San Giovanni… It got me thinking!

I’ll admit that as a tourist to this city for over 10 years and having lived here now for almost 18 months, I’m a little embarrassed to say that I only recently walked into the church of Saint John the Lateran Saint – la Basilica di San Giovanni, for the first time.


But as my fellow Rome blogger friend Browsing Rome pointed out, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about really. There is just so much to see in Rome!

This got me thinking.

Thinking of all the things on my Rome (bucket?) list – well for 2013 at least. More about that later.

San Giovanni is one of what remains a real Roman working class neighbourhood. Even though it’s practically in the centre of Rome, being right by the Colosseum, it’s a real residential area of the city. You won’t find winding cobblestoned streets here, but a whole heap of history and religious sites and relics.

I have a few friends who live in the area and one took charge a couple of weekends ago, taking me on a tour of one this quartiere’s absolute highlights. Its crown jewel if you like.


San Giovanni Church is one of only 4 basilicas (cathedrals I guess) in Rome and importantly – and not widely known – the official seat of the Pope. (The other 3 include Saint Peter’s at the Vatican, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Paolo).

My friend is an arts graduate of La Sapienza, one of the most prestigious universities in Rome. That, coupled with the fact that she is a San Giovanni local, put her in perfect stead for the role of unofficial guide.

We spent over an hour admiring the resplendent ceiling, mosaics and statues of each apostle.


In short, I learnt that:

San Giovanni is the offical ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope

The ancient church was residence of the popes until the coming back from the exile in Avignone (1377), when it was moved to the Vatican

It ranks above all churches in the Catholic Church, including St Peter’s Basilica and therefore holds the title of Archbasilica

While it is located outside of the Vatican City boundaries it is officially property of the Holy See

It is the oldest of the four basilicas of Rome

It has endured many disasters including an earthquake in 896 which caused the central aisle roof to collapse and fires in both 1308 and in 1361

Repair works continued during the entire fifteenth century and the decadent ceiling was realised in 1562

140 years later, Pope Innocenzo X Pamphili entrusted Francesco Borromini to bring the cathedral to new splendour


The great statues of the Apostles that can be admired today in the Borrominian niches, were made by sculptors of the late baroque in the beginning of 1700

In 1731 Florentine Alessandro Galilei won a competition set by Pope Clement XII to complete works for a new facade of the church – the facade seen to this day

Under the ogival tabernacle is the papal altar where only the Pope can give mass

A fragment of the table on which Jesus consumed the last supper sits on the sacramental table


The church is also said to house Jesus’ blood, brought to Rome by centurion Longino

A fresco by Giotto sits in the right aisle close to the first pillar in honour of the Jubilee of 1300

A visit to this spectacular piece of art and history has to make your things-to-do-while-in-Rome list.


But don’t forget to include the Santa Scala (the Holy Stairs) – which sits just over the road and is part of the same complex – to your list.

It is maintained that these were the steps Jesus climbed only to reach the top and have Pontius Pilate wash his hands of him.

Pilgrims from the world over to climb the 28 stairs (brought back to Rome by St Helen in the 4th century) to reach a private papal chapel. But it can only be climbed on knees.


And now, speaking of lists… back to the one I mentioned earlier. The one which keeps growing!

Here are some of the things I’d like to accomplish in Rome this year (and which will no doubt spill into 2014!)

Look through the keyhole on Aventine Hill
Underground Colosseum
Explore the Jewish Ghetto in detail
Go inside Castel Sant’Angelo
Revisit Vatican and Museums
Ride the elevator at the Vittoriano (Wedding cake)
Go to the Stadio Olimpico
Make the trek out to see some towns in Cassia zone in north Rome
Visit Sperlonga
Tivoli and Villa D’Este
Explore the Trionfale Market in Prati
Channel Audrey Hepburn at La Bocca della Verità
Explore Ostia Antica and the Appia area

Food and Beverage (by no means an exhaustive list.. and the one I have most trouble taming!)
Eat again at Metamorfosi
Have sweets at Cristalli di Zucchero & Regoli
Baccala at La Filetteria
Enjoy a club sandwich and martini at Harry’s Bar
Have a drink at Palazzo Manfredi and dine at Aroma
Pizza at Da Remo, La Gatta Mangiona and Sforno
Actually sit and have a meal at Flavio al Velavevodetto as opposed to just visiting with our tours
Aperitivo at Angelina’s
Have gnocchi (on a Thursday!) at L’Arcangelo
Dine at Romeo (new Glass / Roscioli venture)
Go to heaven at Said chocolate bar

Arts and Culture
Visit the Museum of Modern Art
See another ballet
See the Alberto Sordi photographic exhibition at the Vittoriano
Visit the Galleria Borghese in Villa Borghese
Attend a summer opera at Terme di Caracalla
Watch a movie on Isola Tiberina this summer

An indication of some upcoming blog posts I guess 🙂

Well I guess I better get cracking!

Signing off from Trastevere,
Baci Maria

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