Tuesday, January 7, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome

December 19th and 20th were maintenance days. We woke up on the 19th to a lovely sunny, "spring-like" day at Roma Camping Village (~€23/day with a month+ long-term booking). Vincent and I weren't sure however that we'd stay at this campground because it turned out that there was neither water nor dumping capabilities at the pitch. So every 5 days or so, we'd have to pack up LandShark, close the slides and make our way down the windy driveway to the single campground service point. The upsides to the campground however were many. The public restrooms and showers were very nice (showers with heated floors). There was even a children's restroom with tiny toilets and short showers (cute). There were ample laundry facilities on-site. (With no ready access to water or dumping, we wouldn't be able to use our washing machine.) Wifi access seemed pretty good (at least with no one much at the campground) and there was a restaurant on-site. There was a grocery store within walking distance, the ability to take a bus into the center of Rome (and we were only 3 miles away from St Peter's). Roma Camping Village also had bungalows and chalets for rent so that if my Mother, or anyone else, came to visit there would be accommodations nearby.

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.
Paul was still in charge of dumping tanks and filling up with fresh water. Here, he's dumping black (or grey); the process was to dump black first then flush the black tank with gray water a few times and then dump the remaining gray. Meanwhile, there were several onlookers that were very interested in LandShark telling Vincent that it was bellissimo!
By noon, we finally left the campground and headed into the center of Rome. It was an absolutely gorgeous day; the temperature was 58 degrees F when we left LandShark. I was dubious about driving into Rome with the Prius (how long would it last without getting dinged?) and parking securely. We did find a great underground parking lot however at Piazza Cavour near Castel Sant' Angelo.

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.
Piazza Navona's Christmas market didn't match what the Champs-Elysees in Paris had to offer but of course it was fun to see and to find out what sort of things the Italians were peddling.
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.
Piazza Navona has 3 beautiful fountains, which can almost get overlooked with the street vendors, musicians, carousel and crowds.
  Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1651), located in the center of the Piazza del Navona: The fountain depicts gods of the four great rivers in the four continents, as then recognized by the Renaissance geographers: The Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, the Danube in Europe and the Río de la Plata in America.
Paul and Vincent in front of the Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain), located at the southern end of the Piazza Navona. It was originally designed by Giacomo della Porta in 1575 with the dolphin and four Tritons. In 1653, the statue of the Moor, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was added. The fountain now shows a Moor standing in a conch shell, wrestling with a dolphin, surrounded by four Titons.
Live entertainment.
After leaving Piazza Navona, we walked to the Pantheon.
Of all the ancient buildings in Rome, only the Pantheon remains in tact. It is 142 ft wide and 142 ft high and the walls are 25 ft thick. It was originally built in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa and then was later reconstructed by Emperor Hadrian in the first half of the 2nd century AD.
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.
We then continued walking and came across the church of Sant' Ignazio; it is dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola who was the founder of the Jesuit order and who played a crucial role in the counter-reformation.
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.
 The next landmark we came across was the Trevi Fountain.
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.
After seeing the Trevi Fountain, Vincent wanted to show the kids the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II so we continued on in that direction.
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II: Construction of the monument started in 1885 from a design by Giuseppe Sacconi, winner of an architectural contest. The northern slope of the Capitoline Hill was cleared to make way for the monument. Roman ruins and medieval churches were destroyed in the process. The monument was finally inaugurated in 1911 and is sometimes referred to as "The Altar of the Nation". At the center of the monument is the equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel, the "Father of the Nation". At the foot of the statue is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, inaugurated in 1921.
Once past the Monument, I knew we were fairly close to the Colosseum and I thought there was a skating rink nearby. So we continued on, passing Trajan's Forum.
A view of Foro Traiano (Trajan's Forum): This was the last of the Imperial Forums to be built in ancient Rome. It was built on the order of the emperor Trajan and paid for with the spoils of war from the conquest of Dacia, which ended in 106. The Forum was inaugurated in 112 and Trajan's Column (center background) was erected and then inaugurated in 113.
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.
We continued along the Via dei Fori Imperiali with the Colosseum in sight and came across a tourist information office. I asked about a skating rink nearby and was told there wasn't one. The skating rink was next to Castel Sant' Angelo which was quite far away. (I misstook a picture of a round-shaped building next to the skating rink as being the Colosseum rather than Castel Sant' Angelo.) Oh well. We decided to leave visiting the Colosseum for another day and started walking towards Castel Sant' Angelo. Before turning back however, we went into the Basilica Sant' Cosma E Damiano to see if there was a manger scene. Sure enough, there was.
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.
After miles of walking, I thought we should stop for a rest and bite to eat before lacing up skates. We had some debate as to whether we should have a gelato or meal; we ended up having the most mediocre meal imaginable at a restaurant just opposite to the Pantheon. Most of the food on the menu was highlighted as being "previously frozen" (all except the ice cream oddly enough). Despite this, Vincent was very happy with the view of the Pantheon and the random street vendors and performers, while I tried to ignore missing the opportunity of a good meal.
Hanging out like tourists.
After dinner, we continued towards Castel Sant' Angelo and walked through Piazza Navona again. We eventually did find the skating rink and all of us participated except for James, who was pretty tired at that point.
The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (like many fountains) is illuminated at night.
Candy galore.
At night, the Piazza Navona Christmas market was still bustling with activity.
The presepeo in Piazza Navona.
On December 22nd, we got a late start and didn't leave the campground until about 13:00. We drove to the Piazza Cavour, where we parked, and then Vincent and the kids set off to visit St Peter's while I went to begin and finalize Christmas shopping. Our plan was to meet at the Spanish Steps at 16:30, have a bite to eat and then attend the 9 Lessons and Carol service at the All Saints Church on Via del Babuino at 18:00. Unlike Paris, Rome didn't have a lot of Christmas decorations on display.
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.
Before going into the All Saints Church, we looked into the Chiesa dei Santi Nomi di Gesù e Maria (Church of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary). Often these churches don't look like much from the street but just enter and you discover an ornate Baroque interior.
The Chiesa dei Santi Nomi di Gesù e Maria was completed in 1635.
The 9 Lessons and Carol service at the All Saints Church was packed, standing room only. A kind gentleman offered to rotate his seat with another woman and myself so I got a chance to sit down for a couple lessons. Afterwards, members of the church were selling mincemeat tarts. About 500 tarts were sold out in a matter of about 3 minutes. I got the last 6 tarts. What a score to have our traditional Christmas Eve dessert!
The All Saints Church choir.
On December 23rd,Vincent and I set out to the anagrafe (residency registration). We got as far as inside the front door and to the reception window. We found out that the office deals with EU citizens seeking residence on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. Today was Monday. So Vincent and I left with the plan to return the next morning. In the meantime, we stopped by a pasticceria to pick up some cornetto and Italian cookies. We then went to the alimentari for some other breakfast supplies for the next couple days.
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.
When we returned to LandShark, Vincent and I researched restaurants for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while the kids did homework. We all took showers at the campground facilities and all felt that these were the best showers that we'd encountered on this trip. (The exception being the showers on the Grimaldi Lines' Barcelona which had water spray jets set to massage every part of your body; that was great.)

