Don’t let the Baroque and neo-classical façade of the San Giovanni in Laterano church fool you. This ecclesiastical complex is old, and therefore has to be on our list of top things to do in Rome. San Giovanni was the original headquarters of the Church and the papal residence from the early 4th century until the pope moved across the Tiber to the Vatican in the 14th century. Until the unification of Italy in 1870, all popes had been crowned in this major basilica. Don’t miss the Lateran Palace, which houses the Scala Santa. Known as the “Holy Steps,” the Scala Santa is a marble staircase that was brought to Rome from the Holy Land by St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine. The staircase came from Pontius Pilate’s palace and is said to have been the stairs on which Christ took his last steps before he was condemned to death. Above the steps is the Sancta Sanctorum, “Holy of Holies,” which supposedly housed some of the most precious holy relics in all of Christendom: The heads of apostles, a chunk of wood from the table used during the Last Supper, the Virgin’s veil and even the foreskin of Jesus.
- Open Hours: Monday to Sunday from 07:00 AM to 06:00 PM
- Nearest Train: Porta South Giovanni/Carlo Felice