Sunday, October 18
We slept in late, finally needing some good rest after the long trip and a very full first day. Heading out around noonish, we wandered past the closed shops of Via Barberini and stopped in a little place for a panini “brunch”. Our eventual destination was Santa Maria Maggiore, but on the way there we got distracted by a couple other small churches and the imposing sight of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, which vespa had never seen before. This beautiful and imposing church is built in the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian, creating a fascinating mixture of Roman ruins outside and classical art inside. The church was an amazing mixture of religion and science as well, featuring an exhibit on Gallileo and also an amazing Meridian line, sunlight shining through a small hole in the upper wall. I’m amazed Dan Brown hasn’t worked this one into one of his books yet.
We discovered we were right near the National Museum of Rome at Palazzo Massimo, which proved well worth about a 2-hour visit, especially for the frescoes and mosaic artwork.
From there we finally made it to Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome’s other very large, very important churches. The lovely crypt was open and featured a supposed relic from the nativity. Who can say for sure whether it is or not? But one cannot help but feel the weight of importance attached to the relic, nevertheless.
After wandering through the church, we took a quick pit stop for food-truck gelato (still damned good) and debated further plans. It was getting late and vespa didn’t want me to miss Saint Peter in Chains and Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses. Of course, along the way we got distracted by a couple other small churches en route, including Santa Prassede, which had some gorgeous frescoes on the walls, and another alleged relic, The Column of the Flagellation.
We finally made it to Saint Peter in Chains in time to check out the magnificent sculpture, as well as pay respect to some more relics–this time the chains which give the church its name.
vespa knew I really was eager to see the Coliseum, and we managed to make it just as the sun was beginning to set–what an amazing time to be there! We walked around the periphery as dusk turned to night, marveling over the effect of darkness and artificial light on the building.
By then we were ready for some real food. I remembered seeing an enoteca that looked promising on a little side street off of the main Coliseum traffic on Via Frangipane – the name stuck out because of vespa’s prized painting by Nicolo Frangipane. It turned out to be a great choice as we enjoyed a quiet meal on the outdoor terrace: for starters, proscuitto and melon and a fritto misto of mixed cheeses, stuffed olives, and a risotto ball; pasta with clams, mushrooms and tomatoes for me and buccatini for vespa; then a shared order of veal scallopine in orange sauce. Fabulous! I wish I could remember their name now…maybe I’ll find reference to it somewhere, eventually…
For some dumb reason we walked all the way home after that — about a good mile and a half. Along the way we passed the Hard Rock Cafe on Via Veneto — god knows why you’d go to Rome to eat the same crappy food you can get anywhere else in the world, but I did like their stained-glass windows…