Christmas in Italy – The Basilicas of Christmas Day

Christmas in Italy – The Basilicas of Christmas Day

In keeping with the tradition of adventure, Sarah and I went on a big trip for Christmas and New Years!

This year, we met up with Sarah’s family in Italy, traveling to Rome and Florence; not quite a perfect midpoint for everyone, but it was close enough. And, also, you know. Rome. Florence. Amazing!

Please forgive me for some of these being a bit out of order… the posts are organized somewhat chronologically… but also organized by theme and location.  Some may not be exactly in chronological order, so for reference please see the initial summary post, which has a complete day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of the adventure.


Monday, 25-Dec-2017


Christmas Morning! Ohh man! Wake up and open presents! Eat delicious Italian breakfast! Coffee! Ahhh!!

Yep. Huge changes from when we were all little – instead of getting up early, screaming, and opening presents, we got up early, screamed, drank coffee, and then opened presents! Huge difference.

Of course, after that initial tomfoolery, things did get a little different than back home. Instead of enjoying a snowy morning of playing outside, or maybe taking a stroll before making lunch, we went to a few Basilicas. Because that’s what you can do in Rome – just wander around and quickly see a few basilicas.

The streets were eerily quiet when we started out, but honestly not as empty as I would have expected for this level of holiday. There weren’t many shops open, but there were a lot of people milling about; though whether they were tourists or Romans, I honestly couldn’t quite tell. Regardless, the city wasn’t packed, but it sure wasn’t empty either.

Interesting aside – tourists weren’t that easy to pick out, at least for me, here in Rome. Maybe that’s because I don’t live there, and don’t notice all of the tells… or maybe just because Romans are such a diverse and energetic bunch?

As for the actual places we saw:

  • Santa Maria della Vittoria (a Minor Basilica) – Our first stop of the day, with tons of sculptures and angels; a really cool difference from the usual flat stone and paintings. The whole building seemed to be sculpted with a single plan in mind, with 3D movement everywhere.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (a Major Basilica) – Not quite as big as St. Peter’s, though I don’t think any building in the world is quite as impressive as St. Peter’s. Santa Maria Maggiore is still gloriously huge – It’s a major Papal Basilica (one of four in the world, all in Rome), and had services actively going on while we visited. I can’t even begin to describe the artwork, except to say that it was really cool and intensely impressive.
  • Basilica of Saint Praxedes (another Minor Basilica) – My first major relic! Here they have a column that Jesus was supposedly flogged against, prior to his crucifiction. Sort of macabre, but really interesting to see, especially since it was just in a corner of the church, instead of behind 20ft of security doors like you’d see in the States.
  • San Bernardo alle Terme (an abbatial church) – Not actually a basilica! This church is part of an abbey, and is thus technically an “Abbatial Church”. Neat! Architecturally, it’s a cool circular church, with a series of gorgeous statues around the perimeter.
    As a note, kind of neat seeing 4 men and 4 women statues

Bottom line is – these places were amazing. Each church could have easily been a major tourist destination anywhere else in the world… but here in Rome, they were nearly just another building. There were people there, of course, but not the crowds that one would expect.

Though maybe that was due to it being Christmas Day.

Which, it being Christmas Day and all, we didn’t want to stay out too late in the day. We were all pretty low-energy, even with the revitalizing scent of incense cloying to us, and so we headed back to the house after those four. We debated going onward, but the allure of lunch was starting to call us in, back to hearth and home.

The rest of the day was quite lovely, and definitely relaxing. I headed off on a bit of an adventure of my own for a bit (Ed Note: See post “Walking to the Drusian Arch” for details), but the day stayed quite relaxing and luxurious aside from that. We relaxed, chatted, and all continued catching up.

Dinner kept to the same theme, though it was definitely as decadent as one would expect from a dinner in Rome. Since we assumed that all of the main restaurants would be closed on Christmas Day, we had planned on making our own little feast – a light salad, followed by a nice pasta dish, and then a heaping plate of roast beef paired with an excellent red wine. We ate, laughed, talked, and sipped our way through the evening, bring an excellent Christmas to a close.

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