A Tourist in Rome - Southeastern Sights Walking Tour

My Southeastern Sights Walking Tour starts at the beautiful park in southern Rome where the best view of aqueducts can be found, and follows the course of that aqueduct into Rome, stopping at two major basilicas of the Vatican, at the spot where the aqueduct enter the Aurelian wall, and at more interesting sights on the way to Termini, where the tour ends. It will probably take all day to take this tour, and will involve a few miles of walking.

Start your day early to be sure you can see everything on the tour. Aqueduct park is always open, so you could arrive, say, a half hour before sunrise! For directions, read the first paragraph below.


Aqueduct Park
Time:about 1 hour
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Aqueduct Park is a rather barren park about 5 miles southeast of Rome's center where 3 aqueducts can be easily seen. The park is only about 5 blocks walk from a metro stop, so is easy to get to. Take the metro Line A (red) south toward Anagnina, and get off at Subaugusta, 2 stops from the end of the line. Exit the metro station to Viale Tito Labieno, which is the smaller street of the two that cross where the station is located, the other being Via Tuscolana. Walk down Viale Tito Labieno until it ends, after four rather long blocks. Turn left onto the street it ends at, Via Lemonia, and walk one more block until that street takes a sharp turn to the left. At that point, enter the park, on the right side of Via Lemonia. You'll immediately see a newer (1500s) smaller aqueduct (Aqua Felice) heading off toward the right, and the main object of our trip, the Aqua Claudia beyond it, stretching off into the distance to the left, with shorter broken segments going off to the right.

Don't expect a park with amenities like water or very much shade; this park is at the edge of farmland and offers only dirt walking paths beside the up-close views of the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Felice. You can walk up to the aqueducts and touch them, stand under their arches, and get a great view of how they stretched on for miles, and how they've partially crumbled over the eons. The best and most famous of the aqueducts visible here is the Aqua Claudia (both photos below) which ran on the top of the magnificent ancient arches in the park. These arches, stretching on for quite a distance, are the highlight of the park. Just imagine the engineering skill required to make the aqueduct's channel at the top of these arches fall by 1 foot per 300 feet of travel so gravity would pull the water into Rome. The aqueduct travelled for about 38 miles, mostly underground, from its source until it reached this point, then it travelled another 7 miles on arches into the city. The second aqueduct visible here borders on cheating. It was the Anio Novus, whose channel was built on top of the channel for the Aqua Claudia on these same arches. The source of that aqueduct was about 50 miles away, further than the Aqua Claudia.

    
The Aqua Claudia in Aqueduct Park
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Modern airplane above the ancient Aqua Claudia in Aqueduct Park
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The third aqueduct visible in Aqueduct Park is the Aqua Felice (1st photo below) built in the 1500s therefore not ancient. There are also technically 4 more aqueducts in the park, making 7 in total. The Aqua Mariana, Aqua Julia and Aqua Tepula ran inside a ditch which you'll only find if you know where to look (I don't), and even then, it's only a ditch. The Aqua Marcia shows as crumbled traces here and there.

    
The Aqua Felice in Aqueduct Park
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Ride the metro back north toward Battiistini, and get off at the 11th stop, San Giovanni. From the metro station you can see the Porta San Giovanni.


Porta san Giovanni and the Aurelian Wall
Time:about 20 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Aurelian Wall (red wall on the map below) was a city wall built around Rome between 271 AD and 275 AD by Emperor Aurelius to replace the then-insufficient Servian Wall (black wall on the map below). By then, Rome had expanded much beyond its old Servian Wall, and although it had stood essentially unfortified for centuries because it was protected by its powerful armies, incursions by Germanic barbarians and Vandals (in 270 AD) and internal revolts forced Rome to rethink its defenses and construct the new, larger and taller wall. The wall enclosed all seven hills of Rome plus the Campus Martius and the Trastevere district across the Tiber River. The wall ran for a distance of 12 miles, surrounding an area of 5.3 square miles. It was 11 feet thick and 26 feet high, with a square tower every 97 feet. It was built from bricks, and featured a walkable passage on the inner side that fully protected soldiers on patrol. Aurelian died a few months before it was completed even though the construction only took 5 years. Part of the reason for the quick progress and low cost was incorporation of existing buildings into the new wall. Approximately 1/6 of the wall might have been composed of pre-existing structures. Places where you can see this still today are at the Pyramid of Cestius, and near Porta Maggiore where a section of the Aqua Claudia was used for the wall. An area inside the wall was cleared to enable the wall to be reinforced quickly in an emergency. The wall was effective against the hit-and-run raids which barbarians commonly used, but would probably not have been effective against a prolonged siege. A 4th century remodelling of the wall by Maxentius doubled its height to 52 feet and improved the watch-towers. In 401 AD, under Honorius, the walls and gates were improved by facing the brick gates with thick white stone, adding semicircular towers, walling up the second arch in two-arched gates, and by replacing gate doors on hinges into portcullises which dropped down from above. Despite these improvements, Rome fell to Alaric I, king of the Visigoths in 410 AD, whose army entered the city through Porta Salaria. Totila, king of the Ostrogoths destroyed 1/3 of the wall in 545 AD when he sacked Rome, entering the city through the Porta Asinaria. The wall was repaired and continued defending the city until 1870, when the army of King Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Italy breached the wall near Porta Pia and captured Rome. Today, several parts of the wall are still well-preserved, the best being along the northern edge from the Muro Torto (Villa Borghese) to Corso d'Italia to Castro Pretorio; along the eastern edge from Porta Maggiore to Porta San Giovanni; along the southern edge from Porta Metronia to Porta Ardeatina and from Porta Ostiense to the Tiber; and along the western edge near the Porta San Pancrazio on the Janiculum Hill. The Museo delle Mura near Porta San Sebastiano explains how the wall was built and defended. Most of the gates stand at their original sites but have gone through changes over the centuries, adapting their purpose according to the needs of the day.

    
Servian Wall (black) and Aurelian Wall (red)

Porta San Giovanni (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th photos below) is a modern gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome named after the nearby church of San Giovanni in Laterano. It is a single large arch built of travertine for pope Gregory XIII in 1574 to replace the neighboring and more imposing Porta Asinaria (5th and 6th photos below), which was part of the Aurelian Wall, which by the 1570s was unable to keep up with the high level of traffic and the rising street level in the area. Porta Asinaria is the gate by which the Gothic king Totila entered Rome in 546 during the Sack of Rome by the Ostrogoths in their war against the Byzantine Empire. Today's gate is not defensive, but rather more like the entrance to a villa. On the external side, a large bearded head is at the top of the arch.

    
Porta San Giovanni, from outside the city
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Porta San Giovanni, from outside the city
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Porta San Giovanni, from inside the city
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Porta San Giovanni and the surrounding Aurelian Wall, from outside the city
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Porta Asinaria, from outside the city
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Porta Asinaria, from inside the city
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Porta Asinaria and Porta San Giovanni and the Aurelian Wall
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Aurelian Wall beside Porta San Giovanni and Porta Asinaria
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On the other side of Porta San Giovanni from the metro station is the huge church of San Giovanni in Laterano.


