After wandering around the campground to see if there was someway we could find a spot where we could reach the service point with long hoses (there weren't) we decided that the upsides outweighed the downsides and we'd stay put. The rest of the day, I caught up on the blog (part 1 of France) and Vincent worked on a variety of on-line research projects. We had dinner at the on-site restaurant, Ciao Bella, and discovered it was quite good and reasonably priced.
On December 20th, we woke up to rain. I finished part 2 of the blog covering France and Vincent and I put together documents we might need when registering for residency in the area. We then set out to find the community anagrafe (registration office) only to discover it was already closed for the day. The sign at the main gate said it closed at 13:00, while the sign at the office said it closed at noon. I would have been surprised if we actually had success on the first try but the signs describing different closing times would be an indication of the conflicting information describing the required process. Anyway, we would return on Monday morning and see if we would make any better progress.
We then tried to do some Christmas shopping for the kids (with little success) and returned to the campground. That evening, we had dinner at the onsite restaurant again and then retired for the night.
On December 21st, it was time to test out driving Landshark down the windy, narrow driveway to the service point. The curves in the driveway were tight, but we got down and back up without incident.
From there, we set out to walk to the Piazza Navona which reportedly hosts the biggest Christmas market in Rome.
|A view of St Peters (likely the first of many) taken from Ponte Umberto I. The bridge in the foreground is Ponte Sant Angelo.|
|There were lots of sweets for sale.|
|And oodles of figures to build a crib/manger/presepeo scene.|
|One could even purchase creche paraphernalia that is powered by electricity such as fountains, windmills, roaring fires and moving figures. With time and money, one could have a lot of fun creating sprawling nativity scenes.|
|Plus thousands of ornaments including "la Befana", the witch that delivers presents to children throughout Italy much like Santa Claus or St Nicholas.|
|The remarkable domed ceiling: The opening in the center is 27 feet in diameter. In the "early days", when animals were sacrificed and burned, the hole in the ceiling would allow the smoke to rise out of the building.|
|The Pantheon was converted to a church in the early 7th century. The tomb of Raphael is here as well as that of King Victor Emmanuel II.|
|The presepeo scene inside the church of Sant' Ignazio: It had waterfalls, streams and turning windmills.|
|The interior is spacious and, in true Jesuit tradition, richly decorated with marble, stucco, gilded ornaments and magnificent frescoes.|
|A more complete view of the ceiling which covers the whole length of the nave: The ceiling painting depicts the entry of Ignatius into paradise.|
|Paul and Sarah both lit candles. At the time, Paul was applying to a private high school, with the Jesuit philosophy, so I expect he had something related to pray about.|
|Place a coin in your right hand and throw it over your shoulder into the fountain and the spirit of the fountain will see to it that you return to Rome.|
|A close-up of the detailed bas relief on Trajan's Column. It depicts epic wars between the Romans and Dacians (101–102 and 105–106). Its design has apparently inspired numerous victory columns, both ancient and modern.|
|Paul with Trajan's Forum in the midground and the Vittoria Emmanuel II Monument in the background.|
|The manger scene in Basilica Sant' Cosma E Damiano. I decided to photograph as many of these as we could find.|
|There are all sorts of street performers in Rome; while walking along Via dei Fori Imperiali, we saw these gentlemen who were channeling the Christmas spirit.|
|One of the more random art forms were these sculptures made out of carrots.|
|Hanging out like tourists.|
|The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (like many fountains) is illuminated at night.|
|At night, the Piazza Navona Christmas market was still bustling with activity.|
|The presepeo in Piazza Navona.|
|There were more random street performers than there were Christmas decorations. One saw several versions of this stunt across the city.|
|The entrance to the 5-star Hotel d'Inghilterra on Via Bocca di Leone was decorated for the season.|
|Red carpet welcome in the exclusive shopping area west of the Spanish Steps.|
|I didn't note the name of this restaurant but I photographed it because of the lights.|
|The Spanish Steps in off-season.|
|The Chiesa dei Santi Nomi di Gesù e Maria was completed in 1635.|
|The All Saints Church choir.|
|Panettone and pandoro are main staples at Christmas so the cake section was huge. This photo shows only one brand, but there were several on sale of both panettone and pandoro.|
|For many Italians, a tradition is to serve 7 types of fish on Christmas Eve.|
On December 24th, we had cornetto (Italian version of the croissant) for breakfast. They are sweeter than the croissant. I prefer the French version but of course it was fun to try what the Italians like best.
