On our final full day in Roma, we woke up with a packed itinerary to work through. After a quick breakfast, we began our tour of city churches of medieval origin, many of which were stops on traditional pilgrimage trek. Starting at the S. Maria Maggiore, one of the four key patriarchal basilicas of Rome, we admired the cosmatesque floors, ornate gold leaf, and burial chapels of several Renaissance popes. Next, we made a short visit to the S. Prassede to observe the glittering medieval mosaics of the St. Zeno Chapel. The next stop on our itinerary required a ride on the metro, always eventful with a group of fifteen. We emerged on the the outskirts of the city center to visit the church dedicated to St. Paul. As we learned from Sasha’s site presentation, only a single wall of the original structure remains after the devastating fire of 1823, but the reconstructed nineteenth-century space retains the footprint of the original fourth-century century church. Into the metro once again, we journeyed to the Aventine Hill, a favorite spot of several our of our pilgrims who had studied in Rome the previous year.
Our lunch cravings were fulfilled by Volpetti, a well-stocked and very authentic alimentari, where we picked up pizza bianca, mozzarella, speck and salame for our last picnic lunch. We took our meal to the Giardino degli Aranci, which offered sweeping views of the Roman skyline. Btw, that's the dome of St. Peter's between Carolyn's and Lindsay's heads!
While at lunch, we were unexpectedly serenaded by a troupe of Asian monks playing a traditional string instrument and flute. During lunch, we were also met by the head of Trinity College’s study-abroad program in Rome, where both Allegra and Flora had studied. He led us to the nearby, newly refurbished offices, where we were treated to a much-needed bathroom break and Stanley, the program’s resident golden retriever.
Relieved and refreshed, we made our way to the Scala Santa, the "Holy Steps," where Hannah gave her presentation on the reliquaries of the Sancta Sanctorum at the top of the steps. This private papal chapel contained what were considered the most valuable relics in the city, and we felt extremely privileged to be allowed inside to get a closer look at the medieval frescoes of this holy shrine. Pushy street vendors harangued us as we crossed the street to Rome's cathedral, St. John in Lateran, the last official stop on our pilgrimage. Exhausted though we were, we appreciated the antique bronze doors and overwhelming scale of the omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput, "the mother and head of all the churches of the city and of the world!"
After a final group photo as we exited St. John in Lateran, we made our way back to the Spanish Steps and the Hotel King. We viewed the Colosseum, as well as the Capitoline Hill, both beautiful in the afternoon light. After a rest for some and shopping for others, we regrouped for a classic Italian dinner followed by a last stop at our favorite gelateria, Giolitti.