Saturday, February 28, 2015

Yoo 658 - Appian Way

We sucked the marrow out of our last day in Rome. Completely on foot. I was tempted to "map my run" with our walking route so I had an impressive mileage to share but a) I can't remember our exact route anymore and b) that would take forever. Suffice it to say, we were limping by the time we returned to our hotel that evening.

View from the hotel room. Have I mentioned that the redeeming quality of our hotel was their breakfast? We soooo looked forward to that every morning, heads popping off pillows. The croissants! Nutella and raspberry and sugar-crusted and plain. They melted in the mouth. Then there were donuts and muffins. And fruit. And yogurt with granola. And fresh-squeezed orange juice. And omelets. And prosciutto and cheese. Lots of prosciutto and cheese.

Greg usually ordered hot chocolate because he could.

I usually ate 4 croissants because I could.

We FILLED up on breakfast so we could get away with snacks until dinner. Breakfast was awesome.

The whole day went like this: we walked until we saw something cool, then we explored that something cool, then we walked some more.

Our main goal was to see the Via Appia Antica or Appian Way. It's one of the oldest and most-important roads of ancient Rome and is still the longest stretch of straight road in Europe. Also, it's free and the weather was perfect.

Don't pick the flowers.

I think this is part of an ancient aqueduct but don't quote me on that.

A good portion of the Via Appia Antica is closed to traffic on Sundays. We started where the road begins, near the Baths of Caracalla (which are huuuuuge), and quite liked this first stretch of calm road (pictured above).

Further along, after passing thru Porta San Sebastiano (one of the biggest gates of the Aurelian Walls), traffic began again and it was decidedly less enjoyable. A tiny partial sidewalk to escape the cars and wannabe bicycle pelotons flying past.

Then we made a critical error at this intersection. I decided we needed to go left, according to the "Via Appia Antica" signage and Google maps on my phone, when I should have gone straight. Straight would have led to this:

This was beautiful without a car in sight. We super loved it on our way back in the afternoon. But instead we went left and got this:

This doesn't look THAT bad but there were a million plus two cars racing past and absolutely no sidewalk or shoulder. That should have been our first clue but we soldiered on, one of us pretending that we were enjoying the day and the other one of us being very vocal about how we were not.

BUT, it didn't last long.

The one of us that was being vocal about hating this road darted inside a public-access gate and found a set of stairs to sit on and re-evaluate plans. It was whilst sitting on these stairs that we realized we were right close to the San Callisto Catacombs and that they were in fact open on Sunday. Best of all, we didn't need to walk along the suicide street anymore to get there.

Unfortunately they don't allow any pictures on the tour but the catacombs were cool and super cool. Comprised of four or five different levels and sprawling over 37 acres underground, it's big. The guide said that walking all the tunnels would cover something like 20 kilometers. Now that would make for an interesting long run...

"Catacombe" by User GerardM on nl.wikipedia - Originally from nl.wikipedia; description page is (was) here10 jul 2004 22:19 GerardM 1600x1200 (585.737 bytes) (eigen foto). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

The pic above is from Wikipedia but it gives a good idea of what we walked thru. Narrow dirt halls lined from floor to ceiling with loculi. These holes were dug to the size of the body and whatever possessions the body was to be buried with and then sealed with cement to help prevent the spread of disease. They've all since been moved to churches or ransacked centuries ago.

Many popes were also originally buried here in the "Crypt of the Popes", along with dozens of early-Christian martyrs, including Saint Cecilia.

After the catacombs, we continued our walk along the Appian Way, passing the ruins of the Circus of Maxentius and watching a live theater performance from afar.

We stumbled upon the free site, Capo Di Bove, which is an ancient private complex with thermal bath remains. It was serene, with beams of sunlight sparkling the dew-covered grounds and casting shadows on the tiled-floor mosaics. Then there were the statues...

Awkward family photo idea?

