Our man [formally] of Amsterdam


When in Rome …
December 24, 2009, 19:12
Filed under: Italy

It’s Christmas Eve and Rome’s central station is a battle field of frantic frustrated people trying to get somewhere, of crying kids and parents weighed down by too many presents. Trenitalia is still trying to clear the backlog of passengers from the fierce snowstorms earlier in the week. The first train I could get to Orvieto – after travelling 14-hours overnight from Sicily – ¬†leaves in four hours, so when in Rome, go in search of a church for some spiritual refreshment.

Fortunately, you never have to go far in the Eternal City for that. Within 15 minutes of the station, is Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli. It’s been on my list before, but I never got there. It’s famous for 2 things: containing the actual chains that bound St Peter when he was imprisoned in the Carcere Mamatino (underground prison); and Michelangelo’s colossal tomb of Pope Julius II.

The place is deserted (they’re all at the station). This is the time to tour the sites for there are no queues to wait in or crowds to jostle. Can you have gelato before midday? I opt for a prosciutto panini instead. Elsewhere, there’s a gladiator in full regalia lurking near the Forum who’s talking on his mobile. Weird juxtaposition; a vision of Rusty Crowe throwing a phone comes to mind, but I can’t say why. Three beggars accost me on the way back to the station. I give to the first, as is my principle, and none thereafter for the rest of the day.

Later, in Orvieto, investigate Christmas dining options. Not many, but some. Midnight mass in the Duomo to come. See picture. It’s trying hard to snow, but for now it’s just wind and sleet, and glasses of vino rosso to warm the festive spirits.

Front facade; project to build began in 1290, took 300 years to complete.  A mish-mash of style that somehow seems to work.

Buon Natale e un Nuovo Anno felice.

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