“Methinks I will not die quite happy without having seen something of that Rome of which I have read so much.” – Sir Walter Scott
Today we have no set plans, besides meeting our new friend, Lucca, for pastries at a shop he loves. Sitting with our coffee and pastry, we lingered for a while talking about everything from history, the EU, travel, Obama and politics. Lucca is a nice guy and fun to talk to.
Walking back towards Via Cavour, we come up to the grand Maria Maggiore Church, where Lucca explained the history and the different centuries that contributed different parts of the basilica. There are 25 churches in Rome dedicated to Mary, but this is the largest, hence the “maggiore” part of its title. In the 6th century, the Council of Ephesus got together to officially proclaim Mary the Mother of Christ, so they built this church in her honor.
Here we parted ways with Lucca, with a loose plan to possibly meet at a bar down the street this evening if we are around. Mom and I made our way to the Metro and soon we’re at the Borghese Gardens. Exiting the underground and walking up Via Veneto, I note how nice and upscale this part of town is; many nice restaurants and grand hotels. We stop along the way for lunch and meet a nice American couple from Virginia. We end up sharing stories over lunch and learn we are taking almost the same route… Rome, Florence, Chianti, and Cinque Terre, we’re just 3 days behind their trail. They’re good fun and we all linger over the next hour or two.
Eventually, we’re continuing on our way to the park. Like all European parks… I love it. Wandering down the grassy, tree-lined walkways I see many people out enjoying the nice weather. People are riding those large 4-person bikes I’ve seen around Rome, men stroll with their hands behind their back, kids play in a small carnival of sorts, couples lay or nap in the grass. A few people play guitar and sing; Mom and I decide to find a lush grassy spot and relax. I turn on my iPod and pull out my journal to write. I’m so relaxed… on my back, staring up at the high trees, light sun shining through them, a soft breeze… perfection. After a long while we decide to head out if we want to see inside the Pantheon before it closes at 7pm. We walk this time since Rome’s Metro doesn’t cover the Piazza Navona/Pantheon section of the city… there are only two lines that intersect at Termini.
Finally mastering the backwards map we have, we emerge at the Pantheon piazza with 30 minutes to spare. Following the Battle of Actium in 31BC, Agrippa built the Pantheon as a temple to all gods. By Medieval times, the Pantheon was now considered pagan, so to save it from destruction, the Pope converted it to a Christian church and renamed it Santa Maria ad Martyres. Italy’s first two kings and many artists, including Raphael, are buried inside. Thus preserved, the Pantheon remains one of the best examples of surviving ancient architecture. The dome remains the single largest, unsupported concrete dome in the entire world… and considering it was built by Romans about 2000 years ago is mind-boggling!
After dinner, we head to the bar we told Lucca we might meet him at and find it’s closed! When in doubt, go back to what you know… so we head back to our local Irish pub. It’s incredibly crowded… again with seemingly every British and Irish man in Rome. The playoffs are still going on… tonight it’s Chelsea vs Man U. We stand outside on the street with plenty of other bar-goers and eventually snag a table outside.
Much later… guess who enters? Lucca! Turns out he was called into work, but after seeing the other bar was closed, just hoped by chance we would go back to the Irish pub for a drink. We have another fun night to celebrate our last night in Rome. Tomorrow, we have an early train to Siena tomorrow.
Fino alla prossima volta, Roma.