Rome has been my second home for over three months now and I feel like every day is a scene from some cliched American film. The reality? I am Australian, I speak Italian and this is most certainly not my first rodeo in Italy.
What that means is I am a human sponge for all things off the tourist path. I honestly hear people say that have “done Rome” or that you can “do Rome in three days”. I feel like that is the quivalent of looking into a foggy mirror with no clear vision of your reflection.
Many people do not have the luxury of spending extensive time in one place. I, for one, have spent weekends in capitals cities to tick them off my list. Yet I must share the best secret of Rome: slowing down. I spend my afternoons researching hidden churches and lesser known momuments. The pandemic means that there are no tourists anyway here, but when you go to lesser known historical sites you find that the custodians often know so much about the history and are willing to give you a free tour. Often, they do not see anyone else throughout their day, so your company is much appreciated.
The was the case for me when I stumbled upon my new fascination: Byzantine mosaics. My housemate had told me about a tour company for Italians called “Itineroma” that conducts tours in Italian. I randomly partook in half of an online history/zoom tour on Byzantine mosaics (drunk a wine and fell asleeo during the second half… my bad). I scrawled down names of the different locations around Rome where one can find these mosaics. For some reason Santa Presside Basilica stuck in my mind. I also liked the sound of Santa Pudenziana. Doing a little more digging, found out that they were not only close by, but were historically related.
For those less taken aback by the academically dense language: the churches represent 2 sisters Pudenziana and Prassede. Both were daughters of the Roman senator Pudente, a disicple of Saint Paul. They were supposedly killed because they buried martyrs of persecutions of Antonio Pio in wells on the lands of their father.
I was lucky enough to be allowed to see a recently restored mosaic of the two sisters. The custodian let me in!