European Adventures: Papal Basilicas

DSC02773One of my previous posts was about St. Peter’s Basilica, which is considered as the world’s largest church. St. Peter’s is a papal basilica, along with St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. When we were in Rome, we got the chance to visit all four papal basilicas.

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We passed by St. John Lateran the most during our stay in Rome, because it was located near the place we were staying. Like the other churches we’ve visited, the facade of San Giovanni was beautiful. I also loved the statues of the apostles that lined the interior of the basilica.DSC02653

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. It is the oldest church of the Western World, founded in the 4th century by Constantine the Great. The basilica is dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist (Italy Magazine). DSC02658DSC02664

Officially named Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris (Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior), it is the oldest and ranks above all other churches in the Catholic Church, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and holds the title of ecumenical mother church among Catholics (About Roma).P1050342Near the basilica, you can find the Scala Sancta, or Holy Stairs: white marble steps encased in wooden ones, which, according to Catholic tradition, once led to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial during the events known as the Passion. (Italy Magazine)

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Getting to St. Paul Outside the Walls needed more time and effort since it was quite far from the city center. However, when we arrived at the basilica, I realized that it was definitely worth it. Aside from the magnificent structure, it was much more peaceful compared to the other basilicas since there were fewer visitors.DSC02747DSC02739

San Paolo Fuori Le Mura is is located on the Via Ostiense, near the left bank of the Tiber river, 2 kilometers outside the Aurelian Walls. It is the second largest basilica of the four, after St. Peter’s Basilica (Italy Magazine)P1050461

St. Paul Outside the Walls was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine I over the burial place of St. Paul (now under the papal altar), making it a popular pilgrimage site (Italy Magazine).P1050480P1050511

St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore)

P1050370Among the four papal basilicas, St. Mary Major is probably the one that we explored the least. However, we were still glad that we got the opportunity to visit it given our tight schedule.

Santa Maria Maggiore is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary and one of the first to be built in her honor. It is the only basilica among these four to have preserved the Paleochristian structure of the 5th century, even though it underwent several makeovers and additions externally (Italy Magazine). P1050361 The seventy-five meter bell tower – the tallest in Rome – was built in 1377, shortly after the popes returned from their exile in Avignon. The pyramidal spire was added much later, in the early sixteenth century (A View on Cities).

Again, thank you Sister Pierette for being our tour guide!

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European Adventures: Capitoline Hill

DSC02619Buongiorno! Here’s another day exploring the Eternal City of Rome. This post focuses on Capitoline Hill and the nearby Piazza Venezia, considered as the central hub of the city .

According to A View on Cities, the Capitoline Hill is the smallest and most important of the seven hills of Ancient Rome. As the political and religious heart of Rome the hill became a symbol of Rome’s reign as Caput Mundi, capital of the world.

DSC02590Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo, is bordered on three sides by buildings – Palazzo Senatorio (center, with the clock tower), Palazzo dei Conservatori (right) and Palazzo Nuovo (left).

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Palazzo Senatorio, the city hall of Rome
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Cordonata

The piazza can be reached from the foot of the hill by ascending the majestic Cordonata (Italian for ‘graded ramp’) stairs.

 

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Piazza del Campidoglio
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Il Vittoriano (left) & Santa Maria in Aracoeli (right)

Next is Il Vittoriano (Victor Emmanuel II Monument). The magnificent monument dominates the square and is dedicated to the first king of Italy. It is also called Altare della Patria, meaning altar of the fatherland.DSC02620DSC02613DSC02610P1050253

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From Il Vittoriano, Palazzo Venezia (left) and Palazzo Generali (right)

Rome is just beautiful. I want to come back!

Again, thank you to our tour guides especially to Sister Pierette.

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European Adventures: St. Peter’s Basilica

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After spending hours at the Vatican Museums, our next stop was St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a dream of mine to visit this church and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to do so.

According to Sacred Destinations:

St. Peter’s Basilica is a major basilica in Vatican City, an enclave of Rome. St. Peter’s was until recently the largest church ever built and it remains one of the holiest sites in Christendom. Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral – that honor in Rome goes to St. John Lateran.

