There is definitely some papal connection to the basilicas featured on this walk, as we saw Il Papa himself, not a week later, at St. John Lateran followed by a procession to Santa Maria Maggiore.
This was a REALLY frustrating walk to take. I’m not sure how Heather even heard about it, because there was not a whole lot of information online about it (the directions were kind of wonky) and certainly NO signage whatsoever along the route. I’m sure there must be 5 Santa Maria churches in Rome, at least, on each side of the river, probably, and there is an entire neighborhood called “San Lorenzo” so we had very bad luck trying to ask for the church of the same name. Also, of course the hours the churches are closed aren’t posted anywhere online (these churches close sometime between 12-3pm, and good luck figuring it out for the smaller ones).
One thing I noticed in Rome was that the Internet just does not have great information. It occurred to me when I was writing this blog post to use Google to search BOOKS and I came up with more thorough information about these churches. The Wikipedia article about the Seven Pilgrim Churches talks about the history of Roman churches as a destination for pilgrims and tourists, and the parallel history of the guidebooks describing these pilgrimage sites.
I really can’t believe that these historic routes don’t have any signage. A few people we met at the various churches did seem to know what we were up to, but the employee at the information desk in St John Lateran didn’t know where any of the other churches on the route were! I’m surprised there aren’t brochures about the walk INSIDE the churches on the route. This seems like a missed opportunity.
Listening to the guest speakers in our course speak about the Roman economy made me realize how inextricably culture and economy are bound. I thought about this when looking at the chintzy ticket booths and machines inside churches. You don’t see promotions the same way in Rome (but you kind of do in Florence, they gave us a coupon for the La Specola natural history museum at the Galileo Museum). It seems like there are so many peripheral and auxiliary businesses that could be doing so much more than employing aggressive waiters on the sidewalks and sending out faux-uniformed tour guides….