"With this place the whole history of the world is connected, and I count a second birthday, a real reincarnation, since the very day I reached Rome."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey, January 6th, 1787
on this page I would like to present you the Eternal City. Our trip will last seven days, of course not enough for this city, but it will lead us to some very special locations, well-known ones as well as less prominent ones. You won't find a detailled description of each single sight for it is the intention of this survey to suggest some topics rather than to compete with a professional guide.
Have a nice trip!
First Day, Sunday
St. Peter's Square and St. Peter, Service and Angelus
The Vatican! Centre of the catholic Church, St. Peter's burial place, See of the Pope, with 44 ha the smallest independant state of the world. Here our journey starts, and in the early morning, when tourist busses are still far, we reach the broad oval of St. Peter's Square. On both sides the piazza is limited by Bernini's colonnades, and right ahead we see the ancient Egypt obelisc and look directly on the georgious facade of St. Peter's basilica, behind which the cuppola of Michelangelo steps back. On the right hand the Apostolic Palace is situated, of which third floor, right outside, the Pope's living rooms are. Left from the palace we recognize the discreet front of the Sixtine chapel, where the conclave elects the bishop of this city.
On St. Peter's Square's left side you will find amoung others the Vatican post office with the blue post-boxes of the State of the Church and the Vatican publishing store which now are closed. The Vatican edits own stamps, which are valid only here.
After climbing the stairs towards the cathedral, we enter the high-roofed atrium, and through the main portal with the closed Holy Door on the right side we step into the church. In the first chapel on the right side, we are standing in front of Michelangelo's Pietà, one of the most precious artefacts men ever made. Passing the altar tomb of St. John Paul II on the right hand side, we reach the grand high altar, of which Bernini manufactured the baldachin. This altar is reserved to the pope himself or a cardinal nominated by him for celebrating the service. Immediately beyond, the crypt with the tomb of the holy apostles' prince Peter is situated. In the dome's apsis, Bernini placed beyond the glass window showing the Holy Spirit, surrounded by two eastern and two western Church's teachers, the (so-called) bishop's throne of the first of the popes. Down at it's feet the altar stands, at which at 10:00 a. m. the cathedral chapter of St. Peter's celebrates the Sunday's service, together with a lot of priests and bishops who are staying at Rome for a visit.
After the final blessing we visit the tombs of the concil's pope St. John XXIII, who is being layed out here since his beatification on September 3rd, 2000, of John Paul II, canonized on April 27, 2014, and of St. Pius X. On the way, the visitor passes the ancient bronce figure of St. Peter the Apostle, who's foot meanwhile nearly has been rubbed away due to uncountable touchings of the pilgrims. At the feast of Cathedra Petri the statue becomes enclothed with precious pontifical clothings and a tiara up to our days.
At 12:00 noon the pope, when staying in Rome, steps to the window of his working room in the Apostolic Palace for praying the "Angelus" with the faithfull. Afterwards, having eaten something in our hotel or in the city, we take a walk at the side of the Leoninian wall, one turn around Vatican City. During this about two hours lasting tour we get behind the left colonnades, passing the Swiss guards, to the Campo Santo Teutonico, the German graveyard, where poets, scholars and prelates found their last rest. Back on the street, our way leads aside the Sacred Officium, todays see of the Congregation for the Faith, to the backside of the audience hall "Paul VI" and then along the Vatican limitation wall. The way runs throughout Roman residential quarters, hillsup and the Vatican hill down, passing the entrance of the Vatican musea and the nearby metro, then passing St. Anne's gate, the "personal entrance" of the State of the Church, back to the colonnades.
Second Day, Monday
Lido di Ostia
The whole world's musea are closed on Monday, therefore we use this opportunity to relax from our flight and the impressions of the first day. The best chance to do so is far away from the city's limits, at the beach of the Mediterranean Sea. The best way to come there is by metro; yesterday we already passed the metro station at the Vatican. After changing the train once - direction Lido di Ostia - on the left side, now above earth, where you also can see the pyramid of Caestius, EUR is situated, a quarter built in fascist style for the world exposition which was planned for 1942. Outside the city, the train passes on the right hand Ostia Antica, the port of ancient Rome. The entrance of this huge and impressing archeological park (today closed!) is near by the station.
Lido di Ostia is the name of the last station of our suburb train; don't worry about the ugly surrounding. Crossing the forecourt we reach the black sandy beach of the capital, where you can due to season, weather and tide have a sun bath, go swimming or simply have a walk. The Romans are treating their seaside a little bit shabby, and you will nearly find no tourists here around.
