Thursday, June 28, 2007

First Evening in Rome

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We left Thessaloniki on Sunday around 2 pm and it was only a short 1.5-2 hour flight to Rome. The airport is about 30 miles outside the city, so you have to take train from the airport. We got to our little room around 4:30 PM (Italian time, one hour behind us), checked in with our host, and then headed out for a stroll around town.

As I’m sure I’ll mention again, it has been *extremely* hot in this area of the world for the last week or so, and Rome was no exception. (Although our neighbors told us it was worse here – on Tuesday it supposedly got up to 114 in Athens, and a breezy 109 here in Thessaloniki.)

Since it was already approaching evening when we arrived, the heat wasn’t too bad. We took a leisurely stroll toward the Colosseum, which was about a 20-minute walk from our place. Along the way, we passed a local soccer match in action (see the top photo). Surprisingly, it seemed that most of the players and spectators were from Latin America.

Overall, I was very surprised how diverse the population in Rome was – there seemed to be an enormous Indian/Pakistani population (at least in the area we were staying), as well as many from central Africa and Latin America. Combine that with all the tourists (20 million per year) and I began to wonder if there were any actual Italians left in Rome. It’s funny, but I actually heard more American English than Italian there!

Anyway, we stopped and watched the game for a few minutes and then continued down to the Colosseum, the Palatine, and the Roman Agora (see the bottom two photos).

Along the way, we also stopped in a church, the Basilica of Sts Sylvester and Martin. It had started as a house church in the 2nd century! Here is some historical information I found on it:

“Its origins reach back to the era of the imperial persecutions when it was a domus Dei, a house church, known as titulus Equitii, probably because the house or land belonged to a priest named Equitius. The original church was built by Saint Sylvester (314-335) and restored in the early sixth century when it was dedicated to St. Martin of Tours (317-397) and Pope St. Sylvester. The crypt shows signs of the ancient alternate name of the church as “San Martino in Thermis.” It was the site of the preparatory meetings for the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the site of a diocesan Council over which both Constantine and Sylvester presided. It was here, in fact, that the Nicene Creed was first proclaimed in Rome. Also, the heretical books of Arius, Sabellius, and Victorius were burnt here.”

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