|A plate of 11 cornetto: 3 Nuttella filled, 2 cream filled, 3 honey filled and 2 plain.|
Our next stop, was the post office to pick up forms that Vincent and the kids would need to fill in and submit for residency. A man at the post office told us that Vincent and the kids could either submit these forms or they could go to the questura, which is a police headquarters, and pursue the process there.
We then drove to the second anagrafe office address that was given to us and found out that office would not be open until December 30th. (This was where I would have to register.) We then drove to the questura and found out it would be open on December 27th, so Vincent and I left the questura deciding we would return on the 27th and see if we could make any progress then.
We returned to our campground at 14:00, had a bit of lunch, changed clothes and headed into Rome to the All Saints' Church for the 17:00 crib service (children's service). While we waited for the service to begin, the kids (and I) got to make paper snow flakes and decorate the church Christmas tree with them. It was a nice service that Sarah and the boys particularly enjoyed.
|It was fun to decorate the tree with other children.|
|On the way to Alla Cancelleria, we saw the striking lights down Via del Corso.|
|Waiting for the Christmas Eve service to begin. During the service, the bells in the top left and right windows of St Peters were pealing.|
|The masses gathering for Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter's Square.|
|On Christmas Eve, the creche in St Peter's Square is unveiled.|
|As part of the service, Pope Francis placed Jesus in the manger.|
|Santa did stop by last night! (Too bad, he didn't have time to fix our lower cupboard door.)|
|A fellow spectator took a photo of us all while we were waiting for the Pope to appear.|
|A view of Pope Francis on the balcony as well as some of the crowd and one of the television screens providing close up visuals.|
|Vincent's steady hand was able to get a clear zoomed-in photo of Pope Francis on the balcony.|
|This is a more accurate shot from where we stood. There were thousands of people. Having watched this scene on television over the years, it was fun to actually be there.|
|The interior was restored in the mid-16th century after the Sack of Rome (1527).|
|Another manger scene (of course).|
After lunch, and deciding we probably wouldn't need to eat again for about 36 hours, we walked to the ice skating rink next to Castel Sant' Angelo and rented skates. This time all of us skated. Christmas music was playing and it was a fun activity for all of us to do.
|The family all on skates with Castel Sant' Angelo in the background.|
|Is that Zeus?! Oh wait, it's just Paul running in his World of Warcraft robe with a couple of sparklers.|
Afterwards, Vincent and I drove into Rome (leaving the kids back in LandShark). I couldn't spend another afternoon in the campground; I felt like we weren't making good use of our time. We parked at our usual Piazza Cavour and walked over the Ponte Cavour and came to a modern building housing the Ara Pacis Augustae. The Ara Pacis is an altar dedicated to Peace, the Roman goddess; it was commissioned by the Roman Senate on 4 July 13 B.C. to honour the return of Augustus to Rome after his three years in Hispania and Gaul, and consecrated on 30 January 9 BC by the Senate in celebration of the peace brought to the Roman Empire by Augustus' military victories. There was an audio guide to rent which I'd really recommend getting as there was very little signage provided to enlighten the visitor.
|A view of the altar.|
|South facing wall: Processional frieze showing members of the Imperial household.|
|The building housing the Ara Pacis is mostly glass and so the light is lovely, particularly at sunset.|
|Madame Henriot by Auguste Renoir.|
|Painting by Eugène Boudin.|
On the way back to the car we stepped into the Church of St Girolamo dei Croati which was just across the road from the Ara Pacis.