Back in Rome, it is time to look for tickets for Wednesday's general audience of the pope. They are free available at the German pilgrim's office at the Via del Banco S. Spirito 56, but we are going directly to the Vatican, for this is a pilgrim's or tourist's only opportunity to have a look inside the Apostolic Palace. We contact - if the security staff allows us to do so - the serving Swiss guard at the Bronce Gate (right colonnades) and are sent to the ticket office at the famous Scala Regia. The guardians are often speaking English, the priest at the ticket office not automatically.
Third Day, Tuesday
Colosseum, Forum Romanum, Capitolinian Musea, National Monument, Piazza Venezia, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Stairs
Having used the day before to relax and write postcards, today ancient and modern secular Rome forms the focus of our interest. Walking aside, we have a close look to the Collosseum, ancient Rome's amphitheatre; who likes to, can go inside, too. Nearby is the church of S. Pietro in Vincoli located, named after the chaines of St. Peter, which can be seen therein. By the way, in this very sanctuary is the grave of the great German cardinal Nicholas of Kues, also called Cusanius, but the tourist are coming to admire Michelangelo's horned Moses. We have a beautifull survey onto the Forum Romanum in immediate neighbourhood from the Capitol hill. A decidated sight seeing there is only of interest to visitors with background knowledge; all other ones should visit the recent renewed Capitolinian Musea on the right of the Senators' Palace, todays municipal hall, instead.
These musea of the City, not as well-known at all and therefore less extremely visited than the Vatican ones, present in a limited amount relics of the great past. For example, we see the original Capitolinian bitch, the dorn puller, the dying Gallian or Amor and Psyche, but also fragments of the gigantic colossal statue of Emperor Nero.
Leaving Capitol hill near to the copy of Marc Aurel's rider monument, downstairs at Michelangelo's dioscurs, we enter the street at the Palazzo Venezia and the ugly national monument.
After a lunch break our way leads along Via Veneto with it's expensive boutiques towards Trevi fountain and Spanish stairs, where this day runs out with an espresse and some dolce far niente; tomorrow will become a strenuous and demanding day again.
Fourth Day, Wednesday
General Audience, Vatican Musea
When the pope is in town, the weekly general audience for groups of pilgrims and tourists as well as for single visitors starts at 10:00 a. m. Due to season and weather it takes place on St. Peter's Square or in the audience hall "Paul VI" or, sometimes, in the basilica, too. At the beginning, the Supreme Pontiff drives or walks through the crowd; after the greeting addresses he holds an Italian speech and short comprehensions also in English, before the audience ends with a prayer.
After the audience and a short break we go by bus, across the Vatican gardens, to the entrance of the Vatican musea. If you did not order your ticket online or are member of a guided tour you will have to stand in line for some hours before getting in. To see everything is simply impossible; therefore we choose some objects which are of special interest to us. The Apollon of Belvedere, the discus thrower or the scool of Athens are well-known all over the world. And other artefacts? Paintings? Greek antics? Roman sculptures? Egypt mumies? The library? On our way are the corridor of geographic maps, the stances of Raffaell, and, last but not least, the Sixtine chapel with the creation of Adam and Michelangelo's great Judgement Day. Having seen all of this, our capacity has reached it's maximum, and another day ends in one of countless restaurants (Attention, tourist traps! Compare prices!).
Fifth Day, Thursday
St. John in Lateran, Sta. Maria Maggiore, St. Paul beyond the Walls
Three of seven Roman major basilicas are part of today's programm. First, we visit S. Giovanni in Laterano, the eldest Christian church of the city and cathedral of the pope. In direct neighbourhood to Lateran church and Lateran palace, for a long period of time papal residence and today office of the diocese of Rome, we find the Capella Santa with the so-called Holy Stairs. These are said to be the stairs from the Jerusalem residence of Pontius Pilatus, where the way of the cross of Jesus Christ begun, and may only be used on knees therefore.
Then our way leads to Santa Maria Maggiore, also called Mary-in-the-snow, the most ancient church of Mary in Rome, with the (so-called) crib of Bethlehem and, in front of it, a statue of Blessed Pius IX, who is not buried here but in S. Lorenzo. Very impressing is the beautifull cassetta ceiling of this great hall church. At the beginning of 2002, in the lower storey a museum has been opened which holds the basilica's treasure. Amoung others, you can see here the frock of Pius IX and a worthfull dalmatica of Paul V as well as the urn of St. Thomas Beckett or a relic shrine of the Holy Cross.
After lunch, the Benedictine abbey of St. Paul follows, which, as the name tolds us, is situated "out of the walls", that means outside the historic limits of the city. Today, however, the basilica is surrounded by a closed site of buildings. Through an impressing inner courtyard we get to the church, which was rebuilt after a fire end of 19th century and which shows beyond the main altar the tomb of the second prince of the Apostles, St. Paul, which was re-discoverd only in 2006. Also remarkable are the worthfull windows made from translucent alabaster, but not least this basilica is known for it's ceiling picture ribbon, where you can find mosaic portraits medalls of all popes from St. Peter up to today; the picture of Francis was added on December 11, 2013.
