Romancing Rome in Christmas: 3 Day Itinerary

” Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions and the city of yearnings.” – Giotto di Bondone

When in Europe, one definitely cant miss to be in Rome atleast for few days, else we may surely know, but would barely understand the meaning of the age-old  French adage – ” Rome wasn’t built in a day”, which was translated in English by John Heywood, only for us to have very contemptuously used this proverb numerous times while flaunting our literacy skills and nothing more :). If you are in Rome, you know that you surely havent seen such inexplicable splendor before.  It hardly matters which part of the city you are in, every corner, street, church, monument, fresco, facade, alley or edifice is a piece of grandeur. And if you happen to be in Rome during Christmas, the delight just doubles.The sheer beauty of the Roman architecture and an intriguing history behind it, will keep you longing for more. It isn’t  just about the history of this city, but also of the mankind. It certainly left me with an unquenched desire to see, know and learn more. Become more. It coaxed me to read at length about the Roman history, though it was one hated subject for me back in school 🙂

” I read. I travel. I become.”-Derek Walcott

It’s really interesting to see, how your traveling and reading experiences can transform you as a person. And I am absolutely loving this process. Some of you would have discerned that already through my regular posts on social media :). Though it’s been just a few weeks that I have been romanticizing the idea of being a traveler and storyteller for life, I credit some of these short impromptu travels, to have nurtured that thought and possibility of being one. The 12 day Italy trip certainly has bestowed me with great tales that I would be sharing in my upcoming posts, but the most remarkable experience was of spending our Christmas at Rome. So here I am, sharing with you my 3 Day itinerary which obviously covers the most awesome and practical ways to romance Rome during Christmas time. Before jumping onto our detailed itinerary, let me tell you that the usual touristy places are all closed on 25th of any December and the 1st of any January. So you certainly need to be mindful of that before you plan your travel to this ancient city during the Christmas and the new years time.

Day 1 ( Christmas Day)  – Get allured by the conspicuously beautiful Christmas celebrations around the city

Christmas mass at St. Peter’s Basilica

Rome during Christmas
Cobblestoned street leading to the rear side of St. Peter’s Basilica

In spite of reaching Rome from Florence by the night of 24th Dec, we couldn’t make it to the Pope’s midnight mass, which if you wish to be a part of you need to book not less than 2 months in advance by sending the church a fax requesting for seats inside the church. Failing this, you may always attend the mass at St. Peter’s square which can host about 80,000 people. We had put up at a place quite far from the Vatican and were too tired to pick ourselves up to join the incredibly massive crowd for the midnight mass. What we know from people who have attended and of course the blogs on the internet that its an experience of a lifetime and the festive vibes at the Vatican around that time is profoundly pious and divine.

Nevertheless, we made it to St. Peter’s Basilica, the next morning, to experience the vibes of the harmonious gatherings on the Christmas Day. As soon as we entered the square, a huge Christmas tree which is erected there each year caught our attention. We were welcomed by huge crowds at the St. Peter’s square overlooking whom, we could catch few glimpses of the Pope standing at the balcony, who was delivering the Christmas message, the “Urbi et Orbi”, a papal address and apostolic blessing given to the city of Rome and to the entire world by the novel pontiff. A few minutes later, we were completely mesmerized by the colorful parade by the Italian Armed Forces marching band and military branch color guard units. See the video below to experience the zest and fervor.

Amidst the crowd, there stood an Indian father with an empty double stroller keenly soaking himself into these rare to see celebrations. Soon enough we saw his entire family, his American wife with 3 gorgeous kids, emerging out of the crowd. Like we always do, we instantly exchanged notes on just about everything – From parenting to traveling, Worklife, how beautiful babies are,  how much we missed Indian Food and of course the troubling weather at the US :). Its really amazing the way we have started connecting with all parents with kids, irrespective of where they come from or where we happen to meet them. Feels like we are all a part of a long-lost community who always have solutions to each other’s problems :):).

“All parents gush about what its like to be a parent. I like it.” – Liz Flair

 

Rome during Christmas
At St. Peter’s square on Christmas Day

The long queue to get inside St. Basilica was at best discouraging us parents with kids to do it the same day. Instead, we decided to explore the other churches and squares for the remaining part of the day.

Jaw dropping magnificent churches

Walk and explore the most astounding churches around, that arent called St. Peter’s. There is art, history and religious artifacts to be found in all the corners of these ancient churches. And the  Christmas festivities everywhere is an awe-inspiring sight to treat your eyes. Take a look and I promise you would be absolutely overwhelmed.

Rome during Christmas

Rome during Christmas

Rome during Christmas

Rome during Christmas

Rome during Christmas
The Calling of St Matthew (Caravaggio)

This one is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, depicting the moment at which Jesus Christ inspires Matthew to follow him.

Rome during Christmas
The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

This definitely is not it. You may refer this link to know everything about the most beautiful churches in Rome.

