Italy - Day Six (hey look, sun!)

Glory of glories, the rain has stopped! The sun is out and we are on day six! Even better than the glorious weather, my dear husband, feeling a rush of romanticism kindly compared me to his pineapple pastry at breakfast – saying something about being sweet and how the yellow pineapple filing reminded him of my hair (sticky? Chunky?). Now, if we go by intentions alone, he gets full credit. But if we throw in a dash of common sense, he only gets half credit (since he didn’t apply any).

We started off the day at the Basilica of St. Mary’s of the Angels and Martyrs, which was located right across from Termini Station. Externally it looked like a pile of Roman ruins, but inside it was enormous and cavernous and, as always, impressive. It was originally designed by Michaelangelo in 1593, however only the vaulted ceiling remains from his initial plans.

Next, we walked to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. This amazing structure was built in the 5th century with the tallest belfry in all of Rome (reaching 246 feet). It still has a stunning border of glittering mosaics dating from the 5th century, however my photos just couldn’t capture them well (too high). This was a really spectacular church, and in addition to the amazing architecture and artwork, it was also the church where Ron’s cousin, Mark, was ordained as a priest in 2005.

Afterwards, we wandered around a bit and found ourselves in Rome’s Chinatown. I popped into one small store that seemed to sell hats and beads, and grabbed a simple winter hat, fearing what the weather would be like in Florence being farther North. We found a trattoria for lunch where the food was excellent and I had three ravioli each the size of a salad plate!

Ron had been reading in the guidebooks about catacombs in several churches across Rome. Apparently you can visit most of them, with a guide. However, with the pouring rain and flooding rivers, we weren’t sure how accessible they would be, but we decided to check out northern Rome and the Church of St. Agnes. We hopped on a bus and headed north through some lovely tree-lined streets. To set the mood for the quintessential Roman bus ride (or MGM musical), we even had an accordion player on the bus playing “That’s Amore.” It was perfect!!

We hopped off approximately where we thought it should be, wandered the street a bit and finally asked a very nice policeman who directed us to the building we had passed two blocks back. The Basilica of St. Agnes is a 4th century medieval church, complete with a complex including a mausoleum, Bocce courts, a small café, football (soccer) fields, and a bathroom that has a temperamental light (throwing one into darkness at highly inconvenient moments, instilling flashes of momentary panic).

We explored the Basilica of St. Agnes and tried to get a guide for the catacombs underneath, but we overheard a rather grumpy priest tell some other visitors that the guide wasn’t there today so no one was allowed in. Well, blah.

At the other end of the complex was the Church of St. Constanza, which was built by Constantine as a mausoleum for his two daughters. It was circular with a simple design and had stunning mosaics dating from the 4th century. This was our first experience with the pay-for-lighting machines. As we entered the mausoleum there was a small box on the left that looked a bit like a silver pay telephone, minus the actual phone.

They require exact change, so we opted to hit the café for a coffee and some coins first. We walked around the center football field and tennis courts, passed the covered Bocce court, and into the little café. I proceeded to have my misadventure with the bathroom while Ron got me a cocoa and himself an espresso. I returned to find him sitting at a folding table in a room with 20 Italian men playing cards. We apparently had found the Italian version of the Kiwanis Club. Ron drank his espresso, which he was loving where ever we went, and I found that other than my Giuliani’s Dixie-cup cocoa, the rest of them were getting progressively thicker. To the point where this latest cup basically required a spoon. Hot chocolate pudding. Interesting concept.

So, with exact change in hand, we returned to the mausoleum and paid for the electric light. It really was spectacular and the mosaics lit up nicely.

By this point it was dark, and raining. So we ran down a few blocks to a bus stop and grabbed a bus back to the hotel for a quick rest. We had an exceptional dinner tonight, probably the best we had in Rome. And afterwards we walked to Giuliani’s where we partook of pastry delights (I had my mostest favoritest canolli), espresso and some Limoncello until they closed down at midnight.