/or dinner
We opted for tonights
specials after starting with awesome penne with four
cheeses. Linda had roasted pork with mushrooms and a side
of delicious spinach. I had a sensational baccalà
preparation. The tender filets were baked with bread
crumbs, cherry tomatoes, herbs, olives and olive oil. I
After breakfast our host offered
his church of the day, the Basilica di San Paolo, one of
the five great ancient Basilica's of Rome which was
founded by the Emperor Constantine of the former Roman
Empire. It was erected over the burial place of Saint
Paul the Apostle of Jesus. It was easily reached in 35
minutes by taking the 360 bus to Termini and switching to
the metro B (blue) line to the Basilica San Paolo stop,
from which it is a 2-minute walk.
The ancient basilica was destroyed
by fire in 1823 but rebuilding and restoration was made
possible by worldwide support. The church is huge,
second in size only to St. Peters. We were enthralled by
the forest of tall alabaster pillars that are said to
have been contributed by Egypt. Pauls tomb is in
the center in front of the canopied altar with exquisite,
large statues of St. Peter and St. Paul on either side.
Near the front altar is the incredible "Paschal
Candlestick". Since the 11th century it has had a
fundamental role in the Liturgy of Holy Saturday in the
area of Roma. This gorgeous marble sculpture is 5.6
meters high and divided into eight sections each of which,
through images, depicts some basic themes of the faith
and life of believers.
A portrait of every Pope is in a
frieze extending above the columns separating the four
aisles and naves. Colorful windows high above the side
naves have an unusual attractive kaleidoscope design. Two
series of mosaics on the interior walls of the nave
depict scenes from the life of St. Paul.
The stunning cloister of the
Monastery of San Paolo fuori le mura was erected between
1220 and 1241. Manicured grass and shrubs are surrounded
by graceful twisting columns. The sacristy contains a
fine statue of Pope Boniface IX.
We remembered that the Prati area
near the Vatican had some excellent shopping streets that
might help solve "operation jacket". We took
"B" metro back to Termini, switched to the
"A" line and proceeded to the Ottaviano station.
Our first stop was at the tiny Pizza Rustica at Candia
Viale Giulio Cesare, R7 where we got in line to have some
of the best pizza al taglio preparations in the city.
Margherita and mozzarella with ham made us happy and
content and ready for a showdown with "SALDI".
Up and down Via Ottaviano, Viale Giulio Cesare and the
side streets, the count soaring well over 1000 (or so it
seemed). At the end of the shops on Cesare, I told Linda
that was it, I give up, just as she spotted one more shop
at the end of the block. BINGO, the perfect jacket,
negotiations were successfully concluded and we were two
worn-out but very happy shoppers.
We took the #19 tram at Ottaviano
to Piazza Ungheria and from there the 360 bus to the
hotel. The public transportation system of buses, trams,
metro, trains makes it very easy to get around the entire
This evening we had wonderful
traditional preparations of fettuccini bolognese and
penne arrabbiata at the Delle Muse, capping off another
day of appreciating the culture and life of Roma.
This week-end our long time friends,
Fabio and Cornelia would be arriving from their home in
Switzerland to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our
friendship. We knew they wanted to do some shopping and
would be bringing hearty appetites. We had a dinner date
for Friday evening, so we spent the day walking around
Parioli and the Borghese Gardens preparing our bodies for
the heavy wine glass and cutlery lifting ahead.
In the evening, we met at the
delightful Trimani il Wine Bar at Via Goito 20, for an aperitif before
proceeding around the corner to Ristorante da Vincenzo, Via Castelfidardo, 4-6 for a seafood
dinner. The whole family was on hand, including Dad whom
we had not met previously. Our seafood-loving friends
were delighted the minute they saw the antipasti display.
It was even better
than last time because we were sharing the experience
with dear friends - calamari, shrimp, mussels, clams,
anchovies, sardines, prepared in various ways - fried
veggies, buffalo mozzarella, and the beat goes on. This
time we had two variations of fresh-from-the-sea rombo as
our second course - baked with potato and baked with
spicy tomato sauce. We shared a variety of desserts;
panna cotta with frutti di bosco, St.honore, and Mont-blanc
plus Grappa and Averna as digestives. The good-natured
happy folks at da Vincenzo helped make our first night of
celebration a grand success.
It usually rains when we meet, but
this week-end we were lucky! We met at Termini around
noon and started our day shopping along via Nazionale
where Fabio and Cornelia satisfied most of their needs.
They were anxious to see the restored Pantheon and were
properly impressed. As we do, they love to wander and
soak up life on the streets of this intriguing city.
Slowly, slowly, up Via del Corso, we navigated through
the picturesque boutique shopping streets running east,
past the Spanish Steps and continued to Piazza del Popolo.
We crossed Ponte Regina Margherita into Piazza d. Liberta
and turned left on Via Feder Cesi to Piazza Cavour to
savor the imposing Palace of Justice.