Sixth Day, Friday
Angel's Fort, S. Sabina, Aventinum, Quirinal
Connected with the Vatican by a papal escape route, directly at the Tiber river the former mausoleum of emperor Hadrian is located, from the city's bishops changed into a military fort to protect from invadors as well as from uproaring local nobility. Today it's an impressing museum. Within, a broad drive leads upwards, broad enough for a rider. While the papal apartment, the throne room and the defense galery are in the top, you can visit also the cellar with it's disreputable, extremely little and very low prison cells, where centuries ago several revolting cardinals ended their splendid career.
After this sight seeing and a short luncheon break we walk to Aventin hill, one of the classical seven hills of Rome. At the it's base S. Sabina is located, one of the eldest churches of the city, of which the titular cardinal has the privilege to confirm the pope with the ash cross on Ash Wednesday. A beautifull cloister and especially the basilica's gate are remarkable. On Aventin we find not only the plain church of S. Anselmo, well-known for weddings, and the extremly guarded Egypt embassy, but also the residence of the Great Master of the Souvereign Knight's Order of Malta, beneath the Holy See the only territoryless, internationally recognized subject of international law with it's own embassies. More prominent than the usage of this palace is indeed the look through it's with raffinement chosen key-hole, through which you can look along the garden's hedges directly onto far away St. Peter's cuppola.
Before starting to dinner, we close this day with a short walk along Quirinal palace, where, at first, the popes, afterwards the Italian kings and now the presidents of Italy are residing. In immediate neighbourhood we can visit S. Carlo, a baroque juwel.
Last Day, Saturday
S. Clemente, Monte Pincio, Crypt, Treasury and Cuppola of St. Peter's
Let's start this day at S. Clemente, early in the morning, before the basilica is overcrowded by tourists. The choir and especially the huge apsis mosaic showing Christ as well as the heavenly lamb carrying the banner of Christ are prooving ancient state of art. Directly vice versa the entrance aside (the main porticus mainly stays closed) is the descent to the crypt, where the first Christians used to celebrate service, and where a mithreum has it's place, of which we can see the relics. This church as well is aim of pilgrimage of orthodox believers, who in the crypt honorate the grave of St. Cyril, Apostle of Europe and developer of the Cyrilica script named after him.
Step by step our journey goes to it's end. A very special ending of our visit may be a stay at Monte Pincio, a hill, from which platform we have a unforgettable view across the Eternal City, from the Piazza del Popolo up to St. Peter's and far to the horizon. After a walk in across the wonderfull park we are leaving the Pincio in direction of Trinità dei Monti, and having drunk a last cappuccino (this is used to be drunk only in the morning!) we have to pack our suitcases.
After lunch our way leads, for a last time, to St. Peter's Square. Right in the back part of the basilica stairs are leading down to the crypt, where we not only find the fundamental walls of Old-St. Peter's, but also see several popes' tombs, for example of Pius XII, of Paul VI. and John Paul I. From April 8, 2005, up to May 1, 2011, also blessed John Paul II was buried here, but also Queen Cristine of Sweden, who converted to catholicism, found her last rest here. Already near the exit, suddenly we are standing right in front of the centre of Rome, the grave of the prince of apostle's, St. Peter, the first bishop of city and worldwide church. It was left to Pius XII to find and recognize this site during archeological examinations led by the German prelate Ludwig Kaas.
Next to the entrance of the sacristy is the treasury room of St. Peter's basilica where precious tomb monuments, a tiara, chalices, service clothings and more can be adored.
Finishing, we now visit the cuppola of St. Peter's; the entrance of the lift is on the right hand of the basilica's frontside. At the roof of the dome, immediately in the back of apostle's and saints' figures, we enjoy a great sight on St. Peter's Square, Via della Conciliazione and Castel S. Angelo, while at the other side the Vatican gardens are at our feet. A better place to say good-bye does not exist.
But now we have to leave indeed. Did we really see everything? Where were the catacombs, where the therms of Caracalla, Circus Maximus, where Il Gesù or S. Andrea della Valle? The Pantheon, worth a single journey for it's own, S. Luigi dei Francesi and the "Bambino Gesù" we had to spare with sad mood. Ostia Antica, Frascati or Castel Gandolfo would have been worth a excursion, and Villa Borghese has to wait up to our next visit, too. We only touched Piazza del Popolo,and we did not have time for going shopping. Rome, "the most remarkable city of the universe", as we know since Asterix' times, is too great for only a single week, but at least these days have done their function as apetizer.