Sunday, November 26
Today was completely free for us to do whatever we wanted. We decided to go to the Catacombs along the Appian Way. To get there we followed the directions given in the RSB and arrived with no problems. We purchased an all day metro/bus pass to get around. We took the metro from our hotel to the Ponte Lungo stop. The bus stop was just outside the station. I asked the driver if this was the way to the Appian Way and he assured me that it was.
Twenty minutes later we found ourselves standing on the road by which Paul entered Rome. It was slightly raining as we started down the road to the catacombs. On the way we passed the large tomb of Caecilia Metella.
It only cost about two dollars to enter so we decided to look around. To me the most interesting part of the building is in the basement. Here you can see an ancient outflow of Lava. There are also very clean restrooms in the basement, just be careful, as the doors are hard to open and you can get stuck inside.
Continuing down the road we first came to the Catacombs of St. Sebastian which were closed for the day. Another half mile down the road we found the Catacombs of St. Callistus. I noticed a bus stop so I guess it is possible to take a bus directly to the Catacombs. There was a reasonable crowd but not too bad. After purchasing our tickets we waited about 15 minutes until the English Speaking Tour was called.
Our guide was an elderly man from Spain who gave an excellent presentation. The funniest thing he told us was, "The catacombs are 60 degrees, both summer and winter. And they are 120 feet deep, both summer and winter."
I was completely surprised by the catacombs. I didn't know what to expect but what I found wasn't what I was expecting. I guess I have watched too many Indiana Jones films. I expected the catacombs to be narrow, small passages that you had to stoop and walk sideways to get through. What I found was a virtual underground city. Many of the passageways were 5 feet (or more across). In many places the ceiling was 30 feet or more above our heads. There were over twelve miles of passages on three different levels. We were allowed to only see two levels. I won't go into the history of the catacombs here. I will greatly encourage anyone visiting Rome to take the time to visit one of the Catacombs surrounding the city.
As we emerged from beneath the earth we found that a storm had passed over. We could also hear a worship service nearby and the singing of familiar praise songs in Italian. We walked back down the Appian Way and proceeded in the opposite direction from the bus stop for some distance. Finally, having seen all we wished, we returned to the bus stop to await the next bus. None of us knew how often the bus stopped.
Next to the stop was a small snack shop where we purchased colas and pastries. Soon the bus returned and we head back to the metro. On the metro a young boy was playing a flute and asking for money. Jody gave him 10000 Lira. We made a quick stop at the hotel before heading to Via Veneto to eat lunch at the Hard Rock Café. As we exited the metro we were caught in a heavy downpour. We were saved by one of the omnipresent umbrella salesman.
The prices at Hard Rock were actually very reasonable - no more expensive than a T.G.I. or Chili's back home. Hard Rock is o.k. but I don't see the big thrill of it myself. We did drop a good bit of money in the gift shop buying presents for people back home.
After lunch we stopped at the bone church (San Maria Conzione - see description above). It was then back on the metro and to Spagna Stop so we could spend the rest of the day shopping. We spent the next several hours wandering the streets throwing money at things we didn't really need. I managed to purchase $40 worth of chocolates to take back to family and friends (they will be lucky if they can pry any chocolate from my hands). The streets were packed with people - tourist and locals alike. It was fun just to people watch. We did stop in McDonald's to take advantage of the facilities - and to gape at the full-service bar.
We shopped till we could shop no more, then headed back to the hotel. Another round of cards finished off the day before we headed to bed.