San Giovanni in Laterano
Time:about 1 hour
Cost:Free
Hours:Church 7:00 AM - 6:30 PM; Scala Sancta 6:30 AM - 11:50 AM and 3:30 PM - 6:45 PM, not open during the morning in the winter.

San Giovanni in Laterano is a large church which is one of the four in Rome that are part of the Vatican, along with St. Peter's Basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore, and St. Paul's Outside the Walls. This was the first of those four basilicas, built initially by Constantine in 312 AD on the grounds of army barracks of his enemy, Maxentius.

The church is among a complex of several buildings, one of which is best visible before you enter the church itself. That building is the remains of the papal dining hall in the old Lateran Palace, built in 800 AD. All that remains of this is the apse of the dining hall, called Triclinium Leoninum, and shown in the two photos below.

    
Triclinium Leoninum, the remaining apse of the papal dining hall in the old Lateran Palace, built in 800 AD
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Triclinium Leoninum, the remaining apse of the papal dining hall in the old Lateran Palace, built in 800 AD
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The church was originally dedicated to Christ the Saviour as the inscription above the entrance indicates (2nd photo below), but John the Baptist was added in the 10th century and John the Evangelist was added in the 12th century. It is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 897 and rebuilt. It was destroyed by fire in 1308, rebuilt, destroyed by fire again in 1360, and rebuilt again. Pope Sixtus V replaced most of the structure in the 1500s, and Pope Innocent X remodeled the church in the 1600s, creating the present church. This remodeling changed the church's appearance from an ancient Roman basilica to its current Baroque style. Only the gilded ceiling and the Cosmatesque floor were kept. Pope Clement XII commissioned a new facade (2nd photo below) which was completed in 1735. The top of the facade holds huge statues of Christ and the Apostles.

    
The nave of San Giovanni in Laterano
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The facade of San Giovanni in Laterano
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The front entrance to the church is via the portico in the 1735 facade, which faces east toward the gates in the Aurelian Wall (the back door faces Piazza di San Giovanni Laterano). (I waited out a thunderstorm on this porch along with a couple hundred other people when I visited the church. When lightening struck very nearby, the thunder made all of us jump, then laugh at ourselves.) The central door (1st photo below) in this portico was originally from the Curia in the Roman Forum. It was taken from the Curia in the year 1660. The border is a later addition to make the doors fit the church, but the main bronze doors are original. The door on the right side of the facade is called the Holy Door (2nd and 3rd photos below), and is only opened every 25 years during Holy Year. At the left end of the portico is a statue of Emperor Constantius II (4th photo below) which was originally found in the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian.

    
Main bronze doors to San Giovanni in Laterano, taken in 1660 from the Curia Julia in the Roman Forum
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The Holy Door of San Giovanni in Laterano, only open during holy years
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The Holy Door of San Giovanni in Laterano, only open during holy years
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Statue of Emperor Constantius II in San Giovanni in Laterano, originally found in the Baths of Diocletian
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As in Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Santa Maria in Trastevere and probably several others, the floors in San Giovanni in Laterano are excellent examples of cosmatesque pavement, a style of inlaid stonework used in medieval Italy, derived from that of the Byzantine Empire. Three fine examples from this church are shown in the photos below. They come from the 14th century, making these a late example of this technique.

    
14th century cosmatesque pavement in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano
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14th century cosmatesque pavement in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano
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14th century cosmatesque pavement in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano
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Larger-than-life statues of the Apostles, six on each side, which were created from 1701 - 1721, are in niches along the sides of the nave (1st and 2nd photos below). Closed doors painted on the wall behind the statues represent the gateways to Heavenly Jerusalem. Above the statues are 17th-century relief panels with Old Testament scenes on the left and related New Testament scenes on the right. Above are oval paintings of prophets, also from the 17th century. St. Matthew is shown in the 3rd photo below, and the New Testament frieze and Jonas painting above him in the 4th photo below. St. Peter is shown in the 5th photo below, with an Old Testament frieze above him. Red granite columns that were part of the 4th century nave colonnade are still used to support the triumphal arch (brightest columnn in the 6th photo below). Columns from the 4th century nave colonnade were also re-used flanking the statues of the apostles in the nave (24 green-speckled marble columnns).

    
Apostles in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano
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Apostles in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano
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Sculpture of the apostle St. Matthew in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano, with a bible scene frieze above it, and a painting of a prophet (not shown) above that
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The apostle St. Matthew, with a new testament frieze above him and an oval-shaped painting of the prophet Jonas above that, in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano.
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One of the sculptures of the apostles in the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano, with a bible scene frieze above it, and a painting of a prophet above that
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Red granite columns that were part of the 4th-century nave colonnade of San Giovanni in Laterano
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The gothic baldacchino (1st photo below) was created during in 1369. At the top is a reliquary said to contain the heads of Saints Peter and Paul, but these may have been removed during the French occupation of Rome in the 18th century. Beneath the baldacchino is the High Altar, which can only be used by the Pope. It contains a relic said to be part of St. Peter's communion table. The Papal Cathedra (2nd photo below) makes this basilica the cathedral of Rome. The Altar of the Holy Sacrament is shown in the 3rd, 4th and 5th photos below. The four bronze columns flanking the Altar of the Holy Sacrament also were originally used in the 4th century nave colonnade of the original church, and before that in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, and before being recast for that temple, the bronze had been used as the prows of Cleopatra's ships, taken in battle by Augustus. The altar itself contains a cedar table said to be the one used by Christ at the Last Supper.

    
The altar and baldacchino of San Giovanni in Laterano
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The Papal Cathedra in San Giovanni in Laterano
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Altar of the Holy Sacrament in San Giovanni in Laterano
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Altar of the Holy Sacrament in San Giovanni in Laterano
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Altar of the Holy Sacrament in San Giovanni in Laterano
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The right-most column on the northern side of the Arch of Constantine was taken from the arch, replaced with one of white marble, and used in the north doorway of this church (1st photo below). The early 13th-century cloisters are shown in the 2nd photo below, surrounded by graceful double-columns of inlaid marble. The porphory slab hanging on the wall in the cloister (3rd photo below) is believed to be the surface on which Roman soldiers cast lots for Christ's robes. The height of the columns in front of it represent's Christ's height, hence their Latin name of Mensura Christi.

