This was our last day in Rome, and tomorrow we’d be headed home. The only thing we had planned for today was to visit the Scala Sancta. These are said to be the steps Jesus Christ went up on his knees on his way to Pontius Pilate during the Passion. For centuries Christians have travelled to the steps and gone up them on their knees as well. Today we planned to do the same just after the taxi dropped us off. First though, a bathroom break across the street since there were no bathrooms where we were going. This just happened to be San Giovanni in Laterano, one of the four major basilicas (four highest ranking Roman Catholic churches), the other three are St. Peter’s Basilica, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. I knew of the major basilicas and wanted to visit them if we had time, so this was very opportune. This isn’t one of the major tourist attraction churches so it doesn’t have as many people there and it’s still ridiculously beautiful to warrant a visit.
We spent quite a bit of time there exploring and checking out the gift shop of course before we headed back to the Scala Sancta. The actually close in the afternoon for a couple hours and we happened to arrive about an hour before they were scheduled to close, but we didn’t know it at the time. There are other ways up, but these actual steps must be climbed on your knees. It hurts. A lot. The original steps are marble, but have been covered in wood to preserve them and there are areas where the wood has worn down from all the visitors. There are a couple of holes in the wood that are covered with a protective transparent material that have the blood of Jesus spilled that you can see. One such spot is at the very top in the center. The steps were full of people when we visited and some people pray for every step. You can’t walk around them, so you spend a lot of your time on your knees waiting. It was extremely painful and exhausting, but wow was it an amazing experience.
At the top of the steps is the Sancta Sanctorum aka the Holy of Holies, a private chapel for the Pope. We spent some time in the tiny gift shop they have before leaving and realized they were about to close when we saw we were the last ones out.
– Scala Sancta building
– people climbing the steps
– Sancta Sanctorum
We were tired and wanted to go rest, but couldn’t find a taxi stand nearby. We started walking up a big street hoping to find something. We didn’t find anything until we reached Santa Maria Maggiore, but were too tired to go in.
This is where things got really interesting. We found a taxi stand full of waiting taxis. Moms, Jules, & I got in the front taxi and headed off. We were planning on meeting at a McDonald’s near the hotel to grab a quick lunch. As the taxi stopped, Moms went to exit on her side which had traffic and she opened the door into another taxi. Our driver was mad, the other driver was mad, a third driver was mad since he couldn’t stop in time and hit the second taxi (even though his car was fine); you can imagine there was some very animated Italian being spoken at that moment. Just not by us. With the language barrier we couldn’t figure out what we were supposed to do. Jules went to the hotel and got someone to translate for us. While she was gone the police showed up. They were super helpful and between them and the translator we got things settled. At first the drivers were wanting sums of money and the cops told them that was ridiculous, and they told the third driver to butt-out since him crashing was his fault. Eventually we agreed to pay 300 euro and call it even. I’m not sure if it was the best decision, but in the heat of the moment it seemed the simplest. All this time though, it’s just the three of us and we’re starting to wonder where the rest of our family is. Jules got in touch with them and apparently none of the other taxis would pick them up because we were so close. After getting Moms settled in the room, Jules and I walked back and lead them to the hotel. We ended up getting some McDonald’s to bring to the room.
– the other taxi
– our taxi
– this McDonald’s milkshake was only a euro (why don’t we have dollar milkshakes in the US?)
– chicken sandwich
By this time, Moms was done for the day. Cuz was still in search of the European version of the Lady Gaga album so they went to a nearby record store in search of it. I had seen a store with model cars in the window not too far from our hotel earlier in the day and Jules and I went to check it out. They didn’t have anything in the scale I wanted so I just bought some candy. A couple hours later we all headed out and visited a nearby grocery store and did some last minute souvenir shopping before calling it a trip.
When we were at the Scala Sancta the day before we had met a driver who gave us a good price on a trip to the airport. We had called him later that evening and scheduled a pickup for this morning. We drove to the airport and said goodbye to Europe. I wish I could say the flight home was uneventful, but I’d be lying. With about three hours left before we arrived in Philadelphia, the captain said we’d experience some mild-to-medium turbulence. A little bit later the plane dropped. I’m not sure how far, it was quick, but long enough for everyone on board to get weightless and only be held in by our seatbelts. We all wanted off, but we were over the ocean. I would’ve been fine if they stopped in Nova Scotia to let me off. The next couple hours were scary with every little bump we felt. In Philadelphia we talked briefly about renting a car and driving home and we overheard a couple other people having the same conversation. We got on the other plane and were nervous as hell the rest of the way home.
All the candy I brought home. I did plan to share it, but I had to try it first since I didn’t want to give people horrible candies. The Chunk Kit-Kat was hazelnut flavored and was basically a Nutella Kit-Kat, aka awesome.
When I think of Rome I think of food. I have had some amazing meals there and that’s the biggest factor in making me want to return. It’s a beautiful city. Some areas, like the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, are like these hidden gems. You don’t realize what you’re about to see until you get right in front of them. The history they’ve preserved is fantastic. Now that I’ve gotten the tourist stuff out of the way, I’d love to go back and really experience it like a Roman.