Monday, 28 October 2013

Day 49 We go to The Vatican to receive our Pilgrim's Testamur - Rome Exploration

Monday 28th October - we walk back to St Peter's Square to obtain our Pilgrimage Testamur

After breakfast at the convent with the Pilgrims, Patrick, Jürgen and I head off to St Peter's.
We can't go to the Vatican office until 9:30, so we take a liesurely walk to see some of the sights along the way.
We walk over the Tiber island bridges -  Ponte Cesti and Fabrico (Rome's oldest surviving Bridge, already built when Caesar was alive!) 
And wander along (Patrick and Jürgen in front)
I catch a glimpse of this stunning entrance to a Palazzo
We find the ancient ruins at the Largo di Torre Argentina - Caesar was assassinated near here.
Frescos still clearly visible 

The Elephant and Obelisque sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, unveiled in 1667, the obelisk is Egyptian and was found nearby during excavations 
My first glimpse of the back of the Pantheon gives no indication of what we'll see as we walk around to the front - the back of the dome is brickwork

Magestic!
the incredible, huge brass doors  weigh 20 tons each!
and inside the Pantheon is quite awe inspiring, so much to take in, it's difficult - no, impossible to process it all. (also free entry!) The dome was the largest in the world until the 20th century! 30 ft across, larger than St Peters 
So much art work.. sculpture, paintings, history...  almost 2000 years old, huge, vast dome. Originally, The Pantheon was dedicated to pan theos, "all the gods" first built around 27-25 BC it burned down and was completely reconstructed in 125 AD by Hadrian  In 609 AD, the Pantheon was consecrated as a Christian church. It was the first pagan temple in Rome to be Christianized, and was converted into the church of Santa Maria and Martyres
 We then walked onwards to the Piazza Navona - The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (four rivers fountain) by Bernini 
A beautiful Piazza, it's lovely to see these areas and monuments early in the day before there's hundreds of people everywhere.
The Fountain of the Four Rivers 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. 
Each location is enhanced by animals and plants of that country. The Ganges carries a long oar, representing the river's navigability. The Nile's head is draped with a loose piece of cloth, meaning that no one at that time knew exactly where the Nile's source was. The Danube touches the Papal coat of arms, since it is the largest river closest to Rome. And the Río de la Plata is sitting on a pile of coins, a symbol of the riches America might offer to Europe (the word plata means silver in Spanish). 
 Piazza Navona - is large and oval shaped and was originally a Roman horse racing stadium
We continue our wander... (wow, Rome is amazing! I've heard it said its like a living museum, now I've seen some of it, Imagree) to The Ponte Sant Angelo, looking towards Castello Sant Angelo now a museum, previously a papal fort and residence.
Ponte Sant Angelo sculptures are breath taking, Angels by Bernini.
View down the Tiber River from Ponte Sant Angelo bridge
Then, around 10 am we're back to St Peter's square, much quieter today!
Another photo of us on the Square...
After our security check and scan, we're through the gate and into the Vatican, we still need to go into another office, hand over our passports and get a visitor's badge before proceeding further
In we go! 
Once inside, we pass over our pilgrim passports verifying where we started our Via Francigena, then we wait... feels a bit like waiting outside the Pincipal's office at school!
We have our Testamur! despite having an official,visitors badge, sadly we don't get to have a tour, or jump to the front of any queues... (it's always worth asking!) Out we go, out of the surreal world of the huge Vatican
We have a celebratory Caffé together, before heading our separate ways for the rest of the day. Patrick and I are keen to do a bicycle tour with "The Red Bicycle" http://mobile.theredbicycle.org/news/afternoon-ride-appia-antica-catacombs/ 
They have a tour available starting at 2 pm, going to the catacombs, appian way, acquadect ... Sounds perfect! their office and start point is just behind the colosseum, so we head off to walk that way.
A visual feast wherever you walk inside the walls of rome!
We see so much on our way to the bicycle tour start point! 
up the steps of the Capitol Hill, Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo, but not compete when he died in 1564
 A photo of one of the statues representing the Tiber river  created in the first century AD and found in the ruins of the Baths of Constantine
equestrian statue of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (now a replica,,the original has been moved to the Palazzo Nuovo for protection)
Past the forum
Must be continuous work keeping all the pavers functional in Rome! 
More of the forum
I think this is the  Arch of Septimius Severus - built in 203 AD to commemorate the victory over the Parthians.
my first gaze at the Colusseum!
We set off on the bicycles, just Patrick and I with our tour guide Victor! fantastic value! Victor's a great guide, full of interesting knowledge, without being preachy or boring.
The first stop is the Catacombs of San Callisto where we join the 2:30 English speaking group. It's a fascinating tour, photos aren't allowed... (guides are all priests, its owned by the Vatican, this is the first Christian burial site in Rome) but our guide takes a photo of us. These catacombs are on four levels and are over 20 km in length, they were used between 2-5 AD when Christianity was a new religion and illegal in Rome. There are still some frescos visible from 2-5 AD! 
After the Catacombs we stop briefly to see the church of St Sebastian, one of the seven pilgrimage churches in Rome,  he was an early christian martyr, killed (twice) during the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians. You can see the sculpture below depicting his body covered in arrows.
Berninis last sculpture, a bust of San Sebastian, finished when he was 82 years old is in this church, such a prolific artist, sculpting from the age of 14.
The ceiling
Quo Vadis? Said to be Jesus's feet imprint in marble.
Back on our bikes we head to the incredible Appian way, there are long stretches of this original, first Roman road still intact leading out from Rome. Not recommended for bike riding on though! so bumpy... we cycle next to the roads when possible.
Not quite sure what I'm doing with my helmet on this rakish angle!
We then cycle along parkland paths, the afternoon is a beautiful time of the day to be cycling around! The sun highlights and glows on the roman aqueduct.
Golden glowing light creates a magical feel to this part of our cycle.
These are the species of pine that pine nuts come from, the lower branches are all regularly trimmed to shape the trees.
I can't resist taking a few more photos of the sun lowering in the sky, shining through the arches of the aqueduct 
Sunset, grapevines and aqueduct 
After I'm dragged away from the aqueduct, Victor takes us to the amazing place! spring water that has been tapped, locals come and fill up crates of bottles - you can even get frizzante - sparkling mineral water naturally! see the taps on the right hand side. How does that happen? how does it get gas naturally?
This place is amazing, in addition to the mineral water, locals come here to buy their house wine in bulk. We taste some and buy a litre to take back and share at dinner tonight.
Phew! we've cycled approximately 35 km in the last 4 hours, and seen so many sights that would be difficult on foot. I've loved the afternoon cycling tour!
After we've returned the bicycles and said ciao to Victor, we wander back towards Trastevere and our Pilgrim accommodation, we have the opportunity to see the Colosseum and monuments in the evening when they're beautifully illuminated.