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.
After breakfast, Vincent and I headed back to the anagrafe office again. This time we were given a number and spoke with a woman who, when she understood I held an EU passport, took us to a lower floor office where we were given registration instructions and I was given an appointment for February in the event there were questions/problems. Then there was the realization from the officials that Vincent and the kids were not EU citizens. It was a misunderstanding on their part. Vincent was doing all of the talking in limited broken Italian. (I was very frustrated not speaking any Italian; I can function in French or Spanish but clearly I was in the wrong country to rely on those languages.) So we ended back upstairs and our woman was giving us different instructions. Then she took another look at our (campground) address. Oops, we werre applying in the wrong office. An hour plus later, we left the building not much further ahead than when we started. It was 11:30 and the other office would likely be closing soon. Nevertheless, we decided to continue on to find out where these potential points of registration actually were and to find out their hours of operation. (No office was open 8:30-17:30 Monday to Friday, like in North America; government offices here seemed to have random hours like 8:30-12:00 Monday, Tuesday and Thursday or only open Tuesday and Wednesday 8:30-13:00 or only open Wednesday and Thursday 8:30-11:00 and 14:00-16:00. Perhaps all these government officials had second jobs.)

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.
After the service, we walked to the restaurant Alla Cancelleria on Vicolo della Cancelleria. My requirement for restaurants on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was that the restaurant menu couldn't lead with pizza and I wanted a proper table cloth on the table. Alla Cancelleria was ranked #485 of 7,360 restaurants in Rome and our meal was very good.
On the way to Alla Cancelleria, we saw the striking lights down Via del Corso.
When we left Alla Cancelleria, it was 21:00 and we realized we could pass by St Peter's square and make mid-night mass (which is actually held at 21:30). If one is organized, tickets (free) are available for attending the service inside the Basilica but one has to request those months in advance. (We didn't fit in that category.) Those without tickets can stand in St Peter's square and watch the service on huge screens. There is also a life-sized manger scene that is unveiled in the square by the gigantic Christmas tree that is fun to see. Having seen, excerpts of the service on television over the years, it was a great experience to actually be there with thousands of other people.
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.
On December 25th, James was up before 6am and Paul got up around 7am. To help get the rest of us moving, Paul started playing our Christmas CD on high volume at 7:30. We were happy to see that Santa did in fact stop by last night. It was a lighter Christmas in the gift department but everyone was quite happy with what they received.
Santa did stop by last night! (Too bad, he didn't have time to fix our lower cupboard door.)
We had a good breakfast with chocolate panettone, scrambled eggs and sausages and then set out to return to St Peter's Square again to witness Pope Francis's Christmas message.
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.
After leaving St Peter's Square we walked to the Divin Peccato restaurant on Via di Sant' Onofrio where we had reservations for lunch. On the way, we stopped in at Santo Spirito in Sassia, a 12th century titular (assigned to a Cardinal priest) church. The church has a single nave and 5 chapels along each side. Many churches in Rome have a similar design and so I found that after visiting 6 or 7, it became more difficult to differentiate one from another.
The interior was restored in the mid-16th century after the Sack of Rome (1527).
Another manger scene (of course).
When we arrived at the Divin Peccato restaurant, we were sat on the first floor, which was quite charming with a painted ceiling. There was one waitress who was literally run off her feet running up and down those stairs. Vince's entrecote was very good whereas the lamb that Paul and I ordered was overcooked. It was an "okay" meal. Wine was good though, which can make up for some shortcomings. We lingered for 2 1/2 hours, which must be some sort of record for our immediate family. 

