Sicily to Rome, September 20, 2013

At 8:15 this morning, we said good-bye to Tom and Peg, who are on their way to see Tom’s cousins and relatives in Termini-Imerse near Palermo, and to Guiseppe at Hotel Trieste. Aetna was steaming as we passed her on the way to the airport.
We arrived at the T&V House at Piazza San Croce 4 in Gerusalemme, and got someone coming out to let us into the courtyard of the set of buildings that holds the “B&B” (it was listed as a hotel, but that’s a stretch). The landlady came out to meet us, in a tither because our room wasn’t ready. We assured her, no problem, but could we put our bags in it? Yes. So, through a locked door, up a flight of steps to a tiny typical European elevator. Through one locked door into a large entryway, with several rooms and a kitchen around it, and then into our room. To leave, one must lock our door, go through the “B&B” door, go through the outer door to the building, and go through the locked gate. Then you are on the street. So very different from home. All of our lodgings here have been similarly protected. The cities don’t seem particularly dangerous, so we wonder whether these are left-over habits from a different time, or are really needed precautions today.
That took us to about 2:30, badly in need of lunch since we hadn’t had a real breakfast. Regina found us the correct bus to Campo di Fiori (the market that we went to last week), and a bakery with excellent pizzoli. We perched on the rim of the fountain in the market, watching the crowds and the vendors. We shopped too, the essence of the Market experience.
Woman trimming roses at the Campo di Fiori, “Field of flowers.”
After lunch comes gelato of course. Today’s choice for Regina, caramel with Himalayan salt, and chocolate with Grand Marnier. For Jim, lemon something, smooth and cold, perfect for the mid-80s and hot sun.
We walked along the Tiber, eating gelato, and noticing the sizable number of people fishing today. No, it’s not elbow-to-elbow on the Kenai, but for the middle of Rome, it’s not bad.
In a bar where we stopped for coffee as we were walking home, we saw a young guy who had passed us on the street a block earlier. He was sitting at the back of the bar in his Roman soldier outfit, playing the slots.I think there was a photo of one of these guys last week; they encourage tourists to have their photo taken with the Roman soldier, or they dress the tourist up and take the picture, all for a fee, of course. It’s a bit odd to think of Rome as a place where one can just sit down in a bar and gamble.
We came to Rome with the idea (my idea, at least) that we would see all of the seven pilgrim churches, as a way of rounding out our trip to Jerusalem, and the Camino. Rome was the third of the great medieval pilgrimages. These seven are among the oldest in Rome, and would give us a chance to see the whole range of architecture and decoration. Last week we went into a church every day, but only St. Peter’s counted as a pilgrim church. Today we stopped in at St. John Lateran (St. John the Baptist), which is huge and gilded to add a second to our list. Rick Steves says that this is the first church in Rome, but the signs at Santa Maria in Trastevere where we were last week said much the same thing. Until 1870, all of the popes were crowned in St. John’s, and even today, the new pope must sit in the bishop’s chair at St. John’s in order to officially become pope.
The design for the mosaic dates from about 450 C. E.; this mosaic was actually made about 1300.
This view of the altar with the paintings above and around it gives you a little idea of the scale of the church. There’s someone in the lower left corner of the photo. In a Rome tourist attraction, it’s hard to avoid. But that’s OK — most of the places that people want to see always were places where people gathered, and they were meant to impress and be admired. They are still being used for at least part of what they were intended to be and tomean.
This is much older than the rest of the church. I need to find out the story.
The Egyptian obelisk in the piazza in front of St. John Lateran. It’s the oldest (dating from 1600 B.C. E.) and tallest (105 feet). Big as this obelisk and the others in Rome are, they have been moved around from spot to spot. This originally stood in the Circus Maximus (where the chariot races were run and Julius Caesar paraded before his death. When it stood in the Circus, it represented Rome’s victory over Egypt. When Constantine conquered Rome, he had a cross put on top, representing Christianity’s victory over the earlier beliefs.
Our hotel is across the street from another of the old (around 320 C. E.) churches, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
The front of the church is late Roman baroque (says Rick Steves), massive and grand. In a chapel behind the altar, wood from the true cross is displayed, ensconced in elaborate gold decoration and behind thick glass. No touching anything, not even the glass protection.
Jim took a well-deserved rest later in the evening while Regina and I went to seek out yet another good place that Lonely Planet recommended. So far, they’all been at least above average, and most of them have been excellent. Tonight was no exception — Regina had  smoke-flavored dark beer from Germany, and we ate oven-fired breads (mine was just foccacia) with simple tomato toppings.
About 9:45 p.m. —  the full moon rides over the Church of the Sacred Cross in Jerusalem.
What will we do tomorrow? Maybe a guided walking tour, or perhaps the self-guided type, following along in a book, and stopping for espresso at every opportunity. Lovely (well, too hot for some) weather is promised for tomorrow.


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