I try resting my camera on top of a post to keep it steady, and select a slow shutter speed for this shot. The lights of cars and buses turn into a long golden streak.

Back in the Trastevere area, Patrick feels the need for a gelato
I check out a lovely small, old church next door

Before I finish writing, I need to share a photo of the incredible gorgeous marble sink in the convent kitchen! Made from a single piece of stone. 
Oops, nearly forgot to include a photo of the Testamur !
There's also a bit more to add to the story of "The Testamur".
Just before we started our bicycle tour, Patrick and I had a quick lunch at "Binario 4" just around the corner from the Red Bike office.
After the tour, and our leisurely walk back to Trastevere and our pilgrim accommodation, just before dinner we realized tat neither of us ad the A4 Size white envelopes from the Vatican containing our Testamur !!! oh no!! Mumma Mia, Mio Dio .... we've either left them at the Red Bicycle, or on the table where we had lunch... Patrick phoned Victor to check, but he'd left for the day. He said he'd have a look tomorrow and let us know. 
The next morning we get a phone call from Victor - No, nothing at the Bicycle Tour office... mmmm they must be at Binario 4 around the corner, Fantastic Victor says he'll check with them later in the day when they're open and get back to us.... Amazingly, yes we left the two envelopes on the table at the cafe ( actually, that's not so amazing...) Amazingly, they weren't thrown out, they kept them, recognizing the Vatican stamp on the envelope! Wow, fantastic people! Victor collects them and drops them off at his second job which is near where we are staying... So - We have our Testamurs! Thanks to some very thoughtful Romans!
Our accommodation tonight;
second, and final night at the Confraternity of St James accommodation in Rome
Via di Genovesi, 11b Trastevere 


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