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Inside the basilica, one can see Michelangelo’s great dome and Bernini’s Baldacchino directly below it. This monumental canopy shelters the papal altar and the holy relics of St. Peter. Click here to read more about the different areas found inside the basilica.

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St. Peter’s Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter – the apostle who is considered the first pope – was crucified and buried. St. Peter’s tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are buried in the basilica as well. Originally founded by Constantine in 324, St. Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century by Renaissance masters including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini. (Sacred Destinations)

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Directly in front of the basilica is St. Peter’s Square.

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According to the Vatican City State website:

Designed and built by Bernini between 1656 and 1667, during the pontificate of Alexander VII (1655-1667), the square is made up of two different areas. The first has a trapezoid shape, marked off by two straight closed and convergent arms on each side of the church square. The second area is elliptical and is surrounded by the two hemicycles of a four-row colonnade, because, as Bernini said, “considering that Saint Peter’s is almost the matrix of all the churches, its portico had to give an open-armed, maternal welcome to all Catholics, confirming their faith; to heretics, reconciling them with the Church; and to the infidels, enlightening them about the true faith.”

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We also passed by Ponte Sant’Angelo and Castel Sant’Angelo (Hadrian’s Mausoleum).

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Again, thank you to Tita Christine, Tita Anabella, Sister Pierette and Sister Bel for touring us around Rome.

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European Adventures: Palermo

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Hello! This post is all about Palermo, the last day trip we have before we get off at our final destination (Civitavecchia).

Palermo is the regional capital of Sicily, located in the southern part of Italy. We only had half day to get around the city, so we weren’t able to see many sights.

For millennia at the crossroads of civilisations, Palermo delivers a heady, heavily spiced mix of Byzantine mosaics, Arabesque domes and frescoed cupolas. This is a city at the edge of Europe and at the centre of the ancient world, a place where souk-like markets rub against baroque churches, where date palms frame Gothic palaces and where the blue-eyed and fair have bronze-skinned cousins.

Here are some photos:

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Cattedrale di Monreale
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Cattedrale di Monreale

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Palermo’s cathedral presents to the visitor a diversity and mixture of architectural styles unique in the world for a church of this strikingly vast scale: Arab, Norman,Byzantine, Swabian, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque. It’s all here, in one grand, inspiring setting, complete with soaring medieval spires. This is the world’s most eclectic ecclesiastical architecture.

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The highlight of our day trip was definitely the Palermo Cathedral. It was a massive structure and needless to say, I was in awe.

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European Adventures: Malta

IMG_1035Our cruise continues and our next stop is an island located at the center of the Mediterranean Sea – Malta. Malta can either refer to the country (an archipelago composed of three islands), or its largest island.

When we saw Malta on the list of stops on our Mediterranean cruise, we were initially unsure if we would go on a day of sightseeing or just spend the day on board. Upon the recommendation of the crew (predominantly Filipino), we decided to explore the island of Malta.

Here are a few photos from our day trip in Malta:

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St. Paul’s Cathedral
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Grand Master’s Palace
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Republic Square

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St. John’s Co-Cathedral
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Upper Barrakka Gardens

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Fun fact: Parts of the first season of Game of Thrones were filmed in Malta, and we were able to visit one of the shooting locations (I was unaware during the trip).

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We only had a short amount of time in Malta, but we tried to make the most out of it. It was definitely better than spending the day on board!

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European Adventures: Pisa & Florence

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Buongiorno! Our European adventure along the Mediterranean coast continues and the next stop is Tuscany, a region in the central part of Italy. Our ship docked at the Port of Livorno, and our day trip included the cities Pisa and Florence.

DSC01766Upon arriving at Pisa, the weather was quite gloomy and we were quite scared that it might ruin our day trip. Thankfully, we only experienced light rain in some parts of the day. Of course, our trip to Pisa was all about the Leaning Tower. It is actually the bell tower of the cathedral, which are both located at the Square of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli).Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetDSC01792

After our short visit to Pisa, we proceeded to our next stop – Florence. The travel time was around 1 1/2 to 2 hours so we grabbed the chance to get some rest and be ready for an afternoon of walking.

