Italy · Rome

Senatus Populusque Romanus (SPQR)

We saw the acronym SPQR all over Rome today, and not in it’s historical context. It seems that the phrase, the ‘Senate and People of Rome’ is still the motto of the city and is displayed on city property from railings to manhole covers.

The hop-on-hop-off bus proved to be a good way to orient ourselves to the city. We picked it up on the south side of the Ponte St Angelo across from the Castel St Angelo, both built in the first century AD.

And one of the genuine modern experiences we can now claim as our own, at least from the perspective of spectators, is that of Roman traffic chaos–it has to be seen to be believed. Having survived the bus ride as far as the Colosseum, we hopped off and headed away from our fellow tourists into the back streets of the neighbours a little to the north.

Not too far away we found what we were looking for, the Basilica of St Clement, the second or third Bishop of Rome, depending on whether you regard Peter as the first.

The present building is from the twelfth century; it replaced a 4th century basilica, which in turn replaced a first century church, which had appropriated and expanded a building dedicated to Mithras–and we explored all of these today, one under the other. Quite amazing.

Almost everywhere we look in the old centre of Rome, we’re seeing what people before us have seen for the last two thousand years or more.

Tomorrow morning, St Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel and then a closer look at the Colosseum.

And just to show that we’re really in Rome, here’s Trish resting for a minute as we strolled along the Tiber this afternoon.

After nearly nine hours on our feet, I’m glad the ancient Romans didn’t have cars, otherwise we’d have had farther to walk between the sites and the sights today.

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