    
Numidian yellow marble columns inside the north door of San Giovanni in Laterano, one of which was removed from the Arch of Constantine
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Cloister in San Giovanni in Laterano
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Mensura Christi inside San Giovanni in Laterano, four columns supporting a granite slab at the height of Jesus, with a red porphory slab behind it which was the one Roman soldiers threw dice upon for Jesus' robe. The inscription above reads "They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment"
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Go out the rear door of the church (at the end of the right transcept) and you'll immediately see the Lateran Obelisk. We'll see that in detail shortly. Instead, turn your attention to the small octagon-shaped building at the right (1st photo below). The small domed octagonal bapistry, commissioned in 432 AD by Constantine, can be found behind the cathedral. This was the first structure built specifically as a bapistry in Rome. The huge font in the center allowed those being baptized to stand in water to their knees while more water was poured over their head. The water was supplied to this bapistry by the Aqua Claudia. The original structure is mainly gone having been replaced by a 5th century rebuild of the ground floor and a 1637 century build of the upper floor. The legend that Constantine was baptized here by Pope Sylvester is inaccurate since it is well known that Constantine was baptized on his deathbed in Constantinople.

    
Octagonal Bapistry at San Giovanni in Laterano
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Octagonal Bapistry at San Giovanni in Laterano
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Go back outside and have a look at the Lateran Obelisk now.

Continue walking around the church in the same direction as from the bapistry to the obelisk. Straight in front of you when you round the corner of the church is the Scala Sancta (the Sacred Steps or Holy Stairs) housed in a building that was once the papal palace. The 28 marble steps, now covered in wood (1st photo below), are said to be those that Christ ascended in Pontius Pilate's house during his trial. They were brought from Jerusalem by St. Helena (Constantine's mother) in 325 AD. They were moved to this present site after the Lateran Palace was destroyed. You may not walk up (or down) the Holy Stairs, you may only climb (or descend) them on your knees, as did Santa Maria in The Great Beauty. In several places there are glass panes in the wood, through which you can see stains in the marble that are said to be drops of Christ's blood, spilled when he walked the stairs during his passion. On my 3rd trip to Rome, I finally climbed up them on my knees (2nd photo below shows the people in front of me, half way up). The windows to view the drops of blood are actually scratched up plexiglass nowadays, through which I didn't really see anything I'd swear was 2000-year-old blood. I know, I know, you're worried about my Osgood-Schlatter disease, but fear not, I brought knee pads to Rome, exclusively for this climb. Wow, did I get a nasty look from somebody at the top when I took them off since it was so darned hot! I arranged my itinerary so this climb would be during my first day in Italy, so I could throw away the kneepads and reduce my backpack weight by a couple ounces for the rest of my trip. On both sides of the main stairway are staircases you can walk up or down normally to see the chapels above. The oldest of these chapels is the Sancta Sanctorum (3rd, 4th and 5th photos below), or Holy of Holies. It contains many important relics including an image of Jesus said to be the work of St. Luke, assisted by an angel. It is a private chapel for the pope, therefore cannot be entered. The inscription NON EST IN TOTO SANCTIOR ORBE LOCUS "there is no holier place in all the world") is above the entrance. On the walls are scenes of martyrdom, including those of St. Peter and St. Paul, whose martyrdoms first turned the city of Rome into a holy place. The 5th photo below shows the cosmatesque flooring in front of the chapel.

    
The Holy Stairs, next to San Giovanni in Laterano
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Scala Santa, half way up the climb on my knees
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Sancta Sanctorum, the papal chapel at the top of the Scala Sancta
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The altar in the Sancta Sanctorum, the pope's private chapel, at the top of the Scala Santa
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Cosmatesque flooring in Sancta Sanctorum, the pope's private chapel, at the top of the Scala Santa
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Back outside, behind the building housing the Holy Stairs, along Via Domenico Fontana, are two segments of the Aqua Nero branch of the Aqua Claudia (2 photos below).

    
Aqua Nero, a branch of the Aqua Claudia, these remnants located near San Giovanni in Laterano
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Aqua Nero, a branch of the Aqua Claudia, these remnants located near San Giovanni in Laterano
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Be sure to see the nearby Porta San Giovanni and Porta Asinaria.

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In back of the church of San Giovanni in Laterano is the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, in the center of which is the obelisk.


Lateran Obelisk
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Lateran Obelisk is the largest standing ancient Egyptian obelisk in the world, with a height of 105.6 feet (149.9 feet with base) and a weight of 455 tons. It's made of red granite, and it's surface is covered with hieroglyphics. Its inscriptions state that while it was begun during the reign of Tuthmosis III (1504-1450 BC), a great oppressor of the Hebrews in Egypy. It lay in the craftsmen's workshops for 35 years and was finally erected in about 1400 BC by his grandson Tuthmosis IV. It stood at the eastern end of the Temple of Amun Re in Karnak (Thebes), Egypt, but was removed under the orders of the Roman emperor Constantine (274-337 AD) who intended to erect it in his new capital of the Roman Empire at Constantinople. He died before the obelisk ever left Egypt, and his son and successor Constantius (317-361 AD) had it taken with the Obelisk of Theodosius (now in Istanbul) to Alexandria. From there it was brought on its own to Rome in 357 AD, where it was re-erected in the center of the spina of the Circus Maximus along with the Flaminian Obelisk at the eastern end. It was the last obelisk transported to Rome, although even Augustus (14-37 AD) had considered bringing it to Rome. But although it is the last obelisk brought to Rome, it might be the oldest obelisk of all those in Rome, having been made in the 15th century BC (but the Vatican Obelisk might have been made in 1835 BC). While St Peter saw the Vatican Obelisk now at St. Peter's Square, Moses may very well have seen this obelisk.

At some unknown date and by some unknown cause, the obelisk fell. It was not until the 16th century that Pope Sixtus V ordered a search for the monolith. It was found, in three pieces, some 23 feet down in the former Circus Maximus. It was restored, about 4 meters shorter than it originally had been. On August 3, 1588, after more than a year of effort, the Lateran Obelisk was raised in the Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, replacing the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius which stood there but was moved to the Campidoglio. Around the same time, the Fountain in Piazza San Giovanni was completed, mounted to the northern face of the base of the obelisk. The obelisk has stood there ever since, a Christian cross at its apex.

    
The southeast corner of the Lateran Obelisk, in Piazza Porta San Giovanni
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The west side of the Lateran Obelisk, in Piazza Porta San Giovanni
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The 4 photos below show a view of each of the four sides of the obelisk and its base. The inscriptions on the four sides of the base state (paraphrasing):

The hieroglyphics in the 3 columns of the four sides of the obelisk extoll the virtues of Tuthmosis III and Tuthmosis IV. For example, the central line on the north side says, "The Harmachis, the living Sun, the strong Bull beloved of the Sun, Lord of Diadems very terrible in all lands, the Golden Hawk the very powerful, the Smiter of the Libyans, the King of Ramenkheper, the son of AmenRa, of his loins, whom his mother Mut gave birth to in Asher, one flesh with him who created him, the Son of the Sun, Thothmes (III) the Uniter of Creation, beloved of AmenRa, Lord of the thrones of the Upper and Lower country, giver of life like the Sun for ever.". Wow, what a guy! If you're up for more, all the hieroglyphics are translated starting on page 127 of Egyptian Obelisks, by Henry H. Gorringe, 1885.

