It was an easy drive down the SS1 from Tarquinia to Roma. The campsite for the next three weeks is on the outskirts of the city around 8 km from the city centre. This is not really surprising for a city the size of Rome – the bigger the town, the harder it is to get near the middle in the mothership!
Anyway, the campsite is lovely, but is very expensive. The swimming pool and Jacuzzi etc are shut up for the winter, but there is still a restaurant open on site and there are a couple of restaurants and a supermarket close by, so we had everything we needed.
We spent a day doing a month of washing and giving the mothership a spring clean in time for our visitor due in a couple of days. We explored the locale and suss out the supermarket, buses and train station.
A trip into the city the next day just sussing out the public transport and walking the town was wonderful, but T managed to get his wallet lifted on the metro despite taking all the normal precautions. He managed to lose his ID, a few euros and a couple of credit cards. So it was a couple of frantic hours cancelling cards and ordering replacements that evening. No biggie really, but lack of ID might be a pain.
And the next day, over to Fiumicino airport to welcome Charlie. T has not seen him for five months and it was great to spend a week in Rome with him.
So over the week with Charlie we had a day or so catching up and doing family stuff. But also we did the tourist things in town – The Colleseum, the Vatican Museum, the fort etc.
After we escorted Charlie back to the airport, we got on with the serious task of looking at the odder things!
Our day of the dead was a visit to the catacombs on the Appian way – the famous Roman road from the eternal city to the south of Italy. It’s a cobbled road for much of it’s route out of Rome and is pretty narrow. But that doesn’t stop the bus drivers from haring down it!
The catacombs date back to around 300 CE. This is the time when Christianity sweeps across the land and because they believe in resurrection, they don’t want the body destroyed by fire – the pagan funerary tradition. Also at that time, burials are not permitted within the city walls of Rome, so cemeteries spring up outside the town. With full christian burials rather than only small urns of ashes, the cemeteries soon fill up. As much of Rome is built on soft volcanic tufa, it’s easy to dig down. So the Christian cemeteries moved underground. The catacombs extend for many kilometers and are many levels deep. Each burial is in a horizontal niche carved out of the rock wall. The body is wrapped in linen and placed in the niche, scattered with quicklime and then the niche is sealed with marble or terracotta. Each level of the catacombs has four or five stacked niches. There are more than quarter of a million graves, just in the three catacombs that we visited today.
Of course the rich had larger niches and even family vaults. Today, nearly all the niches are open having been robbed of their marble over the last 1700 years. And over the last 30 years, the human remains have been moved as they too were being stolen by tourists. So the remains have been moved to the lower levels of the catacombs where no visitors are permitted. The tours are all with a guide – it would be too easy to get lost without one and there are radon fears. The tours are all quite short – perhaps a few hundred meters of catacombs, so the walk and talk lasts about three quarters of an hour. You can see from the photo – this is a map of one of the smaller catacombs – how extensive they are.
Sadly we have no photos from the catacombs themselves – for whatever reason, photography is forbidden in all the cemeteries we visited today.
And so ends nearly a month in Rome. The Eternal City certainly lived up to it’s name for us! From here it’s North rather than further South.