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Walking around Rome can be bewildering and exhausting, especially in the summer sun. This guide gives the individual pilgrim or tourist the ability and confidence to use the buses and metro for seeing the essential sights of Rome, together with many lesser-known ones: all you need for a few days, a week or more. For those travelling with an organised group it provides background reading.
In an ancient city like Rome there is some sense in following a historical order, and that is the pattern of this guidebook. It begins in the historic classical heart of Rome, among the archaeological remains of the city, whose Empire once governed almost the whole of the known world.. Walking on Roman paving stones around the Colosseum and Roman Forum, with its temples and triumphal arches, you are in the world of those early Christians; maybe even visiting the house of St Clement, where some of them probably worshipped. There is a prison too, kept as a memorial for Christians who were martyred in waves of persecution under successive emperors.
Another day takes you to the catacombs where those martyrs and others were buried, some in finely decorated mausoleums; and also to the excavations beneath St Peter’s where the apostle was laid to rest in a cemetery rich with mosaics and wall-paintings.
The persecutions were ended in the fourth century by Emperor Constantine, and you will see the great churches he built: St John Lateran (still the Cathedral of Rome), St Peter’s Basilica and St Paul’s. Churches with an English connection may interest you: overlooking the Circus of Maximus, where chariot races were staged, is S. Gregorio, with its monastery, from which Pope Gregory dispatched St Augustine to reconvert England in 597; and there is the church of S. Maria in Campitelli, where the little Italian congregation prays every Saturday evening for the conversion of England, as they have been doing since 1750.
There are many places to wander in Rome, where ancient remains lie cheek by jowl with Renaissance and Baroque churches, palaces and fountains. The massive Pantheon (now a church), the beautiful Piazza Navona (once an athletics stadium), and the spectacular Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps should not be missed. You could spend a day in the Vatican Museum, from where the Sistine Chapel is reached. Gardens, especially the Vatican Gardens; art galleries and museums, are all included in this guide.
Outlines of history and culture are provided to put events and personalities into their context. Admission times and websites, telephone numbers where appropriate, details about buses and trains, lists of hotels and religious guest houses, helpful hints and suggestions and more, are all in this guide, together with prayers, to help you make the most of your time in the Eternal City.
Fr Michael Rear, now a retired priest of the Diocese of East Anglia, has been leading pilgrimages to Rome for decades. He is the author of Walsingham: Pilgrims and Pilgrimage.$29.95