    
The north side of the Lateran Obelisk
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The east side of the Lateran Obelisk
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The south side of the Lateran Obelisk
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The west side of the Lateran Obelisk
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Walk out to the main street, Via Emanuele Filberto, in front of the church. Cross the street, turn left and walk one block past the church to Via Statilia, turning right onto that street. Walk a couple blocks to the Freedmen's Tombs on the right.


Freedmen's Tombs
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

These tombs were built during the Republican age at about 100 BC. They were created by and for slaves who had been freed by their masters and then earned their own livings. Their pride in this accomplishment led them to create these lavish funerary monuments. The tombs were found during construction works on Via Statilia in 1916, and the shelter now above them was built to protect them from the elements. A fence prevents close approach but they are easy to see from behind it. Nearby the Aqua Claudia runs parallel with Via Statilia from Porta Maggiore to just past the tombs. In front of Porta Maggiore is another tomb built by a freedman, the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker.

    
Freedmen's Tombs
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Freedmen's Tombs
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Continue walking down Via Statilia in the same direction. Along the right side you'll see an aqueduct, the Aqua Neroniano


Aqua Neroniano
Time:about 10 minutes each site
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Aqua Neroniano or Aqua Caelimontani is a branch of the Aqua Claudia aqueduct which supplied water to the Aventine Hill, the palaces on the Palatine Hill and Trastevere. The branch was taken right before Aqua Claudia reached Porta Maggiore. From there it runs along Via Statilia, then westerly over ArcusCaelimontani near the church of Santo Stefano Rotundo. From there was a branch leading to the Aventine Hill, one leading to a distribution point at the Temple of Claudius, and a third short branch built by Domitian spanning the valley between the Caelian Hill and the Palatine Hill, which fed water to the imperial palaces.

    
Aqua Neroniano at Porta Maggiore
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Aqua Neroniano at the eastern edge of the Palatine Hill
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An arch of the Aqua Neroniano near Arcus Caelimontani
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Continue walking down Via Statilia in the same direction until you walk into a large oval transportation hub with many aqueduct arches and the Porta Maggiore, similar to the Porta San Giovanni you saw a while ago.


Porta Maggiore and the Aurelian Wall
Time:about 60 minutes (including the gate, the Aurelian Wall, the aqueducts, and the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker)
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Aurelian Wall (red wall on the map below) was a city wall built around Rome between 271 AD and 275 AD by Emperor Aurelius to replace the then-insufficient Servian Wall (black wall on the map below). By then, Rome had expanded much beyond its old Servian Wall, and although it had stood essentially unfortified for centuries because it was protected by its powerful armies, incursions by Germanic barbarians and Vandals (in 270 AD) and internal revolts forced Rome to rethink its defenses and construct the new, larger and taller wall. The wall enclosed all seven hills of Rome plus the Campus Martius and the Trastevere district across the Tiber River. The wall ran for a distance of 12 miles, surrounding an area of 5.3 square miles. It was 11 feet thick and 26 feet high, with a square tower every 97 feet. It was built from bricks, and featured a walkable passage on the inner side that fully protected soldiers on patrol. Aurelian died a few months before it was completed even though the construction only took 5 years. Part of the reason for the quick progress and low cost was incorporation of existing buildings into the new wall. Approximately 1/6 of the wall might have been composed of pre-existing structures. Places where you can see this still today are at the Pyramid of Cestius, and near Porta Maggiore where a section of the Aqua Claudia was used for the wall. An area inside the wall was cleared to enable the wall to be reinforced quickly in an emergency. The wall was effective against the hit-and-run raids which barbarians commonly used, but would probably not have been effective against a prolonged siege. A 4th century remodelling of the wall by Maxentius doubled its height to 52 feet and improved the watch-towers. In 401 AD, under Honorius, the walls and gates were improved by facing the brick gates with thick white stone, adding semicircular towers, walling up the second arch in two-arched gates, and by replacing gate doors on hinges into portcullises which dropped down from above. Despite these improvements, Rome fell to Alaric I, king of the Visigoths in 410 AD, whose army entered the city through Porta Salaria. Totila, king of the Ostrogoths destroyed 1/3 of the wall in 545 AD when he sacked Rome, entering the city through the Porta Asinaria. The wall was repaired and continued defending the city until 1870, when the army of King Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Italy breached the wall near Porta Pia and captured Rome. Today, several parts of the wall are still well-preserved, the best being along the northern edge from the Muro Torto (Villa Borghese) to Corso d'Italia to Castro Pretorio; along the eastern edge from Porta Maggiore to Porta San Giovanni; along the southern edge from Porta Metronia to Porta Ardeatina and from Porta Ostiense to the Tiber; and along the western edge near the Porta San Pancrazio on the Janiculum Hill. The Museo delle Mura near Porta San Sebastiano explains how the wall was built and defended. Most of the gates stand at their original sites but have gone through changes over the centuries, adapting their purpose according to the needs of the day.

    
Servian Wall (black) and Aurelian Wall (red)

Porta Maggiore is one of the eastern gates in the Aurelian Wall of Rome. Two roads passed through it, the Via Prenestina, heading east, and the Via Labicana (now called Via Casilina) heading southeast. The gate was originally known as Porta Pernestina after one of those roads. Sometime after the Middle Ages the gate became known as Porta Maggiore, perhaps because the road that runs through the gate leads to Santa Maria Maggiore. It is a 32-foot-tall monumental double archway built of white travertine. The two archways are 46 feet tall and 21 feet wide. It was built next to the pre-existing Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker, which was built between 50 BC and 20 BC, and is still visible on the outside of the gate. Half of the aqueducts of ancient Rome came into the city at this point, and were distributed from here throughout the city. This is an easy site within the city at which you can gain an understanding of the ancient aqueducts, see a good long stretch of the Aurelian Wall, and see how the walls and aqueducts were incorporated into the architecture of the city. The original gate was built in 52 AD by Claudius and was built only to provide support for the Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus which crossed over Via Labicana and Via Praenestina. The two channels of these aqueducts, one above the other, are still visible today and can be seen in the attic when looking along the edge of the gate (3rd photo below). The lower channel was used for the Aqua Claudia and the upper channel carried the Aqua Anio Novus. The columns holding up the architrave and aqueducts look eroded by time, but they were intentionally created this way during the 1st century as a design choice by Claudius. It was kind of modern art of the 1st century. One of the inscriptions above the gate states "[In AD 52] the Emperor Claudius [etc.] had the waters of the Claudia brought to Rome from the springs called Caeruleus and Curtius at the 45th milestone, and likewise the Anio Novus from the 62nd milestone, both at his own expense." Subsequently, Vespasian restored the aqueducts because another inscription on the gate states "[In AD 71] the Emperor Vespasian [etc.] restored to the city at his own expense the Curtian and Caerulean waters, which had been led to the city by the deified Claudius but had fallen into intermittent use and disrepair for nine years." Just 10 years later, the third inscription tells that "[In AD 81] the Emperor Titus [etc.] at his own expense, had the Curtian and Caerulean waters, introduced by the deified Claudius and afterwards repaired for the city by Titus's deified father Vespasian, restored with new structures, beginning from its source, after the aqueduct was ruined to its foundations from age." In 271 AD, emperor Aurelian incorportated the gate into the Aurelian Wall, turning it into a true entrance gate into the city, and reducing the size of the openings in the arches. This is a good example of how the Romans reused existing structures for a new purpose. Emperor Honorius added a guardhouse in 405 AD, which has since been moved to the left side of the gate when viewed from the outside (4th photo below, and photo at bottom of page). Cross under the aqueduct that runs perpendicular to the gate at the south end to view this guardhouse. Honorius also rebuilt the upper part of the gate, but when the original gate was subsequently restored, his modifications were mounted to the wall a slight distance away (5th and 7th photo below). The ceiling of the arch to the left of the gate (from the outside) is interesting. That arch is at the left edge of the 2nd and 3rd photos below, and a close-up of the ceiling is shown in the 6th photo below. It is decorated with third-style paintings.