Our first stop was Santa Croce Church (Basilica of Santa Croce), the resting place of icons such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo Galilei. A Monument to Dante also stands in front the church.

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The next stop on our Florence walking tour was the Piazza della Signoria. It can be considered as an open-air gallery, with numerous sculptures displayed, such as David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia) by Michelangelo, Hercules and Cacus (1534) by Bandinelli, and Nettuno (1575) by Ammannati.

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The Piazza della Signoria has been the center of political life in Florence since the 14th century with the prominent Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the square.

 

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After an Italian lunch, we continued our walking tour and had some time to marvel at the beautiful Duomo. The Piazza del Duomo was bustling with people when we were there, and numerous souvenir shops, gelato stands, cafes and restaurants lined the surrounding streets.

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Our last stop for the day was Galleria dell’ Accademia, where we lined up for quite a few hours to see the original David sculpture by Michelangelo.

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Aside from the sculpture of David, which is probably the most famous sculpture in the world, we also got to see more sculptures and paintings by different Italian artists.

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That’s it for our day trip in Pisa and Florence!

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European Adventures: Marseille & Aix-en-Provence

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After spending our first night at the cruise ship, it was time for our first stop – Marseille. It was an amazing feeling waking up and knowing that we were already in a different country. We had an early call time, but of course we couldn’t do anything but to get ready on time. A day of exploring awaits!

Marseille is a rich, pulsing port city bubbling over with history, cutting-edge creative spaces and hip multicultural urbanites. Since Greek settlers came ashore around 600 BC, waves of immigrants have made Marseille (now France’s second-largest city) their home.

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Marseille’s iconic figure, Notre-Dame de la Garde or “La Bonne Mère” watches over sailors, fishermen and the entire city. It is located on the top of the hill, and also offers great views of the city.

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We also had a photo stop at The Palais Longchamp. It brings the Museum of Fine Arts, Natural History Museum and botanical garden (formerly a zoo) together on a single site.P1040180IMG_0638

Our next stop was Aix-en Provence.

A pocket of left-bank Parisian chic deep in Provence, Aix is all class: its leafy boulevards and public squares are lined with 17th- and 18th-century mansions, punctuated by gurgling moss-covered fountains. Haughty stone lions guard its grandest avenue, cafe-laced cours Mirabeau, where fashionable Aixois pose on polished pavement terraces sipping espresso. While Aix is a student hub, its upscale appeal makes it pricier than other Provençal towns.

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We walked around and browsed through small shops (although a lot were closed, maybe because it was a Sunday) and just enjoyed strolling around a Parisian town.

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After our stroll, we took a break and sat down near Fontaine de la Rotonde, a huge fountain from 1860 in the centre of Aix’ main roundabout. Some pigeons also approached us as we ate some snacks.

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Although we had very limited time, it was nice to see and visit the main sights of Marseille and Aix-en-Provence. Next stop, Italy!

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European Adventures: Sagrada Familia

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La Sagrada Familia

Hello! Another day, another post. So this is about our second day in Barcelona. First stop of the day – the majestic Sagrada Familia!

La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí’s most famous works in Barcelona. It’s a giant Basilica that has been under construction since 1882 and it’s not expected to be completed for some time yet.

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Before our European adventure started, of course I already read and saw articles, forums, and pictures on “where to go” and “what to see” in each city we were to visit. For Barcelona, the #1 on the list is Sagrada Familia. Looking at the pictures beforehand, I was already amazed by the beauty of the structure. I was also fascinated about the fact that even though it is unfinished, it remains as a must-see sight.

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When I finally saw the famous church, I was in awe. Actually, my whole family was! I mean, who wouldn’t be amazed by such a beautiful structure? Sagrada Familia is definitely a masterpiece.

Look at those details!

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Of course I couldn’t say no to churros con chocolate!
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With my brothers and Era, our lovely host in Barcelona

A huge thank you to Era, who was a great host! She fetched us at our place during our whole stay and toured us around Barcelona. She even brought us a typical Barcelona breakfast!

 

That’s it for now. ‘Til the next post!

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