Posts Tagged ‘Rome 2008’

I still have a few more posts to go, and some more photos, but here are links to the major Rome posts so far:

The trip over .

More on the trip.

Mass in Brighton

Brighton Pictures

In praise of the apartment I rented

Day One Summary

Day Two

S. Carlo ai Catinari

And more Day Two

Day 3: The General Audience

Day 4: Thanksgiving Day Mass at the American parish, S. Susanna

Sights out to the east, including S. Constanza and S. Agnes Outside the Walls, also on Thursday

Crypto Balbi, the Baths of Diocletian, etc. Thursday

Sad Rome Food Notes

More food notes, including pictures of take-out pizza. Because why not.

In which I search for the Galleria Spada

Early morning at St. Peter’s

Obligatory Fountain Post

Mass with St. Philip Neri

The Foundling Wheel at Santo Spirito

Roman Night Life of a different sort


The Protestant Cemetery and the Pyramid of Cestius


The Right Kind of Catholic – Reflections on the Mess

Hillside Shots

The flight back

Flying over the Alps

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On the Tuesday of my trip, I got on the bus in the morning and headed east, toward the Center. Crossing the Tiber, the bus passed some ruins which turned out to be the Teatro Marcello (blogged briefly on here).

After I finished with Teatro Marcello, I turned toward the Jewish Ghetto and walked through there, thinking of many things, including Elsa Morante’s devastating novel History, in which the Ghetto figures.

I exited the Ghetto and came upon a church. I had no idea what church it was, but I went on in.

It turned out to be Chiesa di S. Carlo ai Catinari, and what I saw there gave me much to ponder.

There are, of course, a ridiculous number of churches in Rome.  One’s gaze can quickly grow fuzzy in the cloud of post-Reformation Annunciations, Depositions and St. Sebastians found through every door.

(And while I’m on the subject – why St. Sebastian? It seems that his image is in practically every Roman church with far more regularity than any other (Mary excepted, naturally). Can someone explain why?)

Some of them are dustier and more museum-like than others. The art may be gorgeous, but it is unclear whether anyone ever actually prays there.

S. Carlo was not like this.

One of the side chapels was in the process of renovation, hidden by huge red drapes. In front of the the drapes, a small group of men were attempting to wrap some sort of very large panel, guided in the process by a short, squat priest in a cassock.

While I was looking around, three different men came in from the street, not to study style or sculptural detail, or even to help with the panel, but to pray.  Two lit candles at statues of Christ or the Madonna, stopping to kneel for a few minutes. The third walked back to another side chapel and lit a candle here:

If someone would like to translate, feel free.

If someone would like to translate, feel free.

She is Servant of God Rose Giovannetti. The best place to read about her in English is here, at this link on Google Books. In short, she was the daughter of Leo XIII’s lawyer, and a musician. But more than a musician, she was an active young woman (like Frassatti, a contemporary, an athlete) who also consecrated herself to God and devoted much of time to helping the poor, including war fugitives and earthquake victims. She died in 1929 of a painful skin disease.

As I said, one of the three men I saw in those few minutes walked in the door, headed straight back to this corner, lit his candle, prayed for several minutes and left.

I was struck here, as well as in other places (the rosary at S. Andrea del Valle, for example), by the presence of males engaging in these devotional acts.  I have no way to judge the outward spiritual lives of Romans, as disparaged as it may be, but what I saw in my wanderings during that week, including here, indicated that at the very least, little old ladies in black shawls are not the only folks in Rome saying their prayers.

Opposite the tomb was this:

More signs of vitality. Literally.

This was no museum.

There were other signs – candles, real candles – lit and flickering. Flyers on the bulletin boards indicating services, devotions and catechetical sessions.  People coming in and out, pushing the heavy door open, stepping out of the bustle into the quiet, listening, asking, stepping into communion with God and his friends.

Then back out again, taking what they could, back outside.

You might remember when I blogged about going to Mass at S. Crisogono in Trastevere being surprised when the priest left the Sanctuary at Communion time and disappeared into a side chapel into which we were, after a couple of minutes, invited to follow. Where, ready to receive the Eucharist, I found myself unexpectedly about to receive it in front of a body. That was the remains of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, a mystic and woman of charity who died in 1837.

Keep your eyes open as you turn corners and open doors. You might just run into a saint. You never know.


