Our 1 hr flight here this morning served us croissants and swiss chocolate. I’d forgotten how much bread is a staple here! Like anywhere you stop is an array of 20 or so different kinds of breads, rolls, or croissant pastries. We flew over the Alps and such amazing mountains I’ve never seen. We arrived in cloudy Rome this morning at 9 and got a 24 hour pass for Rome transit. Then we caught a shuttle to our hostel. The Italian man driving was a menace to Italy’s roads. We saw speeds of 92 mph and on the bad roads here it was interesting. We are staying at a Meininger Hostel which we stayed at last year in Europe and they’re very nice. If we have someone in our room tonite it will be only one more person since there’s only four beds so that will be cool. We dropped our bags off in our room before catching a bus to see the Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous and oldest fountains in the world.
The water here in the city still comes from the old Roman aqueducts so there are lots of fountains and spigots out of random walls you can fill your hydroflask up at. We grabbed some pizza! then headed to the catacombs.
There are lots of catacombs in Rome but only a few open to the public. They are located along Appian Way. The street Appian Way is one of the most famous ancient roads. It was built in 312 B.C. We took a rickety bus to the catacombs site, rattling over this ancient trade road until we thought our teeth would fall out. We took a 45 minute guided tour of the dark long tunnels and empty tombs. Our tour guide was really funny and we learned a lot, of course. The whole visit was very much centered around Christianity. The particular catacombs we visited were where martyrs and Christians were buried. It was very cool underground and the open spaces where people had been buried were rather eerie. Our guide told us the Christians didn’t live in these particular catacombs because they were built in volcanic soil so the sulfur would make them sick. It still affects the guides now after giving 6 tours a day down there. Our guide told us at the end, “the martyrs gave their lives for us to have the faith that we do.” Another thing we take for granted.
Rome itself is not a clean city. There are lots of people and it’s rather messy. The streets are cobblestone so the buses rattle terribly from years of rough road. The trees and grass are green and there are lots of cypress trees and also ones that look like they should be in the African Serengeti. Most of the buildings are brown earth toned colors. Everywhere you look or drive is something else old or crumbling. There are no lanes for traffic either. You may have 5 lanes and suddenly be down to two with people honking and lots of motos. I think the views and buildings are what I would have pictured it being like in Bible times. The buildings you see on the skyline the most are basilicas and pillars. Every hour there are bells all over the city that you can hear chiming and ringing. Its beautiful.
After we left the catacombs we took a bus to Vatican City which is the smallest country in the world.
Transit takes awhile but the views while driving are tops. The Vatican is amazing. They have chairs set up permanently? in part of the St. Peter’s Square in front of it for Mass. If you plan it right during the week, you can see the Pope when he comes out to give his blessing to the crowd. We walked to look at an old castle next, right outside the Vatican. It actually has a secret tunnel the Pope could use that connects the Vatican to it. We took another bus to the top of a hill where there were panoramic views of the city and we watched the sun set over the old buildings and little (H)ouses where grass grows on the roofs and laundry hangs on little lines on the balconies.
We got pasta SO GOOD at a place called Popi Popi and then caught the train back to the hostel. We are so tired. I think we all fell asleep once today riding the trains so tonight we’ll sleep well I think!