The massive building fronts both
the Piazza and the river. We have admired the building
from across the river for years but this was the first
time we saw it up close. It's a powerful piece of
architecture that commands attention. I was particularly
awed by the enormous size of the stones but can see how
the size of the building demanded this design element as
well as the exaggerated decorations that grace the
It was now dark and the Castel St.
Angelo and St. Peters were aglow in their flood lights.
We crossed the Ponte Umberto I to allow Linda to get
great shots back across the river. We crossed the river
again on the beautiful Ponte S. Angelo.
We proceeded along Via d.
Conciliazone to Piazza S. Pietro for some close-ups of
the Vatican and then proceeded north on Via Angelica, Via
Ottaviano and after crossing Giulio Cesare turned left to
Via Otranto on the right for dinner at Perilli in Prati at number 9-11.
As always Massimo was at the door
greeting his customers with a big smile and handshake. We
had been here last year with Cornelia (Fabio had been ill)
and to our delight she requested that we return with
Fabio this time.
Massimo had decided to change the
environment from its original contemporary design to a
more traditional ambiance. In addition, he has added a
larger seafood and fish selection to the menu. The only
problem is that it makes the decision-making that much
more difficult. Our very first visit we sampled the long
list of traditional appetizers and pasta. The next time
we chose from the ancient Roman recipes. We had not yet
tried the grilled meats and now choices from the sea.
Tonight Linda and
I decided on traditional and old Roman. Fettuccini al
sugo di cinghiale and carciofi alla romana to start,
followed by costata di vitello (grilled veal) for Linda
and abbacchio alla cacciatore (lamb stew) for me. Between
courses Massimo brought us a small tasting of spaghetti
with calamari dressed with olive oil, basil and olives.
It was well worth walking for 8 hours to arrive hungry
for this exquisite meal! Our friends started with raw
tuna and carpaccio of octopus as appetizers, which they
loved. Somehow I failed to record their secondi and my
memory is blank but be assured, they were pleased. The
Collio Chardonnay and house red were excellent as was the
hot thin focaccia laced with olive oil and herbs.
Fabio had asked us to find a cozy
typical Roman trattoria for lunch on Sunday. His long
time friend would be joining us with his girl friend. We
decided that Settimio Pellegrino, Via del Pellegrino
would fill the bill perfectly. Mom was in the cucina, Dad
was patrolling the front, the staff was bustling about
and soon number two son (the doctor and comedian) would
show up to help out. One is not rushed here; its an
ideal spot for a leisurely lunch with friends. The place
was fully booked with locals, obviously regulars. We were
happy we had reserved.
Freshly made fettuccini with tomato
sauce and grated cheese was the only pasta today - better
than weve ever had. Everybody had the grilled meat
balls, except me. I had divine roast baby lamb. Garlicky
roast potatoes for all put us on an even footing. The one
dessert was a treasure, Mont blanc, whipped cream,
vermicelli (noodles of chestnut puree), pieces of
chestnut and meringue.
After lunch and fond good-byes, we
went our own way and our friends headed to the airport.
We took the #62 bus from Corso Vittorio Emanuele to
Piazza Barberini, where we disembarked and walked up Via
Veneto, through the Borghese Gardens and headed home. Via
Veneto had the usual gawking sightseers while the garden
was crowded with walkers, strollers, runners and four
wheel rental bikes (talk about dangerous drivers).
Just before reaching Piazza
Ungheria, I spotted a smashing jacket in a store window
which I called to Linda's attention. It said SALDI and
even though one had already been procured, the price was
so attractive it begged attention. It looked smashing
when she tried it on and even though the price was very
good perhaps it could be better. The father of the owner
was on duty and between not knowing English and not
having the authority to discuss price, he called his son
and Linda conducted the negotiations over the phone -
what a blast! Linda now has two new jackets, which is
okay because along the way yours truly managed to find a
splendid pair of SALDI shoes.
By the way I don't think I've
mentioned that the national headquarters of Italy's
national police force, the Carabinieri, is located just
down the street from Hotel Delle Muse. I really love their uniforms, especially
the grand capes. There is always an official car parked
across from the buildings with two armed guards that we
pass when walking or on the bus; I greet them with
bongiorno or I wave from the bus, to make Linda laugh. I
am hoping that one of these days they invite me to be an
honorary member of the force and reward me with a uniform
- with a cape! :-) OK Ill settle for a personal
tour of their headquarters and an official
The only negative is that the
sidewalk across from their headquarters is used as a
toilet for all the dogs in this "exclusive"
neighborhood. The positive is that we can practice our
agility while negotiating this obstacle course. :(
While our appetites were a bit
diminished from the large, long lunch we were able to do
justice to the Delle Muse "Big Salad", lots of
greens, radicchio, arugula, tuna, mozzarella, olives, and
tomato served in a large glass bowl.