From the comments, a priest of the Barnabite Fathers adds:

This church is staffed by the Barnabite Fathers. Thanks you so much for writing a beautiful review of the Church. The Madonna you mention (In the photo the picture is obscured) is Our Lady of Divine Providence. The sory of which can be found at the Barnabite website.

The church truly is a gem. Another interest highlight for this church is that it was used as part of the Vatican’s escape system for Jews during WWII. Jews could be shuttled out of the nearby Jewish quarter and hidden among the seminarians going up the Gianicolo Hill to the Barnabite Studentato and vice versa. Incidentally this building is two doors down from the house of the American ambassador to the Vatican.

Thank you, Father!

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Loosely speaking.

I think the most astonishing visual experience I had on this trip took place on the journey back, from Rome to Gatwick, when, at about 6:30 in the morning, we started flying over the Alps.

Now, some of you world travelers have done this many times, but allow this neophyte to marvel a bit.

I’ve flown over the Rockies, but this was different, partly because of the difference in landscape, and partly because of the time of day.

What is it you see from this vantage point?

Pure white undulating peaks pinched from the earth. As you approach, the shadows shift and what seemed like it might be flat reveals itself to be a massive ridge.

It is all searing white and shadows.

Most fascinating, though, are the lights. The lights of settlements, of hamlets, of small towns. In the early morning half-light, they glimmer soft yellow, clustered on the side of a mountain, streaming through a valley.

The lights reveal a living map of the unexpected places people choose to settle and remain. Being deeply averse to cold, I cannot imagine settling in this place, despite the magnificent vistas, and marvel at those who do. Why are they here? Why would you stay?  Even more curiously, why would people have come here hundreds of years ago when it would have been so much more difficult to leave?

As we continue to fly, and the mountains do not stop, I think of centuries of traversing this landscape. Passes were found, routes were established, and it was not just the traders and adventurers who made the journey. To get from here to there, this is what you did: you packed up your animals, tightened the wheels on your carts, wrapped yourself up, and you started riding, knowing at some point you would have to walk.

My journey high above the ancient way is marked by comfort. Odd, then, that it prompts a nagging sense of unease.

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Two hilltop shots.

This is not the greatest, but my camera battery was flashing red, so I was at the point at which I could only turn it on for about 1.7 seconds.  Therefore it was basically all about flicking on, pointing and shooting. At whatever was there.

So this shot from the Janiculum Hill (or Gianicolo) could be much better, but there it is:

There was some British chick on a motorcycle filming a closer for a travel show while I was up there. Judy? Julie? With an odd last name. Like “Cheeky” or something like that. And the show involved either 40 or 48 hours in Rome.

I think the camera’s battery was not the only thing needing recharging at that point. Do you agree?

What you may be able to grasp from this picture, if you’ve never been to Rome before, is the scale of the city, which is very manageable. There are plenty of suburbs with high-rises and such, as well as more evident poverty and crowding and less of that “charm” which the tourists seek. But the vast majority of travelers are interested in what is in the Center, as well as in the Vatican area.  Someone out there probably has the figures, but it is all extremely walkable, and is not daunting at all from the perspective of scale. It’s a much different experience than, say, Chicago or New York (I can’t compare it to other European cities since, well, I haven’t been in any) – which was quite surprising to me. Yes, the roads can be confusing and there is an alley feel to much of the place, and the traffic can be crazy, but if you’ve got your health and your legs about you, you can see alot without feeling overwhelmed (except by history) or overshadowed by things like skyscrapers or massive development.

This was about a five minute’s walk from my apartment.

This is on my way down from the apartment, at the top of some steps which make the final leg of the journey. The street is Viale Dondolo (which turns into Viale Gloriosa about halfway through. David’s is one of the apartment buildings on the left. Behind us is Monteverde, ahead is Trastevere.

The way down was a lot easier than the way up. Especially on Day 4. When you’re 48, even if you’re in decent shape. Which is why the day I figured out the 44 picked up a street over from this, then made its way up to my apartment was a very, very good day.

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The Protestant Cemetery in Rome is a different place. Different than the ancient monuments, the Baroque churches, the bustling commercial life. Tucked away behind the Pyramid of Cestius, it is lush and crowded with slabs of silent stone remembering the dead, mostly English and Americans who came to Rome, stayed for a while, and died.

