By the time we reached our last day in Rome, we were exhausted. Walking the short distance to the breakfast area to feast on pastries seemed like a monumental effort. I had to eat an extra pastry just to get the energy to head back to the room to pack. Holidays are hard work.
Once I had managed to cram all my possessions into my too-small rucksack, we headed out into the city for the final time. I had two key things I wanted to see before we returned home: the Pantheon and the Jesuit’s flagship church il Gesù.
We made our way to the piazza where the Jesuit church was based, and then puzzled for several minutes trying to work out which building it was. Once we spotted the giant cross on the top of the church, we finally figured it out. I blame holiday exhaustion.
We were a little nervous entering the church, as the doors were closed and it didn’t look very inviting. However, they were unlocked, so we went on in.
Inside was the most beautifully decorated church. In scale, St Peter’s Basilica wins, but in terms of baroque beauty, il Gesù has no competition.
(Out of respect for the fact that this is a functioning church, I did not take photos, so in order to see the beautiful ceiling art, I’m afraid you will have to go and see it for yourself!
The centre piece of the gorgeous frescos is the ‘Triumph of the name of Jesus’ by Giovanni Battista Gaulli. Helpfully, there is a large mirror on the floor tilted so that you can admire the painting without getting neckache. The chapels along the sides of the church are also fantastic, as are the paintings lining the dome.
The church contains a lot of relics, which are interesting to see. Some of the skulls looked quite small, which was intriguing… Unfortunately I have no knowledge of Latin, so I couldn’t work out what the relics were, or who they were thought to belong to.
After feasting our eyes on all the church had to offer, we went off in search of the Pantheon.
This attraction was far easier to find. The building is an impressive one, and is one of the least-changed structures to exist from Roman times. This is credited to its early conversion into a Christian place of worship, which meant that efforts were made to preserve it.
The Pantheon is a very imposing structure, and even more so when you go inside. The dome is enormous, with a hole at the apex. When it rains, the water simply falls through this roof to the floor. I bet it looks amazing, but I did wonder whether the water is then just allowed to spill across the marble floor.
We were lucky in that we visited this monument early in the day. When we arrived, there were only us and a few Buddhist monks looking round (a surreal moment!). It is definitely worth trying to see early in the day, because you get a better sense of the vastness of the space when it is bereft of people.
After the Pantheon, we contented ourselves with a wander around the city, dipping in and out of several small churches that we encountered along the way. While in one church, we heard car horns and chanting coming from somewhere outside. As we exited the church, we witnessed some of the famous Italian passion. As we watched, a small protest group wandered past, shouting and cheering, watched by stony-faced police officers. It took a while before we could work our way around the blocked off roads and streets, but we got there eventually.
Worn out, we slumped off for an early lunch, before making our sad journey back to the airport. Goodbye Roma!