    
The inside of Porta Maggiore
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The outside of Porta Maggiore, with the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker in front of it
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Side-view of Porta Maggiore, showing the channels the aqueducts passed through
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The foundations of Honorius' guard house, from outside the south end of Piazza di Porta Maggiore. The Inscription reads "Presented in Rome by the praetor Quintus Marcio three years after the destruction of Carthage, then restored a couple of days before the city became the capital of Italy, was released, now in the fifth year after the fall of the Austrian empire, the supply of flows along the old channel to the splendor, health, and the perpetual growth of the city, a partner is committed to prosper the affairs of Italy."
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Remains of the upper part of Honorius' rebuild of the Porta Maggiore gate were moved here when the gate was restored.
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Archway just to the left of the outside of Porta Maggiore, with third-style painting on the ceiling
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Porta Maggiore, from the outside, with the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker in front of it, the Aurelian Wall to its left, and the remains of the upper part of Honorius' gate have been moved to near the corner (mosaic of 4 photos)
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If you stand facing the inside of the Porta Maggiore (not the side with the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker), you can see the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Anio Novus coming from the distance ahead of you and to your right. Peek through an archway and you'll see the aqueduct going off on the far side of the gate, slightly to the right. The water which reaches this point has flowed along that aqueduct for about 4 or 5 miles, from Aqueduct Park, where the Aqua Claudia is most impressive after having flowed quite a distance underground from its source. The water came from that distance, and made a sharp right turn to pass on top of the Porta Maggiore, then continued and turned gradually to the left to continue on along today's railroad tracks to the no-longer-extant settling tank near the Temple of Minerva Medici. At that sharp right turn, the Aqua Neroniano was built to split some water off the main flow of the Aqua Claudia. If you walk through the wall at this point and turn around to face back toward the now-hidden Porta Maggiore, you can see the view in the photo below.

    
Aqua Nero (left of the guard house), and Aqua Claudia (right of the guard house), from outside the south end of Piazza di Porta Maggiore. The foundations of Honorius' guard house are between them. Porta Maggiore is behind these walls.
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Aqua Anio Novus
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Anio Novus was the aqueduct of ancient Rome with the highest level (and therefore the greatest theoretical pressure). It and the Aqua Claudia were begun by emperor Caligula in 38 AD and completed by Claudius who dedicated them on August 1, 52 AD. Its source was the Anio River, which was muddy and turbid since it had loose banks from nearby agriculture. A settling tank was used near the intake before the water ran into the aqueduct channel, but even so, the water was turbid whenever there were heavy rains. Trajan fixed this shortcoming by moving the intake upstream to a lake which was formed when Nero dammed the Anio for his villa, thus lengthening the aqueduct from 54 miles to 57 miles. Those lakes were swept away during the Middle Ages. From its source, the aqueduct channel was generally underground until it reached a filtering tank near Capannelle, near the seventh milestone of the Via Latina, not far from Aqueduct Park, where it was then carried into Rome on a channel above that of the Aqua Claudia as it crossed land on a long series of high arches as the land's elevation lowered toward Rome. The whole time it dropped one foot closer to the center of the earth per 300 feet of travel, so gravity could pull the water downhill into Rome. The two channels are visible today at the top of Porta Maggiore. The aqueduct ended at a no-longer-extant large settling tank near the Temple of Minerva Medici, from which service was provided to the Caelian Hill, the Palatine Hill, the Aventine Hill and Trastevere. Together, the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Anio Novus nearly doubled the water supply into Rome. About one-fourth of its capacity fed imperial buildings and properties, including the palaces of the Palatine Hill. Because of the maintenance required by these two aqueducts, water administrators and maintenance crew doubled in numbers, including crews who patrolled the lines to dismantle the numerous illegal taps.

    
Aqua Anio Novus
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Aqua Claudia
Time:about 1 hour at Aqueduct Park, about 10 minutes at Porta Maggiore
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Aqua Claudia was an aqueduct in ancient Rome. This aqueduct has the best visible remains today. It can be seen at several locations in Rome: perhaps the best are at Aqueduct Park (1st photo below) and at Porta Maggiore (2nd photo below). It and the Aqua Anio Novus were begun by emperor Caligula in 38 AD and completed by Claudius who dedicated them on August 1, 52 AD. Aqua Claudia was apparently defective, since it required repairs which closed the aqueduct for nine years and were completed by Vespasian in 71 AD. Another set of repairs was performed under Titus in 81 AD. The aqueduct's source was a number of springs in the Anio Valley. Originally the Caeruleus and Curtius were used, later the Albudinus spring was added. The aqueduct was 45 miles long, most of which was underground until it reached a filtering tank near Capannelle, near the seventh milestone of the Via Latina, not far from Aqueduct Park, where it was then carried into Rome on a channel below that of the Aqua Anio Novus as it crossed land on a long series of high arches as the land's elevation lowered toward Rome. The whole time it dropped one foot closer to the center of the earth per 300 feet of travel, so gravity could pull the water downhill into Rome. After about 7 miles on arches, the Aqua Claudia entered Rome at Spes Vetus and approached the Porta Maggiore. It was split here by Nero with his split heading southwest toward the Palatine Hill and the main flow crossing over Porta Maggiore, then turning gradually left to a no-longer-extant settling tank near the Temple of Minerva Medici from which service was provided to the Caelian Hill, the Palatine Hill, the Aventine Hill and Trastevere. Together, the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Anio Novus nearly doubled the water supply into Rome. It supplied all fourteen districts of Rome. Because of the maintenance required by these two aqueducts, water administrators and maintenance crew doubled in numbers, including crews who patrolled the lines to dismantle the numerous illegal taps. The 3rd and 4th photos below show the remains of the Aqua Nero branch of the Aqua Claudia, found near San Giovanni in Laterano.

