On the balcony at the hotel
The ride from Fiumicino to Termini took about 30 minutes and it was a great time to catch up and talk. Finding the Hotel • “Hotel Giada” from the train station was also simple • it’s only about three blocks from the train station. A convenient location from which to center our Roman wanderings!
The hotel... well, let’s just say that it is much better than I had expected. (I read some pretty awful reviews after booking the room and paying...) In Rome I think you can’t expect much in general (unless money is no object).
The room is enormous and clean. The walls are painted an interesting shade of purple! which clashes with the bright red trim on the furniture! But... it’s clean, the location is good, the bathroom is fine... (kind of have to climb over a bidet to get into the shower, but that's ok!)
Santa Maria Maggiore
After checking in and leaving our things in the room we headed down Via Cavour towards the Forums and Coliseum. Along the way we walked by Piazza dell'Esquilino and stopped at our first attraction: Santa Maria Maggiore • an incredible, huge, 5th century church. The dimensions of this 5th century building are really amazing as is the ornately decorated ceiling.
Info about The Basilica of Saint Mary Major: Italian: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is an ancient Roman Catholic basilica in Rome.
It is one of the four major or “papal” basilicas, which, together with St. Lawrence outside the Walls, were formerly referred to as the five "patriarchal basilicas" of Rome, associated with the five ancient patriarchal sees of Christendom (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem). The other three papal or major basilicas are St. John Lateran (The Cathedral of Rome), St. Peter and St. Paul outside the Walls. The Liberian Basilica (another title for the church) is one of the tituli, presided over by a patron•in this case Pope Liberius•that housed the major congregations of early Christians in Rome. Santa Maria Maggiore is the only Roman basilica that retained the core of its original structure, left intact despite several additional construction projects and damage from the earthquake of 1348.
Trivia: one of the relics in this church is a piece of Christ’s cradle and St.
Ignatius of Loyola said his first mass as a priest at the altar here.
St. Peter's chains
We spent quite a while wandering up and down the church looking at the artwork inside and taking in the impressive building itself. It is quite an amazing place. It has a 14th century bell tower which is the tallest in Rome.
After Santa Maria Maggiore we had our first GELATTO!!! Delicious!!! I had banana and cream, Carla had forest fruits and chocolate, Alex had mandarin orange and melon and Danny had chocolate and cream. That definitely hit the spot! I wish I would have written down the name of the place - they deserve a good review!
After our gelato we walked up a long flight of stairs to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli.
Aside from the interior of the ancient church itself, which is well worth a visit, highlights here are St. Peter’s Chains and a fantastic statue of Moses by Michelangelo. The church was first built in 432-440 to house the relic of the chains that bound Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. According to legend, when the Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III) gave the chains to Pope Leo I, and while he compared them to the chains of St. Peter's final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together. We saw the chains which are kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the basilica and took plenty of pictures of the church, the statue of Moses and the chains! Michelangelo’s Moses was completed 1515. It was originally intended as part of a massive 47-statue, free-standing funeral monument for Pope Julius II. We noticed that Moses is depicted with horns which surprised me (especially after so many years in Spain! ;) I later read that this signifies "the radiance of the Lord" and is due to the similarity in the Hebrew words for "beams of light" and "horns". I go on to read that this kind of iconographic symbolism was common in early sacred art, and in this case was easier for the sculptor (as sculpting concrete horns is easier than sculpting rays of light) and would have been understood by all who saw it as referring to the radiance of Moses' face; they would not have actually thought that he had horns.
Or that his wife, girlfriend or significant other was "poniéndole los cuernos!"
View from the room - Hotel Giada.
The next step was a highlight for me... we walked from St. Peter in Chains toward the Coliseum and the highlight was the look on the kids’ faces as they saw the Coliseum. It’s an amazing sight and their faces expressed that amazement. We took a bunch of pictures from above and then walked down stairs in the Coliseum metro station to be able to walk around the ancient structure looking at it from all sides and checking out the Arch of Constantine as well. The arch was dedicated in 315, it is the latest of the existing triumphal arches in Rome. A lot of it’s components are actually pieces of previous Roman buildings or monuments. The practice of doing that was called “spolia”.
I read that the inscription on the arch means the following:
Santa Maria Maggiore
IMP · CAES · FL · CONSTANTINO · MAXIMO · P · F · AVGUSTO · S · P · Q · R · QVOD · INSTINCTV · DIVINITATIS · MENTIS · MAGNITVDINE · CVM · EXERCITV · SVO · TAM · DE · TYRANNO · QVAM · DE · OMNI · EIVS · FACTIONE · VNO · TEMPORE · IVSTIS · REM-PVBLICAM · VLTVS · EST · ARMIS · ARCVM · TRIVMPHIS · INSIGNEM · DICAVIT
To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus, the greatest, pious, and blessed Augustus: because he, inspired by the divine, and by the greatness of his mind, has delivered the state from the tyrant and all of his followers at the same time, with his army and just force of arms, the Senate and People of Rome have dedicated this arch, decorated with triumphs.
Inside Santa Maria Maggiore
One of the kids noticed that the letters “SPQR” appear all over the place in Rome. These mean: Senatus Populusque Romanus ("The Senate and the People of Rome" or "The Senate and Roman People”) SPQR is the motto of the city of Rome and appears in the city's coat of arms, as well as on many of the city's official buildings and manhole covers.
From there we walked up the Palatine Hill (most central of Rome’s 7 hills) looking at the ruins of the old Roman Villas and then to the Roman Forum. Everything is beautiful and amazing.
The late afternoon sunlight here makes it even more beautiful. We had a fantastic time looking around. I had the guide book out the entire time and was trying to explain the significance of what we were seeing.
Inside Santa Maria Maggiore
On the way back to the hotel we stopped for dinner at a sidewalk café close to Santa Maria Maggiore and were back at the hotel a little after 10. Tomorrow we need to get up early to try to get into the Vatican Museums. I was asleep before 11. The walls in the hotel are pretty thin, and the neighbors were noisy. Then my daughter's phone rang... but, we all managed to get a good night’s sleep!