The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore ; ‘Basilica of Saint Mary Major’, or church of Santa Maria Maggiore, is a Papal major basilica and the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome, Italy, from which size it receives the appellation “major”. The Basilica is located at 34 Piazza del Esquilino, some five blocks southwest of Stazione Termini.
The ancient basilica enshrines the venerated image of Salus Populi Romani, depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary as the health and protectress of the Roman people, which was granted a Canonical coronation by Pope Gregory XVI on 15 August 1838 accompanied by his Papal bull Cælestis Regina.
Pursuant to the Lateran Treaty of 1929 between the Holy See and Italy, the Basilica is within Italian territory and not the territory of the Vatican City State. However, the Holy See fully owns the Basilica, and Italy is legally obligated to recognize its full ownership thereof and to concede to it “the immunity granted by International Law to the headquarters of the diplomatic agents of foreign States”.
Just off the Piazza is Trattoria Monti – a family owned trattoria serving the most delicious food in a wonderful atmosphere.
The Camerucci family runs this elegant brick-arched place, proffering top-notch traditional cooking from the Marches region. There are wonderful fritti (fried things), delicate pastas and ingredients such as pecorino di fossa (sheep’s cheese aged in caves), goose, swordfish and truffles. Try the egg-yolk tortelli pasta. Desserts are delectable, including apple pie with zabaglione . Word has spread, so book ahead.
A new addition to the Vatican Museums now open to the public is the Papal Carriage Museum. Situated under the main courtyard, it is a veritable treasure trove of carriages, motor cars, and other modes of transport.
It’s a must see!
The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and placed in what today is the Cortile Ottagono within the museum complex. The popes were among the first sovereigns who opened the art collections of their palaces to the public thus promoting knowledge of art history and culture. As seen today, the Vatican Museums are a complex of different pontifical museums and galleries that began under the patronage of the popes Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799). In fact, the Pio-Clementine Museum was named after these two popes, who set up this first major curatorial section. Later, Pius VII (1800-1823) considerably expanded the collections of Classical Antiquities, to which he added the Chiaromonti Museum and the Braccio Nuovo gallery. He also enriched the Epigraphic Collection, which was conserved in the Lapidary Gallery.
The Museums also include the Gallery of Tapestries, a collection of various 15th and 17th century tapestries; the Gallery of Maps, decorated under the pontificate of Gregory XIII (1572-1585) and restored by Urban VIII (1623-1644); the Sobieski Room and the Room of the Immaculate Conception; the Raphael Stanze and the Loggia, which were decorated by order of Julius II and Leo X (1513-1521); the Chapel of Nicholas V (1447-1455), painted by Fra Angelico; the Sistine Chapel, which takes the name of its founder, Pope Sixtus IV; and the Borgia Apartment, where Pope Alexander VI lived until his death (1492-1503).
Pious tradition claims that the foundation site of the Vatican Gardens was spread with sacred soil brought from Mount Calvary by Empress Saint Helena to symbolically unite the blood of Jesus Christ with that shed by thousands of early Christians, who died in the persecutions of Emperor Nero Caesar Augustus.
The gardens date back to medieval times when orchards and vineyards extended to the north of the Papal Apostolic Palace. In 1279, Pope Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277–1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace and enclosed this area with walls. He planted an orchard (pomerium), a lawn (pratellum) and a garden (viridarium).
The site received a major re-landscaping at the beginning of the 16th century, during the pontificate of Pope Julius II. Donato Bramante’s original design was then split into three new courtyards, the Cortili del Belvedere, the “della Biblioteca” and the “della Pigna” (or Pine Cone) in the Renaissance landscape design style. Also in Renaissance style, a great rectangular Labyrinth, formal in design, set in boxwood and framed with Italian stone pines, (Pinus pinea) and cedars of Lebanon, (Cedrus libani). In place of Nicholas III’s enclosure, Bramante built a great rectilinear defensive wall.
Today’s Vatican Gardens are spread over nearly 23 hectares (57 acres), they contain a variety of medieval fortifications, buildings and monuments from the 9th century to the present day, set among vibrant flower beds and topiary, green lawns and a 3 hectares (7.4 acres) patch of forest. There are a variety of fountains cooling the gardens, sculptures, an artificial grotto devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes, and an olive tree donated by the government of Israel.
Patroness of the Gardens
Pope Pius XI designated Saint Therese of Lisieux The Little Flower as the official Patroness of the gardens on 17 May 1927, according her the title as “Sacred Keeper of the Gardens” and within the same year a small temple dedicated to her was built within the gardens near the Leonine walls.
The Gardens of Vatican City also informally known as the Vatican Gardens (Italian: Giardini Vaticani) in Vatican City are private urban gardens and parks which cover more than half of the country, located in the west of the territory and are owned by the Pope. There are some buildings, such as Radio Vatican, within the gardens.
The gardens cover approximately 23 hectares (57 acres) of which is mostly the Vatican Hill. The highest point is 60 metres (200 ft) above mean sea level. Stone walls bound the area in the North, South and West. The gardens and parks were established during the Renaissance and Baroque era and are decorated with fountains and sculptures.
There is no general public access, but guided tours are available to limited numbers. The gardens also enshrine 14 Marian images venerated worldwide at the designation of the Roman Pontiff.
The Vatican Gardens have been a place of quiet and meditation for the popes since 1279 when Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277-1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace. Within the new walls, which he had built to protect his residence, he planted an orchard (pomerium), a lawn (pratellum) and a garden (viridarium). The event is recorded among other places on a stone plaque which can be viewed in the “Sala dei Capitani” of the “Palazzo dei Conservatori” on Rome’s Capitoline Hill. Created around the hill of Saint Egidio (where the “Palazzetto del Belvedere” is located today) and the courtyards of the Vatican Museums, this was to be the first garden in the Vatican. However, when you visit the Vatican Gardens today you begin by viewing a totally different area from that first orchard, one located in a more recent addition to what is now Vatican City State. It is there that larger and more recent gardens have been planted, covering together with the original garden about half of the 44 hectares of Vatican City.
Since the new Pope Francis has been in position, the Vatican Gardens have been opened to the public. It’s a guided tour only option, and the gardens are crammed full of security but a revelation nevertheless.
We partook of this….
At the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome, lie many restaurants, some good, some bad, some average. We were recommended “try the antipasti buffet at Alla Rampa.”
We arrived on the stroke of 12h00. Alla Rampa is one of those restaurants where the waiters have been there for years, they’ve seen it all and are highly professional. We saw the buffet and melted – no one can do an antipasti buffet better than the Italians! It was heavenly nd a huge variety, and by charging by the plate, you can go back time and again.
However, this is where it stopped…
Our pasta arrived cold and unappetising
We were charged a princely 2.50€ per head for bread
The bill’s addition was creative to say the least.
We left dreaming of that buffet, but not as happy as we could have been. Pity.