Basilica of Santi Cosma and Damiano

The Basilica of Saints Cosma and Damiano (Cosmas and Damian) is dedicated to physician twins who were reputedly martyred in Roman Syria under Diocletian. In 527, this was the first building in the Roman Forum to be converted to Christian usage, and occupies part of the site of Vespasian’s Templum Pacis or Forum of Peace. This is where the treasures from the Temple of Jerusalem were housed, and where Galen lectured, so a nice medical link of sorts.

A modern sculpture looks out over the Forum and imperial Fora.

Visitors also get a close up view of the imposing 4th Century Basilica of Constantine.

The basilica’s cloister feels miles away from the tourists and bustle of the Roman Forum and via dei Fori Imperiali. And it’s hard to believe the Colosseum is only a 5 minute walk away. The courtyard gives access to the basilica’s famed presepe or Christmas crib. It’s also a reminder that the site has been home to a Franciscan monastery since the 16th Century.

Inside, and the church is renowned for its gorgeous 6th Century mosaic apse depicting the twins being presented to Jesus by St Peter and St Paul. No one knows which twin is which. Pope Felix, on the left, carries a model of the original church. Saint Theodorus is also present.

The window in the picture below used to be an entrance point for the church from the forum’s Temple of Romulus, reflecting the previous connectivity between the two parts of the site.

… and this is the view from the temple of Romulus in the forum below…

There’s more ancient Forum heritage as the entrance hall is thought to be the location of the famed marble map of Rome. So this is a church with many layers of history to explore.

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme (Museo Nazionale Romano)

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is one of the four museums of the Museo Nazionale Romano. (The others are the Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Altemps and the Crypta Balbi). We were lucky enough to have this gem almost to ourselves, having made the decision to drop in for the last two hours before closing on a Saturday evening.

The building contains a wealth of ancient sculpture, mosaics and frescoes taken from villas around Rome (including the wonderful wall paintings from Livia’s villa at Prima Porta). The site is near Termini and, as much of the area was cleared for new building work following Italy’s unification, ancient treasures were revealed.

So this is a place with many wonderful sights – I’ll let them speak for themselves…

A colourful (and apt for this blog) Minerva greets visitors to the building.

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Some gorgeous Greek bronzes including the boxer …

And frescoes from villas across Rome and beyond..

The wonderful second style garden fresco from Livia’s villa at Prima Porta is an ancient wonder, and one of the earliest surviving depictions of a garden…

The Lancelotti Discobolus was discovered in the Esquiline area of Rome in 1871, and is a copy of a Greek original. Other marble marvels include Antinous and the sleeping hermaphrodite.

And this sarcophagus dating from the 2nd Century AD was simply breathtaking. Known as the Portanaccio Sarcophagus, it depicts both family life and the likely battles of its soldier owner.

An insight into Roman daily life also comes from the mosaics on display, including depictions of the four colourful factions involved in the city’s racing culture.

Have you been to Palazzo Massimo? What was your favourite display there?

Riverside Rome

Autumn by the Tiber afforded us some gorgeously magical views of Tiber Island and the Ponte Rotto, the remains of the city’s oldest stone bridge.

Today, Tiber Island is reached via the equally ancient Ponte Fabriccio, the oldest bridge still in use.

The colours contrasted vividly with the crisp wintry morning scenes we saw as we made our way to the La Befana Parade on an earlier visit. As it was a public holiday, the lack of traffic and brilliant blue skies both made for perfect photo opportunities. Castel Sant’Angelo stood out magnificently.  As did the dome of St Peter’s, and the Church/complex of Santa Spirito in Sassia.  (The latter was founded by Saxon King Ine of Wessex, who abdicated from his throne to be nearer to the tomb of St Peter).

Ponte Sant’Angelo, leading to Castel Sant’Angelo, is dominated by Bernini’s wonderful angels.

We’d meet those dramatic angels again as a different season saw us back at Castel Sant Angelo in time for sunset over St Peter’s and the Ponte Sant Angelo…

What’s your favourite sight along Rome’s riverside?

