There must be so many lovely churches in Rome, but Chiesa Santa Maria is close to my idea of perfection. It was one of the first churches in which masses were openly celebrated in Rome and there has been a church here since 340 AD although the present church was built on the site in the 1140s.
It’s in main piazza of the old Trastevere quarter where you can stop for an after-dinner gelato in the evening when the piazza comes alive with street entertainers, bars and restaurants.
You enter through the cool portico adorned with broken marble plaques from ancient Roman tombs, written in Latin and Greek (did you notice the backpacker taking a nap when we were there?)
To the left of the altar is a 17th century chapel with the most beautiful painted frescos – look up and you’ll see the wonderful ceiling.
Despite all this magnificence, it still retains the feel of a neighbourhood church. If you have a particular prayer request, you can write it on the scraps of paper provided and leave it in the arms of St Anthony at one side of the church, or light a candle in the crimson side chapel.
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