    
Aqua Claudia in Aqueduct Park
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Aqua Claudia near Porta Maggiore
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Aqua Claudia, crossing Viale Castrense, between Amphitheatre Castrense and Porta Maggiore
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Aqua Nero, a branch of the Aqua Claudia, these remnants located near San Giovanni in Laterano
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Aqua Nero, a branch of the Aqua Claudia, these remnants located near San Giovanni in Laterano
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The Aqua Claudia with an airplane flying over it, in Aqueduct Park (mosaic of 4 photos)
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Just outside (east of) the Porta Maggiore is the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker.


Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker
Time:about 30 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker (3 photos below) is a large and intricate tomb built by the freedman Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces for himself and his wife Atistia between 50 and 20 BC. It is located in an extremely prominent position, just a few feet outside today's Porta Maggiore (3rd photo below). Eurysaces was a slave but was freed and became a baker. The inscription, visible in the band half way up the monument in the 1st and 2nd photos below, reads "EST HOC MONIMENTVM MARCEI VERGILEI EVRYSACIS PISTORIS REDEMPTORIS APPARET", which translates into "This is the monument of Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces, baker, contractor, public servant." Another monument by and for freedmen is the nearby Freedmen's Tombs, on Via Statilia. Burials were not permitted within the city; Eurysaces must have ended up rather wealthy to buy this burial spot and construct his tomb just feet outside the city boundary. Since it was built before the Porta Pernestina (the ancient name of the Porta Maggiore), it must have been highly respected since the construction of the Porta Pernestina worked around it.

    
Southern face of the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker
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Northern side of the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker
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The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker in front of Porta Maggiore
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The tomb is 33 feet tall, made of concrete faced with travertine on a tufa base. Along the top is a frieze (first 4 photos below) showing the processes of bread production in the bakery. The south side (1st photo below) depicts the delivery and grinding of grain and the sifting of flour. The north side (2nd photo below) depicts the mixing and kneading of dough, forming of round loaves, and baking in a domed oven like a pizza oven. The west side (right half of 3rd photo below, and 4th photo below) shows the stacking of loaves in baskets and their being taken for weighing. This illustrates an industrial-scale bakery, which accounts for the wealth Eurysaces was able to accumulate. Below the frieze on the north, south and west sides (the east side is broken off) are cylindrical holes whose meaning is not fully understood (5th photo below). They might represent grain-measuring vessles, or they may be part of a kneading machine that employed metal attachments for the gears and arms that worked the machine. If so, it would demonstrate advanced technology used in the bakery.

    
Southern frieze on the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker
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Northern frieze on the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker
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North side (left) and west side (right) of the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker
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Southern half of the western frieze of the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker
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North side (left) and west side (right) of the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker
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As Porta Pernestina became fortified in the Middle Ages, additions were built on top of the tomb. When they were removed by Pope Gregory XVI in 1838, a full-length relief portrait was discovered of a man and woman in toga and palla, and was taken to the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Capitoline Museum along with an inscription honouring one Atistia, a good wife whose remains were placed in a breadbasket and an urn taking the form of such a breadbasket, but these relics are now lost. The female head was stolen from the relief in 1934; the urn might or might not be somewhere in the National Museum of Rome. What a shame. In any case, though, the tomb demonstrates that the "American Dream" of hard work paying off with wealth was in full flower during the late Roman Republic. A freed slave presumably created a small bakery, grew it into an industrial-scale business, and became wealthy enough and proud enough to build an intricate tomb in a prominent location to proclaim his profession to the world.

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Walk along the street that most closely follows the aqueduct, parallel to the railroad tracks, Via Giovanni Giolatti. Two blocks down on the right side is the Temple of Minerva Medica.


Temple of Minerva Medica
Time:about 15 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Unfortunately, the Temple of Minerva Medica was covered and being restored when I visited in October of 2013. It stands between the railroad tracks leading to Termini and a busy street and can be easily seen from trains approacing and leaving Termini. The building is not actually a temple but rather a 4th century AD nymphaeum in a large villa. Other sources state it's a triclinium (dining room) in a large estate during the 3rd century AD. The 10-sided structure supports the remains of a concrete dome of 82 feet in diameter which collapsed in 1828. That makes it the third largest dome in Rome, after the Pantheon and the Baths of Caracalla. The building was originally faced with marble and intricately decorated with statues, but spoilation has erased all of this.

    
Temple of Minerva Medica
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Temple of Minerva Medica
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During my 2014 trip to Rome, the workers working on the restoration left a gate open and I was able to sneak inside and take the rushed first 4 photos below. More progress has been made on the outside of the building, as shown in the 5th photo below. The 6th photo below was taken through the window of my train pulling into Termini station.

    
Temple of Minerva Medica
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Temple of Minerva Medica
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Temple of Minerva Medica
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Temple of Minerva Medica
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Temple of Minerva Medica
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The train-side of the Temple of Minerva Medica, from my train window as I arrived into Rome
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Continue walking down Via Giovanni Giolatti in the same direction for 3 more blocks to the church of Santa Bibiana, also on the right. If the church is closed, you can still see the main attraction, the Bernini sculpture of Saint Bibiana, through the glass doors.


Santa Bibiana
Time:about 15 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:7:30 AM - 10 AM and 4:30 PM - 7:30 PM

The church of Santa Bibiana (1st photo below) was originally built in either 363 AD or 467 AD. The present facade was desgined and built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1624-1626, and it houses the statue of St. Bibiano (2nd photo below) by Bernini, sculpted in 1626, which shows her holding the leaf of martyrs, standing next to the column to which she was to be martyred. I didn't quite time arrival at this church right, and since the church was closed, I had to take the picture of Bernini's St, Bibiana through the glass door of the church.

    
Facade of the church of Santa Bibiana
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Bernini's St. Bibiana, inside the church of Santa Bibiana
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Walk across Via Giovanni Giolatti when you exit the church onto the street Via Cairoli which heads away from the railroad tracks. Turn right onto the first street that crosses it, Via Turati, and walk one and a half blocks to the aqueduct on the right.


Aqueduct on Via Turati
Time:about 5 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The aqueduct on Via Turati points toward the nearby remains of a huge fountain, the Trophies of Marius. This was probably part of either the Aqua Claudia or the Aqua Anio Novus.

    
Aqueduct on Via Turati
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Aqueduct on Via Turati
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Continue walking on Via Turati for 5 very short blocks to Piazza Manfredo Fanti on the left. The last street you will have crossed before arriving at the park is Via Rattazzi.


