The Appian Way: Rome #2

(my first Rome recap here)

We decided to go to the Old Appian Way (via Appia Antica) on Sunday and walk around and see the sights. Back in the day, the Appian Way was the largest, widest, and fastest road in the world. It was begun in 312 B.C. and connected Rome with Capua which is near Naples. Eventaully the road stretched 430 miles to the port of Brindisi which is where boats sailed for Greece and Egypt. We read that the road was closed to traffic on Sundays but honestly, it didn’t seem like it was. Some places were more busy than others, but still…

I kept thinking of the Pines of Rome. My favorite movement.

The hotel (Hotel Suisse) serves breakfast in the rooms, and you get rolls, your choice of coffee/tea and your choice of orange juice or yogurt, which is totally weird. But the room service is nice, and the first morning the breakfast was a real treat!

After breakfast the four of us ordered a cab and headed to the Appian Way, which is outside the walls of Rome. We started with espressos at a little restaurant, and then headed down the road a bit until we encountered a place called “Capo di Bove” which apparently means the head of a cow.

The thing that I find most surprising and astonishing and amazing about Rome is how OLD everything is. There are ruins over ruins. Under some old building is another old building. It seems like everywhere you look there are old interesting ruins and archeological digs, and places that are 2000 years old. And yet people still live there, and go to work, and cook, and read, and have friends and families, and go for jogs, and do ALL the things we do, just surrounded and on top of thousands of years of history. It’s just amazing.

Capo di Bove

This particular collection of ruins was an area of ancient baths. People had literally just built over them.

There were some other sculptures and artwork on the grounds.

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Next we headed for the Tomb of Cecilia Metella. We looked around but decided against paying the admission to go in. Tombs and catacombs are out here because no one was allowed to be buried in the city walls. Christians preferred the catacombs because they wanted to be buried, whereas other…wealthy…people built tombs for their loved ones. Cecilia Metella was the daughter-in-law of Crassus, Rome’s richest man in the time of Augustus (around 30 B.C.).

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We did go into the Circo and Villa di Massenzio. Admission was free but you needed to get a ticket to enter. It was strange. Anyway, the villa was the suburban home of the emperor Maxentius or Massenzio, who was eventually defeated by Constantine in A.D. 312.

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It’s sometimes hard to picture exactly what places were supposed to look like—this was evidently a large area where there was chariot racing and over 10,000 people could attend.

We wandered further down the Old Appian Way and found our way to the Catacombs of San Callisto. We managed to get there right as they were closing for lunch, so we decided to get our own lunch and then head back, as how cool would it be to go down into a catacomb? (Figuratively and literally, as the sun was really beating down on us.)

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Ran into this fellow, who is evidently the patron saint of altar boys. Well at least a statue of him. We found a little cafe to eat lunch in and have espresso. We also purchased our bus tickets to get back home, since that seemed easy enough…

Catacombs of San Callisto

After lunch we headed back to San Callisto to tour the catacombs. We had to wait around a little bit but it wasn’t too bad. There were no pictures allowed on the tour so I don’t have any but it was very interesting! It was lovely and cool in the catacombs, and the tour guide was very informative. The only drawback was that since we seemed to be the first tour after lunch (tours were offered in various languages and we were in the first English one) it was a giant group and sometimes was hard to all fit in the same room as the guide. Evidently 9 popes from the 3rd century were buried in these catacombs, along with a variety of martyrs, including St Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

Anyway, after we finished up at the catacombs, we caught a bus to get to the metro to take it to the Spanish Steps. This did not go as smoothly as we might have hoped. First, the bus didn’t seem to go to the same place that the guidebook told us it would, so we needed to get off at an earlier stop. Then, the bus driver stopped even earlier and insisted that we and some other people get off the bus, that it was indeed the stop we wanted, even though we were really quite sure she was wrong…she refused to move the bus until we exited, so we did. We managed to find the metro station then, and THAT was our next adventure. We transferred at the Termini metro station, and our train was kind of like that train you might have seen on Youtube that’s in Japan (I think)…there are policemen using sticks to push the doors shut and cram the people in. For whatever reason it was super crowded, but we all managed to push and shove our way onto the train. So that worked well until we go to the metro station and then we went to the wrong exit—that was evidently my fault and was another series of unfortunate events and miscommunications. BUT we finally made it home and were able to rest up a bit before dinner!

We went to dinner at a restaurant Louie’s brother Julian found that had a lot of vegan friendly options called “Origano.” Julian is vegan and that was a bit of a challenge for him in Italy, but he was a trooper and ate lots of bread and grilled vegetables. The meal was quite good, though a little more casual than the night before. We ate caprese salad, pizza, and a delicious fish appetizer with raw fish and very thinly sliced lemons. After dinner Louie and I went out on our own to wander around a bit at night and found a place to have a glass of wine, before heading to bed.

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(The Spanish Steps at night are amazing!).

I sat down to write this thinking I’d do more than one day, but I think one day at a time is enough, isn’t it? So many other things happening in my life now, which I’ll fill you in on soon (nutshell: I’m going to be in a play, playing violin, but as a character, and we are planning a road trip to various National Parks in August, and I’m back to playing violin soon, with a wedding tomorrow actually…) but I want to write about my trip before I forget! It’s amazing how the pictures jog one’s memory though 🙂

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