Christmas evening at Piazza Noviona

After treating yourself with some delicious wood fired Pizza, head towards Piazzia Noviona, Rome’s famous Baroque square. In December every year, it gets transformed into a huge Christmas market, with stands selling all kinds of Christmas sweets, toys, nativity figures, decorations, and gifts. Originally built as a stadium in the first century for athletic contests and chariot races, this square which still retains its oval shape,  is lined with luxurious cafes and Baroque palaces and is the home to three lavish fountains. The central fountain, Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi, is considered to be the most complex of all the fountains in Rome. It was created by Bernini( An Italian sculptor and architect who was credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture) in the early 1650s and was so expensive that the bread tax was raised in order to cover its high cost.

” If you think you have it tough, read history books.”- Bill Maher. 🙂

I can’t  picture myself reading through history books to absorb anything even close to what I experience during my travels to such historical places. How exciting the history books could be, if only we could just read them to know and just to score at least passing grades because it was a  forced item in our curriculum 🙁

Does this way of education help anyone?

Rome during Christmas
Infront of the fountain at Piazzia Noviona

Catch a sight of the marvelous Trevi Fountain

It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and the most beautiful in the world. A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. Many men were injured and few died during the construction of the fountain. It is mostly built of travertine stone, a mineral consisting of a massive usually layered calcium carbonate formed by deposition from spring waters or especially from hot springs.Travertine was often used as a building material. The largest building in the world constructed mostly of travertine is the Colosseum in Rome.

Rome during Christmas
The Trevi Fountain
Rome during Christmas
Opposite Trevi Fountain

Day 2 -Spend half a day knowing the history and appreciating the magnanimity of this huge structure called “The Colosseum”

We walked through the city to reach Colosseum by 12 pm. Expect long queue to enter this place at any time of the year as it is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Rome. There is a lift inside to make the tour convenient for all differently abled people. I was particularly struck by the intense cold breeze that brushed my hair rough in all directions while I kept waiting along with Mayra fast asleep in her stroller,  for Sandee to come back with tickets and the much needed audio guide. To our surprise, the audio guide here wasn’t as good. So you may avoid it, rather go for the human guide.

 

Rome during Christmas
Top view of “The Colosseum”

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheater in the center of the city. Built of travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, it is the largest amphitheater ever built. It could easily accommodate 80,000 spectators. It was used for gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Roman mythology. Although partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, it is still an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. Take a video tour below

 

Rome during Christmas
Ruins near the Colosseum

 

Rome during Christmas
Ruins near the Colosseum

Day 3 – Immerse yourself in the history of this iconic trove of art and architecture – The Vatican City

The Vatican City attests to a great history and a formidable spiritual venture. A unique collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces lie within the boundaries of this small state. At its center is St Peter’s Basilica, with its double colonnade and a circular piazza in front and bordered by palaces and gardens. The basilica, erected over the tomb of St Peter the Apostle, is the largest religious building in the world, the fruit of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderno. Due to the paucity of time, we could only explore St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museum, and the Sistine Chapel.’

Rome during Christmas
The modern ‘Bramante’ spiral stairs of the Vatican Museums, designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932

St. Peter’s Basilica is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world.

Rome during Christmas
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica

The papal tombs in old St. Peter’s Basilica were the final resting places of the popes. The majority of these tombs were destroyed during the sixteenth, seventeenth-century demolition of old St. Peter’s Basilica, The remainder were transferred in part to new St. Peter’s Basilica.

Rome during Christmas
Tombs of all Popes on top of which the Basilica has been erected

The Vatican Museum displays works from the immense collection amassed by Popes throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world.

Rome during Christmas
Inside the Vatican museum

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free” – Michelangelo

All of us, unless you are a history student or a connoisseur of Roman art & architecture, at some point have heard or read about the great sculptor Michelangelo, and probably had a chance to marvel at some of his work too. But you would literally freeze on seeing the most spectacular piece of art – The Sistine Chapel, with your naked eyes. It’s ceiling was painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 and is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art. The complex design includes several sets of individual figures, both clothed and nude, which allowed Michelangelo who was primarily a sculptor and not a painter, to fully demonstrate his skill in creating a huge variety of poses for the human figure. He painted in a standing position and not lying on his back. He had designed his own scaffold( a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall near the top of the windows, rather than being built up from the floor) to do the job.The bright colors and broad, cleanly defined outlines make each subject easily visible from the floor as if one could raise a finger and touch them.

” Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture”.- Michelangelo

This truly reflects in his larger than life painting which looks almost real and surreal.

If you are interested to know more about the painting style and the techniques he used, you may read it here.

Interestingly the church doesn’t allow any photography inside, hence I do not have any pictures to show up here. But there are numerous videos and pictures available online for you to have a glimpse of this masterpiece. You have to see it to believe it. 

” A man paints with  his brain and not with his hands.”- Michelangelo

This brought us to an end of our 4 nights stay at Rome. There is so much to see and absorb, that it really doesn’t matter how long you are able to stay here, what matters is how well do you plan your day without rushing it through and enjoying almost everything on your foot. There are several specific local Roman tours, which you can choose from depending on your idea of ” A day well spent” in this city. Or if you are there around Christmas, along with a child, and you like our type of slow travel, you may just go with the one that we did 🙂

There is a lot that I have taken back from this city which I really can’t express in as many words but would surely attempt to do so in my upcoming posts on the blog and on social media. Wishing you many more travels, adventures, and experiences till we connect again.

What is the best thing that you took back from any place that you have traveled to ? 

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