Servian Wall in Piazza Manfredo Fanti
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Servian Wall (the black wall in the map below), also known as the Republican Wall, was a defensive wall constructed in the early 4th century BC, and named after the 6th king or Rome, Servius Tullius, who ruled from about 550 BC until about 510 BC. It superseded defensive walls that might have been dismantled in response to Etruscan demands, and was itself superceeded by the taller, stronger and much larger Aurelian Wall, built between 271 AD and 275 AD. The Servian Wall was 32 feet tall in places, 12 feet thick at its base, and 7 miles long. It was built from large blocks of tufa. To my eyes, it looks like a rough wall made of square blocks piled on top of each other, with the joints being very well done. Here we are, 2500 years after its construction, and there are not really any gaps between the stones. It is believed to have had 16 gates, but only three still exist (Porta Esquilina = Arch of Gallienus, Arcus Caelimontani, Porta Sanqualis). The Servian Wall was maintained throughout the age of the Roman Republic and the early Empire, but by this time, Rome became well-protected by its military strength and the city was essentially not walled for the first three centuries of the Roman Empire. However, when German tribes attacked the frontier in the 3rd century, Aurelian had the larger Aurelian Wall built to protect Rome. In the end, even that was not enough.

    
Servian Wall (black) and Aurelian Wall (red)

In the Piazza Manfredo Fanti stands the Roman Aquarium, a large white domed building, with a few blocks of the Servian Wall in front of it (1st and 3rd photos below). Remains of brick houses are at the same site (2nd photo below) which had been built against the old wall, which can be seen at the left edge of the image. The neighborhood is not the greatest; the Aquarium looks rather dilapidated, the fountain in front is not running, and a burned car (4th image below) was on the street just outside the piazza. Was this some form of protest that I don't understand, or was it crime?

    
Servian Wall fragment in Piazza Manfredo Fanti
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Brick houses built against the Servian Wall in Piazza Manfredo Fanti
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Servian Wall fragment in Piazza Manfredo Fanti (at bottom of image)
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Burned-out car next to Piazza Manfredo Fanti
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Walk on Via Rattazzi, away from the railroad tracks for 2 blocks to the major street Via Carlo Alberto. Turn left on that street and walk one short block into the park named Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. The Trophies of Marius are near the west end, the end of the park you entered.


Trophies of Marius
Time:about 30 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Trophies of Marius is a large monumental fountain which was built inside an imperial villa at the time of Emperor Alexander Severus (222 - 235 AD). The Aqua Julia, built by Agrippa in 33 AD by order of Augustus provided water for this fountain, which stood 3 stories tall. The entry point of the aqueduct is still visible (see the arch in the 2nd photo below). The fountain had a large central niche (1st photo below), probably housing a statue of Alexander Severus, with a smaller niche on either side which contained the marble statues known as the "Trophies of Marius". Those statues actually date back to the time of Emperor Domitian, and were moved to the ballustrade of the Piazza del Campidoglio by Pope Sixtus V in 1590 where they still stand today (3rd photo below). The fountain was made of brick covered by snow-white marble and various sculptures. A chariot stood on top of it. In addition to its purpose as a monumental fountain, it distributed water from the main input pipe into multiple secondary channels. Water would gush down from a basin near the top into niches with statues from which it gushed out again into a large semicircular basin at street level. This fountain inspired baroque artists in designing the monumental fountains we still see today: the Moses Fountain, the Big Fountain, and the Trevi Fountain.

    
Trophies of Marius
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Trophies of Marius
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One of the Trophies of Marius, on the south side of the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from near the top of the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio
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Right next to the Trophies of Marius is the statue which was designed to be in the center of the Fountain of the Naiads but was rejected.


Rutelli's Fish Fry
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

When the Sicilian artist, Mario Rutelli, sculpted the statues for the Fountain of the Naiads he saved the central sculpture for last. Rutelli, probably disappointed by the lack of universal admiration for his work, sculpted a bizzarre group that featured three human figures, a dolphin and an octopus tangled together in a wrestle, and unveiled a model of it in mortar in 1911 before he sculpted the final version in bronze for the center of the fountain. The reception was poor, though, with the people nicknaming it "the fish fry of Termini". Rutelli went on to sculpt the more conventional group that stands on the fountain today: a single male figure embracing a dolphin. The "fish fry" can be found today in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. In my opinion, it's a pretty awesome statue and would have been great in the center of the Fountain of the Naiads.

    
Rutelli's Fish Fry
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Leave the piazza on the same street you came in by, Via Carlo Alberto. Turn left at the first street, Via San Vito. Crossing over the street next to a church is the Arch of Gallienus.


Arch of Gallienus
Time:about 15 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Servian Wall (the black wall in the map below), also known as the Republican Wall, was a defensive wall constructed in the early 4th century BC, and named after the 6th king or Rome, Servius Tullius, who ruled from about 550 BC until about 510 BC. It superseded defensive walls that might have been dismantled in response to Etruscan demands, and was itself superceeded by the taller, stronger and much larger Aurelian Wall, built between 271 AD and 275 AD. The Servian Wall was 32 feet tall in places, 12 feet thick at its base, and 7 miles long. It was built from large blocks of tufa. To my eyes, it looks like a rough wall made of square blocks piled on top of each other, with the joints being very well done. Here we are, 2500 years after its construction, and there are not really any gaps between the stones. It is believed to have had 16 gates, but only three still exist (Porta Esquilina = Arch of Gallienus, Arcus Caelimontani, Porta Sanqualis). The Servian Wall was maintained throughout the age of the Roman Republic and the early Empire, but by this time, Rome became well-protected by its military strength and the city was essentially not walled for the first three centuries of the Roman Empire. However, when German tribes attacked the frontier in the 3rd century, Aurelian had the larger Aurelian Wall built to protect Rome. In the end, even that was not enough.

    
Servian Wall (black) and Aurelian Wall (red)

The Arch of Gallienus, also known as the Arch of St. Vitus after the church the arch is located against, is located on the tiny road Via di San Vito, which is one block southeast from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The nearest metro stop is Vittorio Emanuele. Its original name was the Porta Esquilina, an ancient Roman arch in the Servian Wall. During the time of Augustus, two minor arches were added at the sides of the major one, giving the arch a monumental appearance. In 262, Aurelius Victor rededicated the arch to Gallienus (Emperor from 253 - 268 AD) and his wife Cornelia Salonina. The surviving single arch (1st and 2nd photos below) is made of white travertine, and is 29 feet tall, 24 feet wide, and 11 feet deep. The arch looks like it's about to fall down (especially evident in 3rd photo below); I hope it's been stabilized properly. The side arches still existed in the 15th century, but they were demolished when the church was built and no trace of them remains today. The inscription (photo below) "To Gallienus, the most clement princeps, whose unconquered virtus is only outdone by his pietas, and to Salonina, most holy Augusta, Aurelius Victor, the excellent man, [dedicated this] in complete devotion to their numines and majesties" was actually just the end of the original inscription. The large blank space above them had marble slabs with the beginning of the inscription. The holes for the metal pegs that mounted those marble slabs are still visible.

    
The Arch of Gallienus
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The Arch of Gallienus
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The architrave of Arch of Gallienus
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On the other side of the church, on Via Carlo Alberto, a very small fragment of the Servian Wall remains (photo below), jutting out from a yellow building onto the sidewalk, with bricks supporting the remains.

    
Servian Wall remains near the Arch of Gallienus
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On the same street is the Fontana dei Monti.