Ideally we would have rented bikes to really cover ground along the ancient road. We kept toying with the idea but never pulled the trigger. Instead I pushed us to walk further and further to "see what was up ahead" while Greg reminded me that we'd have to retrace all of our steps. We were both enjoying the time though. The weather was beautiful and the day felt laid back but interesting.

Finally, when feet started to feel tired, we turned around (our walking day wasn't even half over...).

I loved our time along this road. Ruins from different centuries scattered about. Locals running and biking and walking. Conversations with Greg. I decided I might be able to live in Rome if I had this to run along on the weekends. Maybe spend some time figuring out and identifying more of the ruins.

There are many miles to cover and it'd be an easy way to escape the city for a bit.

Cute doorway, decked out for Christmas.

Snack! The bar thing was gross but Nutella makes most food palatable.

I thought the umbrella or stone pines looked so cool.

Greg being Greg. Stopping to read every sign.

The sun was lined up so perfectly with this gate...I had to.

Our walking route took us past the Circus Maximus. Even longer than it looks when your feet are throbbing. Palatine Hill is off to the left in this photo.

Crossing the Tiber into Trastevere for an audio-guided walking tour. Not pictured is the long pause to sit on the bridge and rest our feet. Pain!

Saint Cecilia in Trastevere church. It's believed to have been built on the site of her house and now contains her and her husband's relics. However it was closed so we didn't get inside.

We did get to see inside the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere AND watch a youth choir perform. Though I was mainly trying to figure out where we should eat because all I could hear was my stomach growling. Critical path.

Pizza won. Are we surprised? Greg put down this massive calzone. Not surprising. And I put down this entire salmon pizza. Salmon pizza! It was awesome and I'd do it again.

Back at Piazza Santa Maria we sat on the steps of the fountain and listened to a live band while watching a young man spray paint THE coolest pictures. Some were of the Colosseum and others where whimsical nature settings overshadowed by a full moon. Kind of Lisa Frank-ish but not quite as crazy. I was really really close to buying a couple, especially his solar system one, but I wasn't convinced that they would survive the trip home.

So neat to watch though.

Over the river and thru...there aren't any woods. But we left Trastevere for further romeings (see what I did there?).

Largo di Torre Argentina. A complex of ancient temples sunken 20 feet below modern street level. Claim to fame is that it contains part of the Theater of Pompey where Julius Caesar was murdered. Nowadays it's home to a cat colony. The cats moved in when excavations of the site were finished and now it's known for the cats. An organization takes care of the over 250 feline residents, most with special needs, and works to adopt them out.

I only saw a few cats so either they were being really stealthy or the other 247 were asleep in hiding.

Eventually a gelato hankering took us to a different part of the city and, after asking the guards, we discovered we were right in front of Quirinal Palace, or the Italian president's house. It was quite big. At least that's what my feet were saying as we walked the entire length of the place, still looking for a certain gelato store.

Come il Latte. We had such a good experience our first time here, we decided to top off our Roman experience with another few scoops. Mmmmmmm.

The flowing chocolate fountains...

And the still melty chocolate at the bottom of the cone! So good.

We were finally ready to call it quits on the day but first we needed to find an ATM to get cash to pay the stupid hotel city tax the following morning. It was something like four euros per person per night but the dumb part was you could only pay in cash. We were short a couple euros to pay this tax and I was a little bitter that we'd need to take out at least another 20 to cover it...basically losing a lot of money in exchange fees back and forth as we weren't planning on spending any more money in Italy after this tax.

I scoured the ground, hoping to find a lost euro or two to no avail. We both cleaned out our packs to make sure that we hadn't misplaced any euros during the week. I tried to buy a pack of gum with my debit card to get cash back but that didn't work. Finally I (bitterly...) withdrew another 20 wasted euros at an ATM.

The real kicker is that Greg found a five euro bill folded up in his passport the next morning while passing thru customs.


He's since (mostly) been forgiven.

The night was killed on our hotel rooftop. Watching the stars, listening to the city, talking about how we were going to miss it, and resting our feet. And freezing, a little.

Almost to the end.

Have a great day :-)

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