Touring Rome Italy - St John in Laterano

What should we visit in Rome's St John in Laterano district and its environs?...

We hope that you are enjoying our series of articles and guest articles on Italian tourist attractions, covering the entire country except for its major cities. In a sense we have left the best for last. We will describe what to see in Italy’s great cities neighborhood by neighborhood. You may not realize it, but Rome is divided into 20 districts. And each and every one of these districts boasts its own sightseeing attractions. If you have time, visit them all. In any case, read these articles to help plan your trip to The Eternal City. You may be in for some real surprises. Roma, Non Basta una Vita (Rome, a Lifetime is not Enough) .

The St John in Laterano district lies in the southeastern corner of Rome. The Sixteenth Century Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano in the southwestern corner of this district is yet another Roman public square hosting a granite Egyptian obelisk. Theirs is the tallest in all Rome, originally brought to Rome in the Fourth Century by Constantinus II to adorn the Circus Maximus. Across the square is the building housing the “Scala Santa” (the Holy Staircase), a popular destination for pilgrims. According to tradition, the 28 stairs were ascended by Christ in the Pontius Pilate’s palace. At the top of the Scala Santa is the Pope’s chapel known as the Holy Holies (Sancta Sanctorum).

The San Giovanni in Laterano is the first Christian Basilica built in Rome by Emperor Constantine. This building symbolized the triumph of Christianity over paganism and is considered the Cathedral of Rome. It is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. This edifice was twice destroyed by fire and rebuilt on several occasions. At one point its Baptistery was the only one in the Eternal City. It is now used for the ceremonies of Holy Saturday.

Anfiteatro Castrense St John in Laterano Rome

Anfiteatro Castrense St John in Laterano Rome

The Anfiteatro Castrense in the southwestern part of the district is the Roman amphitheatre that most people, including far too many Romans, know nothing about. This miniature Colosseum, once home to “venationes”, a Roman spectator sport pitting soldiers and slaves against wild animals, now boasts an interior fruit and vegetable garden tended by Benedictine-Cistercian monks whose monastery and church is right next door. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme was part of a palace that Emperor Constantine converted into a church to house his mother’s relics brought back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Some believe that these relics include a fragment of the True Cross.

Porta Maggiore St John in Laterano Rome

Porta Maggiore St John in Laterano Rome

The Porta Maggiore ("Larger Gate"), or Porta Prenestina, is one of the eastern gates in Rome’s well-preserved Third Century Aurelian Walls. The original gate was built in the mid-First Century by Emperor Claudius. Nearby is the Tomb of the Baker, built by Marcus Virgilius Eurysaces, a former slave, showing in a way just how far freedmen could go.

And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Latium or other Italian wines.

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About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.

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