Rome, Part 1

Day 9

If we ever make it back to Europe, I think we will travel exclusively by train once we are on the continent. Even if we’re on the train overnight, it would still beat the hassle of flying.

Our trip from Venice to Rome was relaxing and comfortable, and you couldn’t beat the view. It occurred to me that there seemed to be much less visual clutter in Italy than in America (where we have various signs and billboards scattered all over the place).

“MAMA! TAKE A PICTURE OF THE MOUNTAINS!!!” The first of many, many scenic mountain pictures. Because why would I want to sleep when I can take pictures for four hour???

However, as we approached Rome, we notice a brief announcement on the overhead screen; Rome’s Termini station was closed. No explanation, no bright yellow alerts or exclamation points to bring attention to this fact. Other Americans on the train stopped the attendants and tried to get details; they had connecting trains-what were they to do??? -only to receive shrugged shoulders as a reply. Thankfully our transportation company was able to pick us up at the first Rome stop at Tiburtina station. They arrived in two large air conditioned vans and we arrived at our hotel in no time. Finding a curb cut was a challenge, but Roman drivers didn’t seemed phased by two wheelchairs driving on the road and we didn’t get any honks.

We checked in and went to our rooms. We’d reserved two rooms for seven people with one room being wheelchair accessable. And our first room was wheelchair accessible, however it had sleeping accomodations for three people; one queen bed and a twin. The second room, which was not accesable (and on a higher floor) had sleeping accommodations for four: a queen bed and a fold out couch. Tony and I realized we’d be spending the remainder of the trip spliting our nights between the two rooms.

Here’s all of us trying to save money and eat a meal in the accessible hotel room. There was so much family togetherness on this trip!!!!!

Tony and I explored the area, and later the older three did the same. We were down the street from the colleseum and next to the Forum. We looked the opposite direction into the back of the monument to Victor Emmanual. We were truly in the heart of ancient Rome and walking down streets that people had used for thousands of years! There was no escaping the touristy restaurants or the crowds. We had dinner outside at a place near the hotel that happily moved tables together to accommodate us all. We all settled in for an early bedtime.

Day 10

Today was June 24, the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know we usually do a large party every summer to celebrate this feast. But this year, we were going to visit St. John himself (or part of his skull anyway) to celebrate!

We walked from our hotel to San Silvestro in Capite church late in the morning following a wonderful hotel breakfast. We were uncertain how long it would take, and we wanted to arrive in time to explore the church and attend the noon Mass, since the church closed immediately afterwards. (Many churches close between 1-4p.m.) It was hot and bumpy and we ran into some trouble with curb cuts around the Victor Emmanual monument but we made it and thankfully there was a shaded courtyard and no crowds. Ramps had been placed so that the boys could easily enter.

St. John the Baptist’s skull is in the middle of that golden reliquary.

In a side chapel, we visited St. John the Baptist (and wished him a happy birthday). The glare on the glass of the reliquary made it hard to see the skull but we took pictures, offered prayers, and made our way around the rest of the church. I expected more people for the noon Mass- this had to be a big feast for this parish right????- but there were only a few other people, including some nuns from an order whose founder had a devotion to St. John the Baptist. It was a regular daily Mass, and the priest kindly gave the homily in English and Italian. Honestly, it was a bit underwhelming for me. Here was the skull of St. John the Baptist and it was his nativity and there was no procession, no special music, nothing extra. Didn’t this parish realize what a gift they had? Why were they not doing more??? Why was the whole community not coming together to celebrate what historically had been a major feast day? We’d briefly considered a day trip to Florence for this day because St. John is the patron of the city and they do have a huge festival, but we didn’t want the extra travel and we figured it would be special enough to visit with him in Rome. I just expected more for some reason.

On our walk back we grabbed gelato to cool off, and refilled our water bottles at a few of the numerous fountains throughout the city. Tony, Byron and I also grabbed cappuccinos; three for 4.20 Euros total! I definelty miss the coffee since coming home; you couldn’t beat the quality and the price.

We cooled off at the hotel for a bit before I announced we were going to the Colosseum. Even though we were tired from our morning walk, I didn’t know when else we’d get to go unless we waited until our last day, and I didn’t think we’d feel more enthusiastic then. I assured everyone that by going later in the day, it would be cooler, even though I didn’t really believe that myself. So we headed out to get in a few hours before it closed.

You will not be surprised to hear we got right in, paid a reduced entry, and were quickly ushered to the elevator. (If the Colosseum can be made wheelchair accessible, I know there’s ways to make other historic structures also accessible without “ruining their appearance”.)

We were all impressed. The colloseum is such a huge, ancient structure. It’s where so many martyrs were made and it’s stood there overlooking Rome since 72 AD. It easily exceeded all the hype I’d built up. Shortly after our arrival the skies clouded over and rain poured down. We pulled ponchos over the boys chairs and kept exploring as most other visitors hid from the rain. We got so many unobstructed views this way; it was almost like we were the only ones there. No one was tired anymore, and no one regretted the trip. After many pictures and a stop in the gift shop, we went back to the hotel and had pizza for dinner.

We managed to maintain our senses of humor on this trip most of the time.

That night, Tony and I went out to get a drink at a local “Irish Pub”. It had the dark wood paneling and Guinness decorations but it was most certainly not an Irish pub. One of the bartenders was drunk and playing Bon Jovi and he tried to get us to sing along with Rihanna’s Umbrella. He was wearing a black Metallica shirt, and stickers along the bar indicated someone liked heavy metal, but when the patron next to us asked the bartender to queue up Warrant’s Cherry Pie (and he enthusiastically did so), we quickly drank our beers and left. It was just not the “Irish Pub” vibe we were going for that night. We finally settled at a small bar next to the hotel and got a couple more drinks before retiring for the night.

