Close up of the Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Rome: The Emperor's Old Clothes and the Pope's New Groove

Michele and I got an awesome deal on a flight and hotel to Rome for February 2010. Tim and Rebecca wanted to come visit us in Boston in February, but it took about 4 seconds for him decide that they should be visiting us in Rome instead. Add in the fact that it was Valentine's Day and you've got the recipe for quite a trip. (Don't listen to the rumor that I only chose this weekend because Monday was President's Day and thus a free day off of work.)

It sounded easy that we would just all meet up in Rome. Our hotels were only a block apart and we were scheduled to arrive within hours of each other. Of course, Mother Nature had a few other plans. A giant snow storm hit the entire East Coast (except Boston where it only rained), so flights were canceled all along the coast (especially in Boston, where they were canceled for no good reason). End effect: Michele and I were delayed for a full day. Tim and Rebecca managed to get out of the US on a flight to Germany, where they ran into what else but a large snowstorm. They waited in Frankfurt for a solid 12 hours before finally getting to Rome well after midnight. But the adventures were just beginning.

Day 1 - Friday 2/12/2010

Note to self: Don't get "up sold" to a shared minibus from the airport. Our "faster than the train by 30 minutes" ride lasted more than 3 hours and only got us as far as the second to last stop on the metro line. Mostly to blame was the two inches of snow that fell on the city (Mediterranean climate, my ass). We rode around in the minibus for 2 1/2 hours in an awful state that was a mixture of being lost and being stuck in traffic while lost. When we finally got to our hotel (2 1/2 hours late, not including the 24 hours lost by our initial flight cancellation), we found that we'd missed Tim and Rebecca by a mere 10-20 minutes. Thank you, minibus sales lady.

Snow on the streets of Rome

Snow covering the streets of Rome. WTF?

We struck out on our own and saw:

Roman street scene

Roman streets outside of Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore: "Maggiore" means "major" in English. There are enough St. Mary's in Rome that they all need qualifiers to keep them straight.

This St. Mary's is one of the oldest well-preserved churches in Rome. It was originally built in 432 AD. (You know there's a lot of history when you have to qualify between AD and BC.) Actually, the inside of the church isn't technically in Rome; it's an exclave of the Vatican City. The Vatican controls several important churches across Rome.

In addition to some very old mosaics and paintings, Santa Maria Maggiore holds two things of note:

Manger reliquary inside Santa Maria Maggiore

Pieces of the manger of Christ inside Santa Maria Maggiore

Tomb of Bernini inside Santa Maria Maggiore

The tomb of Gian Bernini inside Maggiore

San Giovanni in Laterano

The facade of San Giovanni in Laterano

Leaving Santa Maria Maggiore, we walked straight down Via Merulana (no awful messes along the way) to the church of San Giovanni in Laterano. This Vatican possession opened its doors in 318 AD as the first legal Christian church in Rome. Highlights include:


San Giovanni is the cathedral of Rome, i.e. the church that the Bishop of Rome presides over. Of course, the Bishop of Rome is the Pope.

Statue of an apostle in San Giovanni in Laterano

Statue of an apostle in San Giovanni in Laterano. They had collected all twelve!

Original Roman Senate doors hanging at San Giovanni in Laterano

The original doors of the Roman Senate

Just outside of San Giovanni is the building that was the Papal residence while they were getting the Vatican decorated just right. Inside is another grandiose relic taken from Jerusalem and brought to Rome: la Scala Santa (the Holy Stairs). In 326, Constantine's mother took the stairs form Pontius Pilate's house; the same stairs that Jesus walked up to be condemned on the day he died. Originally, the chapel for Papal audiences was located at the top of the stairs. Today, pilgrims still keep coming to climb the steps on their knees.

The Holy Steps, la Scala Santa

Pilgrims climbing the Holy Steps, la Scala Santa

Statue of Christ in la Scala Santa

Gospel of Vanilla Ice, Chapter 2, Verse 3: And Christ turned the the crowd and said "Word to your mothers"

We took the scenic route back to our hotel, doing a little walking tour past the Colosseum and Forum (more on those later). We met Tim and Rebecca for dinner right by our hotels. We ate at a restaurant called Ristorante Del Secchio. The food was not terribly expensive, but also not terribly good. Everything was pretty mediocre. The house red wine was a plus (especially at €8 for a liter).

Back to the hotel for a well-deserved sleep (after an all-nighter+ for Michele and I). But we couldn't sleep too late because we had reserved tickets for the Vatican the next morning.

Original Roman wall near San Giovanni in Laterano

Part of the original wall of Rome near San Giovanni in Laterano

The Colosseum

Il Colosseo

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