It was raining the day we went (Friday), so that made wandering and studying the tombstones not an option, but what I was able to take in plunged me right in the midst of a Grand Tour, of Romantics and artists, diplomats and writers – and so poignantly at times, their children who briefly flourished but then faded, remembered here in a foreign land even if their parents had to move on.

Shelly is buried here, as well as Keats:

Keats, on the left. "Young English Poet."

In the vicinity:

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…of another kind:

As I mentioned, Wednesday night, I did an accidental Station Church type thing as I attempted to find out what was going on in churches in the center between 6 and 8. This was not something I planned, but something that struck me as interesting when I walked into a Holy Hour. Here’s how it went.

This was the evening I searched for and ultimately did find the Galleria Spada. I crossed the Ponte Sisto, walked a bit, and saw a church I hadn’t seen before on my right. Let’s go in.

Nice church. Not huge, but gorgeous, and very well maintained. Didn’t have a dusty feel about it at all. But what’s with all the altar cards? Every side altar, as well as the high altar, has a set of altar cards (for the Tridentine Mass). Also a row of big honkin’ candles on top of the altar. Like five feet tall candlesticks. Hmmm. Then I think, “Ah, this must be the FSSP parish!

And of course it was – . As I left I studied the Mass schedule…ah, a 6:30 pm daily Mass. Well, maybe if I get through the Galleria, I’ll make it back for that. (What I should have been saying was, if I FIND the Galleria.)

Across the street, another church. Up the stairs.  Inside, a monstrance with a Host on the altar. Silence. About 10 people, including a priest, sitting or kneeling in silent prayer. It was San Salvatore in Onda, where St. Vincent Pallotti’s body lies under the high altar.

I started thinking…what else is going on behind these doors, while the tourists walk by (lost), clutching their maps (but still lost) and the Romans themselves stroll by, arm in arm, heads bent together in close conversation, arms linked, smoke wafting from their cigarettes?

So after I was done with the Galleria, I set forth to find out. In San Andrea Del Valle, a rosary had started in a side chapel. A couple of priests were there and about 6 other men. All men, no women.

At Santissime Stimmate di San Francesco… around the corner from the Gesu, I walked into some kind of holy hour, I think. I am fairly sure that the Divine Praises were being prayed, and when that was finished, a priest began a talk. The place, I almost forgot to mention, was packed. Probably three hundred people. (I don’t know if it was a mission, if the priest was famous, or what).

I didn’t go to the Gesu, because I couldn’t see an open door, but looking later, I saw that they have a 6:30 pm Mass.

S. Mary Maddalena had Mass going on. About twenty people.

S. Maria Sopra Minerva had just finished Mass. Another church nearby – and I don’t remember what it was – had also just finished Mass, and a woman in the choir loft was singing Ave Maria. About fifteen people remained, listening.

And then up (and this is when I was really walking a ridiculous distance) to the Piazza di Popolo area, I saw a man rushing into one of the smaller churches that sit next to each other. I followed, and walked into the pure sound of chant.  It was the end of the Eucharistic prayer, and two priests were concelebrating Mass, chanting much of it in Latin.  After Communion, they chanted the Communion Antiphon, and then after Mass was over, they turned to face the image of Mary on the back wall to chant the Salve Regina. It was really lovely, and the church had probably a hundred and fifty people present. After Mass, a young woman got up to talk, but I don’t, you know, speak Italian, so there was no point in my staying to listen.

It was S. Maria di Montesanto and seems to be well-known for this.

The next evening fits here too,even if it breaks the nice shape of the story,. That evening I went to Vespers at S. Maria in Trastevere with the Community of San’Egidio. At 8:30, the bells started ringing, and not solemnly and staidly. It was almost wild. Joyful. There were two books for the prayer, both of which were of no value to me – although near the end, the woman next to me showed me where to find the Psalm of the moment.

It was very simple – chanting of Psalms, a hymn or two, a Gospel reading at a homily. There was a small schola who lead beautifully, but everyone in the Church sang as well – perhaps about two hundred people, maybe more. The chant was in Italian, and it was not Gregorian – it was a vaguely contemporary, but still very organic sound that was marked by an ebb and flow, a swelling of sound that was quite moving.

The church was pretty full – perhaps two or three hundred present. I wasn’t counting, and folks did keep streaming in almost to the end. Here’s a photo of the post-Vespers milling about:

After Vespers, S. Maria in Trastevere

So what to do during those early evening hours in Rome? You could, logically enough, prepare for dinner.

