Day two began with a leisurely breakfast, (included in the price, and catering to our dietary requirements) in the rooftop cafe above our hotel. I must digress here to give the Hotel Farnese a plug. Small, convenient and quiet, with staff who seemed genuinely happy to help with all our requests. I felt confident that if we were seriously lost, I could phone for help and a taxi would arrive to deliver us safely back to our little Roman home. Check them out at www.hotelfarnese.com and if you say we recommended them I’m sure you’ll find them as helpful as we did.
In front of the Vatican
Rome, like many large European cities has The Big Bus Tour, so, with a selection of tour companies and routes to choose from, we headed for the local underground metro station, armed with the appropriate tickets (about 3 euros each for the return journey) and with multiple crosses and arrows on the hotel’s map, courtesy of our helpful concierge.
Finding our way out of the underground to the correct exit did test the bonds of sisterly love a wee bit. ‘It’s that way.’ ‘No, we need to go this way,’ but we managed a photo stop in front of the Vatican (sister looks pretty pleased) and eventually found the bus, bought our tickets, struggled with the earpieces and, after moving a few times, found two widely separated seats with radio connections that worked.
With cameras at the ready, we swept past remains of the original Roman wall, (built to protect the city way back then), a glimpse of the Borghese gardens, then around the Piazza Barbarini several times, making a figure eight around a huge fountain.
This site greeted us as we entered the Basilica
The Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, a short walk from our last stop was well worth waiting for. I had seen it before but had forgotten the details that make it, in my opinion, one of the most magnificent churches in the world. Photographs (the best ones were taken by my sister) tell the story better than I can, but as far as I can work out, here are a few details about its history. The original church was built between 432 and 440; I couldn’t find any trace of that one. Like most of the ancient churches in Europe, exact dates are hard to follow, but this one appears to have been initially built and decorated in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Frescoes above the main altar
The frescoes above the
Detail of the frescoe immediately above the altar
The ceiling is decorated with gold.
main altar date from some time then and are still vividly coloured, quite breathtaking to behold. The ceiling, which dates from 1492 – 1503 is said to have been decorated with gold brought back from America and donated by Isabella of Spain. That’s the sort of opulence which has been used throughout Santa Maria Maggiore.
Exquisitely detailed marble floors
Looking up this is what we saw.