Day 11

We’d anticipating attending the Latin mass in Rome today, but both churches offering the traditional rite were quite a hike and neither appeared to be wheelchair accessable based on Google maps. Disappointed, we went across the street to the basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian which was made a church in 527. Depending on whether you follow the old or new calendar their feast falls on either my birthday September 26 or Addie’s birthday September 27, so they’re also a family favorite. The church had an eclectic mix of artistic styles, and a simple Mass. Afterwards, several of us donated 1 Euro a piece to go into the crypt below the church to where the relics of Sts. Cosmas and Damian reside. It was so amazing for us to be able to get so close to so many ancient saints. We bought “chicken burgers” and refueled at our hotel before heading out later in the day.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian are under that altar! You can drop prayer intentions into the illuminated section behind the grate.

I’d tried early on in my vacation planning to find wheelchair accessible catacombs or crypts. I stumbled upon the Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars. Our travel agent bought us tickets for Sunday. As I checked Google maps to prepare for our walk there, I noticed it did not have the wheelchair icon. I thought for sure it had been listed as wheelchair friendly, so I double-checked the website and it said disabled visitors were free and wheelchairs were welcome. So we headed off hoping for the best.

It wasn’t clear where we were to enter with wheelchairs as the main entrance was up a large set of steps. There was a door at street level that we entered and through a locked door we could see an elevator. So Tony went up to the admission desk to inquire. Shortly thereafter someone came and let the boys up to the main level in the elevator. We were given a refund for some of the tickets the agent purchased for us and we were informed that while the museum was wheelchair accessible, the crypt was not. We were also all given audio tour headsets. We hadn’t purchased similar items at other museums and I wasn’t sure how much we’d use or enjoy them, however Teddy surprised me by taking his time going through the museum and listening to every audio explanation.

The museum explained the history of the Capuchin order and several saints, blesseds and other notable members. They also have a beautiful Carvaggio of St. Francis of Assisi on display. Towards the back of the museum, they had a reliquary containing the hair and blood soaked fabric from St. Padre Pio on display behind glass. I felt very torn by this; shouldn’t this relic be in a church, on display for the faithful to venerate and with a priest able to touch it to people who came seeking the saint’s intercession? There were several other reliquaries on display as examples of “art” though all still held several relics. The people mingling through the museum hardly gave them a second glance. Maybe I’m wrapped in a Catholic bubble where venerating saints and relics (and seeing the skull of St. John the Baptist on his feast day) is considered a worthwhile component of the faith, because it just didn’t seem like most people at this museum, or hardly anywhere else we visited understood that these reliquaries (and the numerous altars, some with bodies underneath) were anything more than art to glance at, or take a selfie with. For me, being so close to all these holy men and women was truly a highlight of the trip.

As you reach the back of the museum, you reach the entrance to the crypt, which had several steps down into it. Both boys were able to pull up to the entrance and glance into the first crypt but then they had to go back through the museum to the exit. From the entrance, they could see quite a bit, but they didn’t get the full experience and I felt bad for them. The rest of us took turns walking through the crypts of which there are five, plus one small chapel. You are not allowed to take pictures, but I did buy some refrigerator magnets to commemorate the visit. It really is amazing to see all the bones neatly stacked and arranged and the designs made from skeleton parts. I tried to listen to some of the audio entries for the crypts but there are a lot of unknowns surrounding its creators and the motivations behind the crypts. Overall, I would recommend a visit.

We found a great restaurant for dinner on the walk home and Teddy ordered the largest steak we’d ever seen (think-the old ’96er) which greatly pleased our waiter, who I think was an owner. It was probably our best dinner in Rome overall and afterwards we picked up gelato a little closer to our hotel. Since we continued to eat supper so much later in Italy, and usually at a much more leisuely pace, it was always hard to get back and get to bed in good time. Teddy never seemed to mind, but the days were long for Fulton and he always fell asleep the minute we got him in bed. It was important to get a good nights sleep since the next day was our trip to the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica.

(Read about the rest of our trip: Paris 1, Paris 2, Venice, Rome 2)


  1. I’ve noticed in planning my trip for Edinburgh that I’ve had to be conscious of accommodations; sure, I can *walk*, but I can’t lug suitcases up flights of stairs, or walk up five flights of stairs to see Some Big Thing. A lot of the non-chain hotels I looked at initially had zero elevators, so they were immediately off the list. Fortunately I found one with an elevator! But there are several sites that I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to fully visit (like the Writers’ Museum and the Palace of Holyrood House) because they only have very small, very steep wing staircases to get to certain parts of the castle/museum/house. I’m *very* glad that I started looking at things back in January!

  2. I’ve been reading all your blog posts. I’ve really gotta hand it to you bearing with the “handicapped” issues, but it’s nice that you at times get to “skip the line.” My husband and I went on our honeymoon to Italy, back in the days pre-digital cameras…I only took 5 or 6 photos, on the whole trip, and then relied on guidebooks for photos…- one, of course, was similar to your colosseum photo. We, too, were kind of disturbed when literally everything shut down in the early/mid afternoon for “siesta.”

  3. β€œAn adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
    ? G.K. Chesterton

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