Or you could open a different door and prepare for… Dinner.

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Not the big ones, but the smaller ones. Unfortunately, the day I saw the most interesting examples, I was without a camera (not having solved the converter problem yet. Actually I had solved it two days before, but once I got the converter back to the apartment, I found it didn’t work. It took me a couple of days to get back to the store, where they exchanged it with no argument. And yes, we tested it before I left this time. Why didn’t I buy that one I stared at in the Wal-Mart on 280 before I left? I have no idea.)r

So, to small examples out of countless wonderful creatures and objects inhabiting Rome, spewing water:

Dragon at Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere

Dragon at Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere


Fountain of Wisdom

Fountain of Wisdom

The second fountain is on a side exterior wall of the State Archives, quite fittingly, which is in the same complex that houses Sant’Ivo Alla Sapienza, of which I very badly wanted to see the interior, but which, unless I read the sign wrong, is only open on Sunday mornings???

(Please don’t tell me I read the sign wrong. Just let me sit with that delusion for now.)

The best I could do

The best I could do


Then there are the water fountains, of course. The Romans are proud of their water, which has an lengthy and important history and which flows freely from fountains like this all over the city.

Fill 'er up. Near Teatro Marcello.

 Much more on the Fountains of Rome.

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The first time we went to Rome, in 2006, our apartment was on Borgo Vittorio, which is close to St. Peter’s. It runs parallel to the Borgo Pio, which is a relatively famous street.  (A good history of the Borgo area). Michael got up early every morning to go to Mass at St. Peter’s – I never did because a) I really didn’t want to get up early and b) “me” getting up early involves not only “me” but others who needed their sleep. He always spoke about what an interesting experience it was.

And it is!

This time, I found myself rising early most mornings, completely without prompting. Amazing. I went down to St. Peter’s early twice, once on Wednesday and then on Friday.  I left the apartment about 6:30, hopped on the 870 and walked the two or three blocks over to St. Peter’s.

Because St. Peter’s is so huge, I don’t think the crowds in the Basilica itself ever get terribly oppressive (as opposed to the Museum), but it’s still a very worthwhile experience to go early, when the place is practically empty. First, the security line is nonexistent. Secondly, it’s a marvelous thing to be able to watch priests from around the world come in from the sacristy with their servers, sometimes accompanied by a small band of family, sometimes met at the altar by a small group, often nuns, to the side altars to celebrate Mass.

With my little camera, I took a couple of videos. They’re not great. In fact, they’re not very good at all, but perhaps you can get a sense of it. The first two are just shots of the various altars with priests celebrating Mass, and the last one is a 360 shot of St. Peter’s at about 8am, to show you how empty it is, and why that’s a good time to go for a more peaceful experience:

And yes, the Masses are all celebrated ad orientem, and everyone seems to survive and they even seem to, you know, “participate.”

The disadvantage of going during this period, when the priests are celebrating at the side altars, is that you can’t get close to the side altars to really get a good look at the art. But I think that those Masses only go on for so long – perhaps not even longer that 8:30 (again, a more knowledgeable person can fill us in), giving time to take a look before the crowds really begin.

One more thing: Michael had mentioned at the time that the Masses at the tomb of Blessed John XXIII always had the greatest in attendance. I found that to be true as well:

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Staying in an apartment in Rome has been a good choice for me/us both times. Hotels are generally expensive, not surprisingly, with smaller rooms. For this trip, I looked into the convent option extensively, and was really prepared to go that route.  Monastery Stays.   is good for information about the location of various convents, although because of the added cost of the service, it might be preferable for many to book with the convents directly. I have a few regular readers who stay regularly in convents when traveling to Rome, so they can probably chime in with more information and recommendations.

The convents do vary in accommodation, some being close to hotels in services they offer, but the closer it is to a hotel in service, the closer it is to a hotel in price. Curfews are also an issue for some.

As I said, I was all set to go the convent route, except when I finally settled on a flight, it became a problem. A flight leaving at 6 am means leaving the apartment at 4 AM, a reality that was met with something less than enthusiasm by those with whom I was in contact at a couple of convents. Understandably.  So I redoubled my apartment searching, turning to Craigslist instead of VRBO and other Rome-centered listings, thinking I could probably find a better deal there.

And I did. This is the apartment in which I stayed, for a very reasonable price – so reasonable that I ended up paying, broken down on a daily basis, what I would have paid in the convents I was looking at.  And I got an apartment instead of a room. Not that I was really doing anything but sleeping there, but the privacy and room to spread out was nice.