Twenty-seven kilometers from Roma
are the ruins of Ostia Antica, the ancient port city of
Rome. The town was established at the mouth of Tiber (thus
the name Ostia, from ostium - river mouth) as an
important port for Rome's trading (particularly grain)
and as a military garrison. Over time there was a decline
in the trade and commerce of the port and the town was
eventually abandoned. The slow death and burial (helped
by tidal waves of mud) resulted in well-preserved
building stratifications. Excavations started in the
early 1900's and today approximately 60% has been
We have been coming to Rome for about 25
years and sad to say that it had taken us this long to
visit the one place to truly understand and appreciate
ancient Roman town planning for a real life working city,
unlike Pompeii, which was a resort. The remains are
substantial and well-preserved and the descriptive
signing along the way is very informative. It didn't take
us long to feel that we were a long way back in time.
The main axis of the ancient city
is Decumanus Maximus which runs from Porta Romana (facing
Roma) to Porta Marina (facing the water). This main
street, paved with huge smooth stones, leads the way into
the extensive ruins of the urban structure.
Since trading was the major
economic driver it had a distinct influence on the city
planning. There was an abundance of warehouses and
storerooms. The "Tempio dei Fusi Navales" was a
building for the shipwrights guild and the "Schola
Del Triano", the shipwrights' school. Numerous other
buildings were dedicated to other guilds. The imposing
"Square of the Guilds" or the "Corporation's
Forum", about 107 meters long and 78 meters wide,
housed the offices of ship owners, guilds and traders
where day-to-day business was conducted. Floor mosaics,
depicting the area occupied by each of the various
The population was made up of
people from around the world of different cultures and
customs. There were nine religious buildings for the
oriental faith and just outside Porta Marina, there are
four columns of the first Jewish Synagogue and the area
of the ancient Jewish community, which was founded during
the reign of Claudius (41-54 CE). The ancient Forum was
dominated by the large basilica, Tempio Rotundo, with a
huge front porch, a Temple to Jupiter and a Temple to
This diverse group knew how to live;
it was not all work and no play. Adjacent to the "Square
of the Guilds" are the spectacular remains of a
Roman Theatre. Tall handsome brick archways lead to tiers
of seats, the orchestra pit and stage. Performances are
held here in the summertime to audiences of about 2700.
For relaxation there was the Terme
del Foro, the main bathing and central heating area with
hot and cold pools and a sauna. Women would go in the
morning and men in the afternoon. Physical fitness was
looked after in the large gymnasium.
After everyone was completely
relaxed they would adjourn to the pub for grilled foods
and wine. It was amazing to see this beautifully-preserved
spot with the original marble bar, grill, and marble
shelves with frescoes above illustrating the products
available. There is a backyard patio with a wine cellar
beneath it. Another building had well-preserved mosaic
floors with boxing and archery motifs. It is thought this
was a place for the boys to have a few drinks and talk
sports and politics.
The rich merchants had lovely
villas with attractive courtyards, pools and saunas. One
even had a private toilet room. That was the only private
one we saw, but we also saw public toilets, which could
seat 24, knee to knee, reminding me of my days in the
military. The public toilets provided jobs for many
people as well as efficient waste disposal; the collected
goodies were recycled as fertilizer.
Let's get back to housing. There are blocks
of beautifully-built apartment buildings, 4 and 5 stories
high, usually built around courtyards; most had balconies,
in three different types.
Each housing zone had five services
provided; terme, fountains, baths, laundry and police.
Caserma dei Vigili, the police compound, included the
five basic services plus the police station, toilets and
a place of worship.
There is evidence that the
population did not suffer from thirst or hunger. There
were many fountains throughout the city all linked to the
aqueduct which insured an excellent water supply. Black
and white fish and maritime mosaics and stone cutting
tables indicate the location of the fish market. Since
grain was the major import at the port, there was a
miller and baker side-by-side. "Molino del Silvano"
was the only milling business and "Panificio di via
dei Muline" was the only baker who supplied the town
and sold to Rome as well.
Ostia Antica is unique and stimulating, not
far from central Roma and accessible by public
transportation. We urge you to put it on your must-see
After the stirring day we decided
to have a relaxing dinner at Perilli in Prati, Via Otranto 9-11. The appetizing display
of fresh meats begging to be grilled looked awfully good.
We left it to Massimo to choose our menu and sat back and
relaxed, enjoying the wonderful thin focaccia laced with
olive oil and the house white wine. We have never had
pizza here (the real food is too good) but
were enthralled by the beauties being delivered to the
nearby tables; another reason to return.
The tartare di tonno tiepida con
emulsione de limone with capers (an eye catching
arrangement) of raw tuna, chopped vegetables flavored
with lemon and capers) was chosen for me and spaghetti
alle vongole veraci (clams in the shell) for Linda. When
it's this good we do our "eat slowly, it will last
Between courses we shared travel
talk with a British couple sitting next to us. Actually,
we have met many folks visiting from Great Britain - the
pound goes a long way against the euro.
Linda enjoyed tagliata argentina
with balsamic, arugula and artichoke while I savored a
veal steak with roast potatoes and chicory. After gelato
and a chestnut, caramel and warm chocolate parfait it was
good night Massimo - until next year.
Italy has something for everyone,
every season. We will savor our memories of Winter in
Italy 2006 - until next time.
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