The last time I went to see Santa Maria di Trastevere, the church in the square of the same name, a wedding of a Belgium royal was being held there and it was off limits. I finally got to see it and boy was it worth the wait, and the perseverance to make another trip.
This is one of the oldest churches in Rome dating back to it construction in 340. The original church was built there in 221 and is said to be on the site where olive oil sprang on the day of Jesus’ birth.
Inside the church there are 22 granite columns that were taken from the Baths of Caracalla and reused. The highlights of the church are the incredible 13th century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini which represent stories of the life of Mary, the Virgin. The Cosmatesque floor was restored in the 19th century but is true to its original design.
The Romanesque bell tower is from the 12th century along with a mosaic of the Madonna and Child. There are also 12th century mosaics that flank the exterior of the church with Mary nursing Jesus and 10 women holding lanterns. This church in Rome is one of the few ancient churches that were not redecorated into the baroque style later in history.
It is set in a lovely piazza with a beautiful fountain and many bars and restaurants around the area. It’s lively and fun in the evenings and is just a wonderful atmosphere for spending some time.
The Gianicolo in Rome is a wonderful park just on the ridge west of the city between Trastevere and the Vatican. Through ancient years it was the site for many battles of the Gods and was a center for the cult of the god Janus. Janiculum is the ancient name and it is Gianicolo in Italian.
The ridge was also where Garibaldi defended the Roman Republic against the French in 1849. There is a large statue of him overlooking the city. When I first saw this, I called it the “Piazzale Michelangelo” of Rome. That’s because of the breathtaking panoramas that you will see when you are there. The many domes and steeples are incredible with Rome laid out at your feet. It gives you a real sense of the size of the city where you can see from the ancient coliseum, all the way to the other side of the city where Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican are located.
We took a taxi up to the top of the hill and then walked down into Trastevere. Depending where you are coming from it can be a little difficult to find how to enter. There are windy, curvy streets that are quiet steep leading up to the main Piazza.
On the walk down we passed the Fontana dell’ Acqua Paolo which is the monumental fountain built in 1610-12 to mark the end of the Acqua Paola acqueduct, restored by Pope Paul V, and took its name from him. It was the first major fountain on the left bank of the River Tiber.
Also there is the Ossuary War Memorial to commemorate those lost in the battle of 1849 under the charge of Garibaldi. The memorial says “Rome or Die”. All of the bodies are buried together at this site with their names inscribed on the sides.
Daily at noon, a cannon fires from the Gianicolo. This tradition goes back to December 1847, when the cannon of the Castel Sant’Angelo gave the signal to the surrounding bell towers to start ringing at midday. This is not considered one of the Seven Hills of Rome, which are all located on the other side of the river. Take a hike (or a taxi) up and see the view!
There are so many things to do and see in Rome; sometimes it’s hard to choose! For this day trip, we set our sights on Castel Sant’Angelo. Originally, this cylindrical structure was the tomb of the emperor Hadrian, and was constructed between 123 and 139 A.D. Afterwards, in 401 A.D. it was used as a fortress and during that time, much of the remains and the decorations of the tomb were destroyed.
In the 14th century, the structure was converted to the Papal fortress, residence, and was still used as a prison as well. There is a path across the aqueduct leading from The Vatican into the fortress. The Pope used this passage in the event of an attack.