I want to publicly enthuse on behalf of Camillia, the manager, who is fluent in English, gave a very helpful orientation, which included a wall o’ maps on which she had highlighted the bus routes and identified the locations of restaurants, groceries, internet points and so on.  She also arranged that taxi on the last, very early morning for me.

See photos here. 

The only disadvantage for some (okay, perhaps many) will be the location.

As I mentioned, it is in Monteverde. If you look on the left-hand map in the photo, Monteverde is sort of where all the green is on the far left of the map, near the bottom. You can see the location of the apartment by the little circle with the statue in it (Garibaldi’s statue, which is the Giancolo park, nearby). The neighborhood to the east of it, bordering on the Tiber, is Trastevere. Vatican City is just North of it. Most of the other sites people want to see, from the Colisseum to the Pantheon, etc, are on the other side of the Tiber. Many people, going to Rome, want to be on that east side, in the City Center, or nearer to the Vatican. I’d say if you were going for three days or so, that would probably be preferable. But for a week, this was fine. Better than fine, to tell the truth! The Metro, of course, doesn’t come anywhere near, but the bus can be caught a block away, buses that take you directly into the Center in a matter of 10-15 minutes, depending on the time of day, or straight north to St. Peter’s.  I’m not a person to go back and forth to the apartment constantly during the day, so this was just fine for me, the neighborhood was great, with a bakery next door, an alimentari across the street, a bar on the corner (a “bar” being a place to get your coffee and light food) and lots of other shops you might need on the street. Many apartments advertise that they are in a “typical Roman neighborhood,” and this certainly was – oh, and very, very quiet at night. (In our previous apartment on Borgo Vittorio, we were right above a bar – the way you and I think of it – and it really bothered some of us. Not me, but others were kept up by the noise. Not here!)

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Photos can be found here. 

Now that we have recovered from the shock of eating Thai food in Rome (and thanks to the commenter who admitted to eating Chinese twice on a Rome visit – and honestly, why not? It’s like any big city with a vibrant immigrant demographic, complete with good restaurants. David told me about an Ethiopian restaurant near the Termini that he likes.) – here’s some food photos. Remember, my budget did not include big meals or elaborate dinners. And I feel kind of awkward taking photos of plates of food in a restaurant.

First, the obligatory, “Italian Outdoor Market” photos:

These are Campo de Fiori, but rest assured, far off the tourist track, the outdoor fruit/vegetable/and meat stand is a vital part of much of at least Roman life. In my Monteverde neighborhood, the stands that looked just like this were open and busy in the early morning.

I thought meat prices were quite high, to the point of “exorbitant” but the fruit and vegetable prices were wonderfully low. David says that (not surprisingly) decent wine can be had for dirt cheap – 1.5 Euro for a bottle that satisfies poverty-stricken English teachers (which is either a good or bad thing) Perhaps Roman residents can clarify and expand on that. I got a pound of either Clementines or tangerines (not sure what they were – I’m fairly sure the former) for  less than a Euro a pound, and they were delicious.

Artichoke season.

More later.


Roman Fast Food:

When you get, say, pizza to carry away, (as opposed to walking out and eating as you go), it’s very carefully wrapped in paper for you:

The objects on the right are croquettes, or whatever they call them in Italy. I had a very confusing conversation with the guy behind the counter about them, because he spoke no English at all. I wanted to know what the various kinds were, but he just kep telling me how much they cost. I got that. So he fiddled around, and then finally started telling me what they were, including the more round ones, which he identifed by pointing to the pizza containing the same foodstuff – eggplant. Oh, okay. I’ll take two. But then I discovered he had already placed two of the others, the first subject of inquiry, in my order. Oh, never mind. David ate half of the stuff anyway. (I thought he had said the others were chicken, but the actually seemed to be mosly rice with a tomato sauce binder.

Gas or no gas?


Other vaguely food-related photos:

Sounds like a good plan. Somewhere in Trastevere.

Cat (on right,on top of table) cleaning up.

In the Jewish Ghetto

I call this one, “Tryng to use up Euros at the Rome airport at 5:30 AM”

(Note: The candies and Nutella Mystery Glop is not for me, but for people back home)

And there ends the food-related post. I did have good meals, but I didn’t take photos of them, unfortunately.

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