I had arrived in Rome on Wednesday November 28th. It was now Tuesday, December 4th. Two full days left in Rome! I had already had my cappuccino and brioche, when I hopped the metro to the "Colosseo"stop.
The metro stop puts you out right across the street from this popular tourist destination and unbelievable Roman ruin, but the Colosseum was not where I was headed on this trip. Instead, I was on my way to the old Basilica of San Clemente. I'd seen it on a Rick Steve's episode, and on various blogs and websites.
I headed directly east "behind" the Colosseum and on my way I found this little set of Roman ruins which, as I have said, are everyone in Rome.
As you can see from the sign above, it's The Ludus Magnus. You know ... The Ludus Magnus. You don't?
OK, I had no idea either, and at that moment I was running out of time to find out! I needed to get to San Clemente before they closed for the whole middle of the day!
Turns out that the "Luds Magnus" or The Great Gladiatorial Training School, was the largest of the gladiatorial training camps in Rome. Thanks Wikipedia! Emperor Domitian built it from 81-96 AD. If I am understanding correctly, what you see now are ruins from Emperor Trajan (98-117)
The complex was discovered in 1937. The Ludus Magnus had an underground pathway to the colosseum, that still exists today.
Somewhere in the middle of this area was a two level ellipsoidal arena where the gladiators practiced. Wikipedia said there wasn't a lot of space for spectators and another website said it held up to 3,000, but apparently it was a good place to view gladiators, when it was off-season at the Colisseum.
Anyway, moving right along. I headed directly East and up a few blocks and came upon what I was looking for ....
The Basilica of San Clemente
(One of my top recommendations in Rome!!!)
This, above, is the door from the street, and not the actual facade. When you walk in this door, turn your head to the left, and you see this incredible Byzantine mosaic, below.
Unfortunately, this is the only photo I got inside. They don't allow photography. :( (I was naughty and snuck this, so I would have something to show you. I hurried, so it's blurry.)
This church is 12th century (built 1108-1123 AD,) but what is amazing, are the layers of history you can see, beneath this very spot. Underneath this basilica, is a 4th Century Basilica ... and under that ... Roman buildings! Rick Steve's referred to it as a historical layer cake, and it is!
From the San Clemente website ...
"In 1857 Fr Joseph Mullooly, O.P., the then Prior of San Clemente, began excavations under the present basilica, uncovering not only the original, fourth-century basilica directly underneath, but also at an even lower level, the remains of a first-century building.
At this third level there are two separate buildings. One is a brick building in the courtyard of which there is a Mithraic temple of the end of the 2nd century. The other is a more magnificent, rectangular structure, constructed around a courtyard.
In the 4th century, the ground-floor rooms of this structure and the courtyard were filled in to the level of the first storey to provide the foundations for a church in memory of Pope Clement. The courtyard of this new level became the nave of the church, while the rooms that once overlooked the old courtyard on either side were converted into the side aisles.
I went down to the 4th century basilica, which is very dark and mysterious. Of course, it's underground and has no windows. It also has some old faded frescoes, many which are cut off at the top, from when they filled it all in and built the "new" 12 century church.
Then taken stairs even lower ... to the Roman level.
It's so hard to explain. Here is a video. Unfortunately, its in Italian but you can at least see, visually, what I am talking about. After it loads, you can skip around.
At 2:45 he's in the Roman House
At 3:30 He's in the Roman Temple
At 4:38 He's in the 4th Century Church
At 7:57 he's in the 12th Century Basilica
At 9:20 he's in more excavations
Going down to the Roman level is so strange. You do feel you are going back in time.
Maybe it was watching the series Rome on HBO, but I could totally envision those Roman soldiers going through the corridors and alleyways, in their tunics and leather sandals!
There is another level where you go down and you can hear water... you walk into a little room and you see where it comes in from the aqueduct. It was part of the ancient Roman sewer system. It's unbelievable! I'm so sorry I wasn't aloud to take pictures!
The facade from outside the walls after we were all kicked out.
If you ever go there (and I recommend you do!) give yourself plenty of time! I had about 45 minutes before they closed for midday, and I felt like I was rushing through it. (I got distracted that morning buying my cute yellow handbag!)
Really quickly, check out the photos of the church on the Sacred Destinations site. The photos are on the right hand side, and they go back in time as you scroll down. Click HERE, then come back for pasta and gelato!
From the street outside ...
Cute little neighborhood, right?
This looked like a good little local place to stop for lunch ...
I ordered a few things, but this homemade pasta was the best. It tasted really good with my red wine, and was a perfect compliment to writing in my travel journal and postcards. Did I mention how much I love Parmigiano? (I'm not eating white flower or any grain right now, so this photo is killing me!)
Heading back toward the Colosseum ...
The tree on the right, below, is the big Coliseum Christmas tree and I think I saw them working on it for 3 days, trying to get all the lights on!
I went back to the room for a nap and decided to have Gelato for dinner. Don't you love getting to make adult decisions like that!? ;)
Anyway, I'd heard of a place near the Trevi Fountain, that was supposed to be amazing, so I went on a hunt. (See the cute Christmas lights?)
I love that the various streets in Italy, have different Christmas decorations! These little trees, above, were so cute at night!
Via della Panetteria 42
Finally, I found it! It wasn't marked in a very glaring American fashion, so I think I past it more than once. What I'd heard about, was not only how good this gelato was, but that they had some unique flavors.
Below are the flavors and I'm not going to translate them all, but one was actually basil!
Very mysterious ... they were all covered!
I had to get something in Chocolate but I got banana, as well. You could tell they used fresh banana ... YUM!!! I wished I'd gone there at the beginning of the trip but I guess it's good that I didn't, or I would have lived there for a week. Next time I'm trying the basil gelato!
More lights had gone up near the Spanish Steps, so I wondered around there for a while.
When I got up to the actual Steps, they were putting lights on the big tree, near the top of the stairs. Friday would be the official lighting, but I had somewhere else to be that night. No regrets though, and I was very happy to have this little preview!
I climbed the steps and took this photo, from above. In the lower left corner of the shot, you can see Via del Condotti, where all the fancy shops are.
I've mentioned the series Rome, on HBO, more than once. It ran for two seasons and if you appreciate amazing costumes and sets, and like history ... definitely watch it! Yes, it's violent and there's a lot of sex, so if you are squeamish, it's not for you. (I just closed my eyes when someone was going to get their head lobbed off, in the battle scenes.)
What's also great, are all the Special Features and extras on the DVDs. Lots of history and explanations of things. You can even set up pop up windows, to come up when there's extra information available. I did this, watching it the second time.
It's great, if you are heading to Rome, so you can invasion what the Roman Forum looked like. They actually built the largest free standing set, at that time, for the Forum.
Here's the season 1 promo ...
Here's a scene from the show.
All roads indeed lead to Rome,
but there also is a more mystical destination,
some bourne of which no traveller knows the name,
some city, they all seem to hint, even more eternal.
~Richard Le Gallienne
One more day in Rome! Then off to Umbria!
Blessings and light!