By Monday, we had seen most of the top ten sites, and the ones we had missed were not open on Mondays. We decided to sample a few more churches a little further from our hotel, so we grabbed a cab and headed out.
Our first stop was the Basilica of San Clemente. This place is a great opportunity to experience history. The current church was built in the 12th century on top of a 4th century church built on top of 1st century houses and buildings. Today, we completely demolish a building before we build something in its place. But historically, it is very common to leave the previous building and fill it in with rubble, or use it as a basement for the new building.
In San Clemente’s case, you can go down two levels and experience each period of it’s history. In the bottom level, you have the house of Titus Flavius Clemens, built after the great file of 64 AD. Clemens was a Christian and one of the first of the Roman senatorial class. He allowed the house to be used as a secret gathering place when Christianity was outlawed. Interestingly, the house adjacent to his house had a sanctuary of the cult of Mithras. The alter to Mithras can be seen today.
In the 4th century, the basement of the house was filled in and the second story became the main floor of the new church. In 392 St. Jerome wrote of the church dedicated to St. Clement, who became Pope Clement 1. It is thought that Pope Clement 1 was Titus Flavius Clemens.
In 1084 Robert Guiscard, a Norman general, sacked the city and the church was burned down. Soon afterwards construction began on the new basilica that we see today at ground level.
Our next stop was Saint Peter in Chains Church (San Pietro in Vincoli). First build in 432 to house the chains that bound St Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. The story is when Pope Leo 1 put these chains next to the chains that held St. Peter in Rome’s Mamertine Prison, the two chains fused together. The chains can be seen today at the alter. The church has some great art, including Michelangelo’s Moses.
Our last stop was Santa Maria Maggiore, another great basilica. Impressive interior, more art, more mosaics, etc. I think we burned out at this point….
For our last dinner in Rome, we chose Roscioli. It was 5 minutes from our hotel, got recommendations for good local food, and promise of the mythical burrata. Roscioli is basically a meat & cheese market with a few tables smashed in to feed some people. We knew it was a good sign when we had a hard time getting a reservation on a Monday night, and had to sit next to the door beside the meat counter and against the wall of wine. On the meat counter they had six different cured hams, spanish and italian, still on the hoof (see picture).
The menu contained a page of antipastas, including four different burrata options. When it came time to order, we chose burrata with sundried tomatoes and asked about a salami & cheese plate. It turned out there was another whole page of the menu dedicated to cured meat platters. We said just bring us something with a good selection. And we also ordered a couple of pasta dishes, one with a tomato sauce and one with sardines. And, of course, a bottle of wine. First to come out was a basket of 4-5 different kinds of delicious artisan breads, and a pre-appetizer of fresh ricotta cheese. Next came our two antipastas — amazing. So what is burrata? Our friend Jamie said we had to get burrata in Rome, and as she described it, it is extra fresh mozzerella filled with extra cream and balled up in a wrapping. To serve it, you just split open the ball and add some olive oil and (in our case) some sun-dried tomatoes, and you have one delicious wonder! Burrata, bread, hams & salamis, and wine, and you have a feast. By the time the pastas came we were stuffed. I know they were good, but can’t tell you much about them…
After dinner, we took one last stroll to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, then crashed for the night. Bright and early we were out to the airport and our trip home.
We’ll miss you, Roma!
(You can see a slideshow of all of our Rome pictures here.)