Fontana dei Monti
Time:about 5 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Built in 1927 by Pietro Lombardi to express the history of the Monti district, this small fountain has three mountains representing the Esquiline, the Caelian and the Vinimal Hills. The hills have stars superimposed from which water flows and falls into trays below. Pietro Lombardi was commissioned by the city to build 9 other fountains representing other districts, including the Fountain of the Pine Cone and the Fountain of the Tiaras.

    
Fontana dei Monti
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Walk out the opposite end of Via San Vito as that you came in at, turn right on the busy Via Merulana to head toward the tall column in front of Santa Maria Maggiore, but turn left into the tiny alley before you reach the piazza. At the end of the alley is the church of Santa Prassede.


Santa Prassede
Time:about 1 hour
Cost:Free
Hours:7:30 AM - 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM

The church of Santa Prassede in its current form was commissioned by Pope Hadrian I around the year 780 AD, built on top of the remains of a 5th century structure designed to house the bones of Saint Praxedes. Today the church is most famous for its impressive mosaics throughout the church. The apse mosaic (1st photo below) features Jesus in the center, with Saints Peter and Paul on his left and right. On the far left is Paschal, with the square halo of the living, hoping his offering of a model of the church is enough to guarantee his place in heaven. There are also mosaics in the chapel of St. Zeno (3rd and 4th photos below). At the top of a spiral staircase is a small room with a fresco cycle dating from the 8th century depicting St. Praxedes. Finally, Santa Prassede houses a segment of the pillar upon which Jesus was flogged and tortured before his crucifixion (2nd photo below) in Jerusalem, retrieved by St. Helena (mother of Constantine) in the 4th century AD. She also retrieved wood from Jesus' crib now housed in the nearby Santa Maria Maggiore.

    
Apse mosaics in Santa Prassede
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A segment of the pillar upon which Jesus was flogged and torture before his crucifixion, now in Santa Prassede
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Mosaics in the Chapel of Zeno, in Santa Prassede
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Chapel of St. Zeno in Santa Prassede
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Go back out to Via Merulana and go to the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore. In that piazza is the Column of Peace with the Fountain of Santa Maria Maggiore next to it.


Column of Peace
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Column of Peace is located in front of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, on the side of the church furthest from Via Cavour. The column is 46 feet high and was relocated from the Basilica of Maxentius, where it was the only surviving column of the eight original marble columns which graced the basilica. At the time, the Basilica of Maxentius was incorrectly known as the Temple of Peace, so the column is known, even today, as the Column of Peace. The Virgin Mary stands at the top of this Corinthian column, and eagles and dragons stand at the bottom. Mary was cast using some old cannons from the Castel Sant'Angelo. Standing next to the Column of Peace is the Fountain of Santa Maria Maggiore.

    
Column of Peace
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Column of Peace
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Fountain of Santa Maria Maggiore
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

This large and relatively bland basin, attached to one side of the Column of Peace was ordered by Pope Paul V to replace a fountain placed here during the Middle Ages. Originally, the basin was of an irregular oblong shape with two small "eagle" water fountains on the longer sides and, in between, at the curved ends, two large dragons. The eagles can still be seen above the masks, but the dragons disappeared according to records in the 19th century. The fountain and the column are located on the side of Santa Maria Maggiore furthest from Via Cavour.

    
Fountain of Santa Maria Maggiore
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Fountain of Santa Maria Maggiore
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Fountain of Santa Maria Maggiore
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Fountain of Santa Maria Maggiore
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Santa Maria Maggiore
Time:about 1 hour
Cost:Free
Hours:7:00 AM - 7:00 PM daily

Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four churches in Rome that is part of the Vatican, along with St. Peter's Basilica, San Giovanni in Laterano and St. Paul's Outside the Walls. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and its name means that it's Rome's principal church dedicated to her. The present church was built under Pope Sixtus III (432 AD - 440 AD). The Romanesque bell tower, built between 1370 and 1378, is the highest in Rome at 246 feet. The church still has the feel of an early Christian church because of its simple basilica layout which has been well preserved through the ages. The columns on either side of the nave are made of Athenian marble. Mosaics illustrating Old Testament stories, which have been dated to 432 - 440 AD, are on the wall above them. They can be hard to see since the light is dim. The altar is topped by a beautiful baldacchino. In front of it, in the confessio is a statue of a kneeling Pope Pius IX, praying before an altar with a glass case above it. In the glass case is a silver urn which holds five pieces of wood said to be from Jesus' Manger (last photo below). To the right of the altar is the tomb of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Behind the altar are three tremendous mosaics. The two in the arches were commissioned by Pope Sixtus III in the 5th century. The front arch illustrates the childhood of Christ. The rear arch illustrates the Apocalypse. The apse mosaic, from the late 13th century, shows Mary being crowned by Jesus. To the left of the altar is the Pauline Chapel. The altar here is adorned with precious stones, and with an icon of Mary which is at least 1000 years old. To the right of the main altar is the chapel of Sixtus V, which houses his tomb. Outside in the front of the church is Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, with the Column of Peace and the Fountain of Santa Maria Maggiore. Behind the church, on Via Cavour, is the Piazza dell'Esquilino, with the Esquiline Obelisk in it.

    
The front of Santa Maria Maggiore
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Arch mosaic in Santa Maria Maggiore
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Apse mosaic in Santa Maria Maggiore
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The back of Santa Maria Maggiore
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Arch mosaic in Santa Maria Maggiore
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Manger fragments in Santa Maria Maggiore
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Around the back of Santa Maria Maggiore is the Piazza dell'Esquilino with the Esquiline Obelisk in it.


Esquiline Obelisk
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Esquiline Obelisk is 48.4 feet tall (83.8 feet with base), has no hieroglyphics, and is a Roman imitiation of an Egyptian obelisk. This, and its sister obelisk, the Quirinal Obelisk, were probably quarried by the Romans in the late first century AD. This one was erected on the western flank of the Mausuleum of Augustus, paired with the Quirinal Obelisk on the eastern flank. Both obelisks fell into pieces and as the area was often flooded by the Tiber River they disappeared into the ground under a covering of silt. In 1519 the opening of Via di Ripetta led to the discovery of one of them. This one was in four pieces which were assembled near the church of San Rocco in 1527. Sixtus V had the obelisk repaired and placed in 1587 at the end of Strada Felice, a new street he had opened to reach Santa Maria Maggiore. The top of the obelisk is decorated with the mountains and the star of Sixtus V. The Esquiline Obelisk (along with the Quirinal Obelisk and the Sallustian Obelisk) can be seen from the corner of the four fountains, at the intersection of Via 20 Settembre and Via delle Quattro Fontane.

    
Esquiline Obelisk
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Esquiline Obelisk
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The road on the opposite side of Piazza dell'Esquilino from Santa Maria Maggiore is Via Cavour. Walk right along Via Cavour to reach the Termini metro stop, or left to reach the Cavour metro stop.



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