When it comes to travelling I’m a bit of a repeat offender. I fall head over heels for somewhere then before I’ve even left, I’m planning my next visit.
Rome is one of those for me! In fact a lot of Italy is!
One of the things that leaves me in awe with Italy is it’s stunningly intricate churches. Of course in Rome everyone flocks to the Pantheon, St. Peters in The Vatican and Santa Maria Maggoire whilst listening to buskers in Piazza Navona. But, just round the corner from some of the most well-known sites are some of the most beautiful churches that you probably never knew existed.
Now, you’ll need to find the Vittorio Emmanuelle II (Altare della Patria), you know the wedding cake, type writer, what ever you like to call it, the huge white building topped with two statues of goddess Victoria. Right at the top you will find hidden away, Basilica di santa maria in ara coeli. It’s a historians dream, with plaques commemorating those passed away and even houses the relics of Saint Helena, mother of Emporer Constantine amongst others.
Sun streams in and lights up Madonna & child and it all seems so serene up there above the hustle and bustle.
It’s well worth a snoop around the building itself with its stunning collection of artifacts, beautiful rooftop views and bright white marble against blackened bronze statues.
Whilst you’re in the area, visit my favourite church by far, Cheisa de Gesú. It’s nestled just round the corner from the Vittorio Emmanuelle II. That’s where my baby lies! Huge oak doors greet you, however, even with its grand size it is quite an unassuming building, from the outside. Once you step in though, prepare to be amazed!
The craftsmanship of the painted ceiling is breath taking, it’s probably where I fell for churches. I just can’t get my head around the 3D affect, it seems like angels are preparing to lift you up with them, as they perch on clouds and the churches gargoils. Yep, that’s all paint; the shadows, paint; the golden plaques, paint! The gold and splendour is lovely, but being able to paint like that, on a ceiling no less, that is awe inspiring!
Another I stumbled when exploring Rome with two of my favourite wanderers was Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola – don’t you just love the way Italian rolls off the tongue?! This is another stunningly frescoed ceiling. This time the ‘dome’ had been painted on, yep that ceiling is flat, pretty cool huh?
After all the hustle & bustle, want a spectacular views of Rome in a calm neighbourhood filled with secret gardens, stunning architecture, all within walking distance of the center? Well I have just the church to visit!
Santa Sabina is set on the Aventine hill above circo massimo. We dragged ourselves up on a hot and sticky day, but it was all worth it when we were welcomed by a sun dappled courtyard, shading ourselves under the deliciously scented orange trees.
Plus check out that view!
Just up the road you’ll find Villa del Priorato di Malta, famous amongst locals, maybe tourists too – but I’d never heard of it. This is actually what we intended to find when we stumbled upon Santa sabina, having found a spectacular view and not really wanting to leave the gardens we didn’t manage to climb that little bit further up the hill.
If you get there, locate the knights of Malta entrance and peer through the keyhole. You’ll be treated to a perfectly framed view of the Vatican along Rome’s skyline.
LAst but ont least on my list, take yourself a little further from Rome central hub and you’ll find the catacombs of San Sebastiano.
This was used as an underground cemetery for Christians between 3rd & 4th Century, it is outside of the city walls of Rome, as during this time it was against the law to bury people within the city. These are one of 25 catacombs in Rome & one of five which is open to the public. It has 3 levels, the deepest at 12 meters below ground and extends across 12 km in length. It is an absolutely amazing experience to wind through this underground necropolis, knowing that people have been doing so for thousands of years and learning random facts from the enthusiastic guides.
The church itself is stunning, with wood carved ceilings – wow I’ve got a real obsession with ceilings don’t I?! – and sculptures depicting Saint Sebastians story to sainthood. If you have a chance, I would definitely recommend it!