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.
When we finished skating, we returned to LandShark to watch a couple episodes of my Christmas present: Season 4 of Downton Abbey and then make Skype calls to family back in North America. The night ended with the kids setting off sparklers, running through the campground.
Is that Zeus?! Oh wait, it's just Paul running in his World of Warcraft robe with a couple of sparklers.
On December 27th, we set out for Rome's questura (police headquarters). It wasn't my first time as an immigrant so I knew this outing would involve some queuing and probably a lot of waiting. The experience met expectations and we learned about a few more hurdles. The process to establish residency was gradually becoming clearer. I would need to establish residency first (which we already knew) and then Vincent and the boys would have to complete forms which needed to have stamps adhered that came from a tobacconist shop. The big hurdle however was that our marriage certificate plus the kids' birth certificates would have to be translated and apostilled (deemed "legal") by the Italian consulate of the issuing countries. That would be a real pain.

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.
A goddess sits amid a scene of fertility and prosperity with twins on her lap. There is some debate over who the central character is; scholars have variously suggested that the goddess is Italia, Tellus (Earth), Venus or Peace. Due to the widespread depiction around the sculpture of scenes of peace, and because the Altar is named "peace", the favoured conclusion is that the goddess is Pax.
The building housing the Ara Pacis is mostly glass and so the light is lovely, particularly at sunset.
On the lower level, there was a temporary Impressionist exhibit showing that came from the Museum of Modern Art in Washington, DC.
Madame Henriot by Auguste Renoir.
Painting by Eugène Boudin.
It was a good time to visit this museum because I don't think it would have really engaged the children and the cost was pretty steep for what it was. (€8 for the main part of the Ara Pacis and another €8 for the temporary exhibit plus €6 for the audio guide.)

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.
On December 28th, we decided to drive outside of Rome to Tivoli. We went to the Villa d'Este which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the mid-16th century by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este after a failed bid for the papacy.
Ceiling of the Second Tiburtine Room: Painted ~1569.
The renaissance villa is perhaps not worth the drive from Rome (given the all the sights competing for the tourist's attention) but the gardens certainly are. There are several fountains and one of the highlights is the hydraulic organ fountain designed by Claude Veanard. A few times during the day, it briefly plays a few notes. Apparently, there are some five hundred jets in fountains, pools and water troughs throughout the gardens. Everywhere you turn, there seems to be another fountain. The water is supplied by the Aniene, which is partly diverted through the town (a distance of a kilometer) and, originally, by the Rivellese spring.
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.
Dragons fountain.
Don't know who these handsome gents are but wanted to include them.
On the return back to the campground, Vincent wanted to scout out petrol stations that sold LPG and were candidates for us to refill LandShark. Finding a station that sold LPG was only part of the solution; we had to make sure that Vince could drive LandShark safely to and from a target station. It was turning into one of these petrol stations, where the inevitable happened. Yup, the first car accident. Just 11 days in Italy and there it was. Vincent was on a one-way street, turning left into a station when a young man on a motorcycle tried to pass on the left and wham, he ran into the back of the Prius on the driver's side. The young man (only 17) was thrown off his bike but thankfully not seriously or significantly hurt. Both his bike and my car however suffered damage. A witness to the accident pulled over and happened to have an accident report template that they offered to us to complete for insurance purposes. With Vincent's limited Italian (mine was non-existent) and the other party's limited English, it was hard communicating but having that accident template document helped a lot. The police were called several times but they never answered the phone! Vincent tried calling our insurance provider but got a message that their office was closed until January 2nd. (Ah, those European vacations.) I'm not sure how this will all play out but we drove away very relieved that the young man was okay.
The Prius was starting to fit in nicely with the rest of Italy's vehicles.
On December 29th, we woke up to rain so no one was very motivated to get going anywhere. Paul spent the morning doing practice tests for entry exams to a private high school to which he had applied. James and Sarah worked on homework and Vincent and I worked on our various on-line projects.

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.
The Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome. Some believe that it was the first church in Rome where mass was openly celebrated. The basic floor plan and wall structure date back to the 340s. The first sanctuary was built in 221 by Pope Callixtus I and later completed by Pope Julius I in 227.
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.
After visiting the church, we stopped at the nearby Terre d'Acqua restaurant for refreshments (tea with biscotti, cannoli and gelato) and then headed back to the campground. We needed to pack for our vacation "from our vacation" down to Bitritto.

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