Rome’s Protestant Cemetery

Rome’s Protestant Cemetery, Cimitero Acattolico, is situated in a quiet and leafy corner of the Testaccio area. It’s an easy walk from the Piramide metro stop, with stunning views of the Pyramid of Cestius. The pyramid and one part of the Aurelian Walls both provide a boundary.  It’s the final resting place of Goethe, Shelley and Keats, as well as many other individuals from around the world who made the eternal city their homes.

Keats’ burial place is an oasis in a corner spot, with the pyramid looking on.

His iconic epitaph suggests something of the state of mind of the ailing and unsuccessful poet who spent his final days in Rome.

This Celtic Cross was yet another reminder of a faraway homeland…

As with Milan’s Monumental Cemetery, the monuments came in all shapes and sizes here, and all ages and nationalities were represented.

 

The Basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls

San Paolo Fuori le Mura stands on the assumed site of the burial of St Paul. Near the ancient Via Ostiense, the saint’s remains were reputedly taken there by a first century Roman lady, Lucina. Constantine later ordered the building of the first basilica early in which was consecrated in 324 AD. That was later enlarged by Theodosius in the early 5th Century, lasting to the 19th Century when a fire destroyed much of the early structure. A monastery had also been on site since those early days.

Today’s basilica, which was consecrated in 1855, covers much of the same area, and gives a nod to the ancient with its porticoed frontage and beautiful Byzantine style mosaics.

Inside and out, this is a building on a cavernous scale so it was surprising to note that it apparently covers the same area as that fourth century spot for pilgrims.

 

The triumphal arch, dedicated to her father Theodosius by Galla Placidia is one of the remains of the ancient basilica, and a reminder of the splendour of her mausoleum in Ravenna.

Like San Pietro in Vincoli, the chains that held St Paul are also visible and many pilgrims flock to his tomb, which is located below the altar.

There’s lots more to explore outside the basilica, including a dedicated archaeological area and parts of the monastery.

Definitely worth a little detour from the beaten track, San Paolo Fuori le Mura is easily accessed via a short four-stop metro ride (via Metro line B) from the Colosseum.

 

Cinecittà si Mostra (Cinecittà shows off)

Cinecittà is an easy metro journey from Termini.  As the home of Italian cinema since the 1930s, it has produced everything from La Dolce Vita, Roman Holiday,  Ben Hur to Cleopatra and recent additions like the HBO Rome series (its set survives and is one of the main attractions onsite).

We arrived just ten minutes before the first Italian tour of the morning was starting at 10am. Rather than wait for the English tour  at 11.30 (there’s another at 3.30), we decided to take the risk and join in.  My Italian was good enough to understand the vast majority of the detail – but anyway most of the locations spoke for themeslves.

Behind this relatively unassuming entrance lie acres and acres of film studio space, expertise, and some standing lots including representations of ancient Rome, ancient Jerusalem and medieval Florence.

This is Venusia from Fellini’s film, Casanova.

And if you’ve seen The Young Messiah, you’ll recongise this represenation of ancent Jerusalem.

Medieval Florence is suggested by this building collection, which has also seen action as the Vatican.

Ancient Rome was vividly brought to multicoloured life in the representation of the Suburra district and the Forum (complete with arch, basilicas and wonderfully-realised temples).

After the hour long tour, there’s even more to explore inside as some great exhibits explore the site’s history and development.  And how wonderful to see iconic costumes such as this from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita…

And some of the wonderfully opulent outfits worn by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra.

Even the cafe gets in on the cinematic act!

Have you seen Cinecittà? What was your favourite part of the experience?

Rome in November

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It turns out that November is a perfect time to visit the eternal city. While the days were shorter and cooler than our last visit, it’s still comfortable walking weather.  And the crowds have begun to thin out just a little bit. The city is just beginning to think about some Christmas decoration, although that gets underway  in earnest in December.

We managed to avoid most of what rain there was and experienced some beautiful blue skies without the searing heat of summer. Our focus was exploring some more sights that are off the beaten track, although we would also explore key areas like the Colosseum and Piazza di Spagna – it would have been rude not to!

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And thanks to Elyssa at Romewise, I even got to try out some seasonal Roman culinary delights including wonderful Carciofi and Puntarelle.  I’ll definitely be back to try some more.