|The altar of the Church of St Girolamo dei Croati.|
|And of course the presepeo.|
|Ceiling of the Second Tiburtine Room: Painted ~1569.|
|The boys in front of the Fontana del l'Ovato.|
|Sarah in front of the Cento Fontane (hundred fountains)|
|Fishing ponds seen from Fontana del Nettuno|
|Fontana del Nettuno and above it the Fontana del l'Organo.|
|Don't know who these handsome gents are but wanted to include them.|
|The Prius was starting to fit in nicely with the rest of Italy's vehicles.|
That afternoon, Vincent had a spa treatment lined up at Templus Salutis (Christmas present). When he left, it was pouring rain and so I just didn't have any motivation to get dropped off anywhere. Instead, we all stayed at the campground and worked on various projects.
Dinner was spent at the campground restaurant, Ciao Bella, playing several rounds of Uno. Overall it was a pretty uneventful day.
On December 30th, we woke up to more rain and the need to get our propane tank filled; we were running on fumes and probably wouldn't make it another day. So the morning was spent on the LPG project. Vincent went out in the injured Prius and scouted out candidate stations while the kids and I cleaned up LandShark and pulled in the slides. When Vincent arrived with a target destination, he took LandShark out to get filled and then upon his return he dumped tanks again and topped off the fresh water. (Might as well go to the trouble while the RV is already mobile.) It was about 12:30 when all this was finished and I was feeling frustrated with our lack of momentum in Rome. We just weren't covering any real ground and it was hard to get excited about seeing anything.
Among the things bogging us down, the biggest issue was the residency project. Having to secure translated and apostilled marriage and birth certificate documents from the Italian consulates in San Francisco and Toronto (with unknown turn around times) and get these back to us here in Rome would guarantee that we'd be at this campground for at least 6 weeks. Then once we had documents in order, we'd have to turn them in and wait for (hopefully) approval. And how long would this deliberation period be? Perhaps no more than another couple of weeks but this would bring us to 2 months sitting in Rome. By this time, Vincent and the kids' 90 day grace period in the Schengen zone would be finished and it was unclear about under what circumstances they could stay on beyond the 90 days while waiting for approval for a long-term stay. We both could see the value in pursuing this project if we really intended to stay beyond mid-2014 but our time was limited and we both felt we should be traveling and seeing as much as we could.
So the realization that we should halt the pursuit of residency made us re-evaluate our future travel plans. We should resume a more aggressive travel itinerary and figure out what countries were options outside of the Schengen zone. Vincent suggested Argentina and Chile but that would be a seriously hard return trip for Molly. I went back to proposing the non-Schengen countries I was looking at back in February and March. We were looking at Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Bulgaria, Turkey, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro. I could have thrown in Georgia, Russia and some North African countries too but we had to draw a line somewhere. A few things would influence (or limit) our short list; firstly, the dog needed to easily cross the border and be able to come back to the EU without a lot of fanfare. Secondly, our car insurance would have to cover any country we entered. (Clearly we weren't immune to the possibility of accidents.) Active warfare was right out too, which ruled out Syria. With the exception of Croatia, we'd likely leave LandShark behind and just travel with the Prius, staying in hotels/apartments to keep a lower profile. We were cautiously optimistic that visiting these "less traveled" countries might be a surprise highlight of the trip.
With the agreement of a new plan, Vincent suggested we just get out of Rome for a few days and get moving somewhere. He had family in Bitritto (near Bari) and suggested we drive there tomorrow for a couple days and then return via Pompei. We'd leave LandShark at Roma Camping Village, as we had prepaid a month, making the switch to a hotel for a few days which would be a welcome break for everyone. Within about 10 minutes, Vincent had booked hotels and we were off in the Prius to see something in Rome. It was still raining and so we didn't want to walk around much but I felt compelled to do something. I had read that the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere was one of the many churches worth visiting, so that's were we headed.
|A view of the the gilded wooden ceiling, beautifully decorated with a painting of the 'Assumption of the Virgin', created in 1616 by Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri).|
|The mosaics on the apse vault and the triumphal arch date from about 1140.|
|Outside of the church entrance was another nativity scene which I naturally had to photograph.|