We had a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration. I had a busy day planned for us, including visits to a couple of churches and a stop for gelato, and we’d heard that we could see fireworks at midnight just down the Tevere (Tiber) at Ponte Sisto. We wouldn’t even need to leave our apartment until 11:50 or so to see the show.
I’d been itching to see Michelangelo’s Moses at the church San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), and I thought Saturday would be a good day to go because we might find parking right outside, and we did, so I didn’t have to walk too far. One of the plainest buildings in Rome, San Pietro in Vincoli is famous for a second treasure as well—the reputed chains that bound St. Peter during his imprisonment by the Romans in Jerusalem.
Not surprisingly, Moses is stunning! He’s not David, my favorite, but he’s large (about eight feet tall), serious, and imposing. Michelangelo carved Moses in early 1500 for a tomb commissioned by Pope Julius II. The tomb was designed to include dozens of statues and stand about 40 feet tall when installed in St. Peter’s Basilica, but Michelangelo completed only Moses and Leah and Rachel on either side of him before Julius died and the funding died right along with him. Moses has what look like horns on his head, but they’re believed to represent a halo.
St. Peter’s chains are kept in a bronze and crystal urn beneath the main altar. We were there at a good time, because a presepio was sitting right in front of them.
We then made our way to Arcibasilica Papale di San Giovanni in Laterano, the pope’s cathedral, where he officiates in his capacity as the bishop of Rome. Parking was available right outside the archbasilica, so we were able to go in. San Giovanni in Laterano was founded in the fourth century and was the most important church in Rome until St. Peter’s Basilica was completed in 1667. The current archbasilica was rebuilt beginning in 1646. It is glorious inside.
San Giovanni in Laterano has many wondrous treasures, including a gorgeous Gothic baldacchino (from 1369) over the high altar. The baldacchino contains what are believed to be the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul. (Luckily, they were too far away for me to see them well!) The glorious apse is covered with mosaics and reminded me of the churches in Palermo and Monreale. My favorite treasure is a gold carving of the Last Supper.
The beautiful and quiet cloister is also a gem. The columns and decorations feature 13th-century cosmatesque mosaics. I’d never heard this term, but now that I know what it is, I’ve often seen these mosaics. According to Wiki, cosmatesque “is a style of geometric decorative inlay stonework typical of medieval Italy, and especially of Rome and its surroundings. It was used most extensively for the decoration of church floors but was also used to decorate church walls, pulpits, and bishop’s thrones. The name derives from the Cosmati, the leading family workshop of marble craftsmen in Rome who created such geometrical decorations.”
San Giovanni in Laterano also includes the Holy Steps, which I was in too much pain to look for. According to Roman Catholic tradition, Jesus walked on these steps in Jerusalem. Today many pilgrims climb these stairs on their knees.
Next came the highlight of the day: a trip to Fassi, the Palace of Cold! I couldn’t wait! We drove a short distance to Fassi, which was decorated for the holidays, and began looking for a place to park. We drove, and we drove, and we drove, and finally, after 30 minutes or so, we found a parking place. We jumped out of the car and practically danced to Fassi. I was so excited for my rich, dark, intensely chocolate cone! We rounded the corner, and stopped dead in our tracks! Fassi was closed for the holidays! Life is not fair.
In the evening we ate dinner at home and played several matches of the world’s best board game, Ticket to Ride. All evening we could hear firecrackers going off all around us. At 11:50 we bundled into warm clothes and walked across the street to the Tevere (Tiber). At midnight, Rome went nuts! Fireworks were going off everywhere, including at the restaurant next door to us. It was crazy, noisy, smoky, and fun, fun, fun. Rome quieted down at bit around 12:15, and we made our way home, laughing all the way. We looked up one more time as we reached our front gate and were enchanted to see tiny lanterns, like miniature hot air balloons, floating in the sky, propelled by candles inside. Seemed a bit dangerous to me, but they were ethereal and beautiful.