Rome Diaries - Week 17

From 2006 to 2011 Paulist Father Tom Holahan served as vice rector of the Paulist church in Rome. During that time he had the opportunity to spend time exploring the historic sites of Rome as well as the hidden ones. The blog features excerpts from this travel diary. A new selection appears each week.


March 16th, 2007

This is the day Palazzo Massimo alle Colonna is open to the public. The building itself is famously curved on its front facade, following the ancient foundations of the Emperor Domitian’s Odeon, a theater for poetry competitions; “alle Colonna” refers to a column from the ruin that is still standing at the back entrance of the palazzo.

By 9 AM a good crowd, greeted by liveried servants, has formed in the courtyard. The family uses the whole palace, but the rooms we see are handsome reception rooms, some commemorating military battles. When I pause to look at a gilt bronze side table that is close to a private room filled with the Massimo family’s invited guests, a woman in a black dress tells me to “keep moving.” There is the flurry of clerical capes and sashes everywhere since the reason for this open house is to commemorate the brief return to life of a young family member after being prayed over by St. Philip Neri on this date in 1583. The three altars in the family chapel (the very room in which the miracle took place) are supplied with a constant stream of priests whispering Masses in Italian. We non-nobles get to watch the family attending the services in the crammed vestibule in front of the chapel.

March 22nd, 2007

Today I stroll the Appian Way. The Roman road was a military creation and Consuls were entrusted with their construction. The Appian Way, would, eventually stretch over three hundred miles to Brindisi, Rome’s port to the East. Begun in 312 B.C., it has been called the first modern road since it was engineered to be as straight as possible -- it did not follow the natural contours of the land as the more ancient Via Latina had. In parts, its very paving stones can still be seen, grooves from chariot traffic and all.