Monday, June 15, 2009

Italy - Day 6 - Tour of Appian Way & Catacombs, Coliseum, Palatine Hill, and Forum

The pictures I've been posting are the low-resolution versions of what I actually took so I don't kill the blog. The big guys are located here for Day 6:

Thursday began much the same way as Wednesday, with breakfast at the hotel and then meeting Armando in the front lobby. We saw the following with Armando:

A church that had the chains that bound St Peter (or St Paul?) when he was held in captivity.
This church also had some amazing sculptures.

The church of Saint Clemente. This church was built on top of the ruins of another church. The ruins were later excavated and both the upper and lower churches are available to view. Additionally, during the excavation, another layer underneath the lower church (400AD) was discovered, which included a house and a mint (200 and 100 AD, respectfully). This was in the church of Saint Clemente. The house and mint had a typical roman road in between, which was about 1.5 feet wide. The mint had a natural spring in it, and a arched room to store the coins.
Church of Saint John – was used as a residence of the Pope before the establishment of Vatican City, before the Papal residence was built in the Vatican. There is a door made of bronze with Jesus on it, that is only opened every 25 years. The foot of Jesus on this door is all rubbed off, as faithful touch it for good luck and prayers.
That church had some wicked awesome mosaic tile in it. I'm sure Mike was hoping I didn't get any bright ideas for bathroom renovations once I started clicking away taking photos of it!

Jerusalem Stairs – the stairs that Pontius Pilate made Jesus go up in Jerusalem on the way to be crucified. They were relocated to a church in Rome and many devout go up them on their knees, praying.
Another 3500 year old Egyptian obselisk from Alexandria.

We saw the tiny church where Peter stopped when fleeing out of Rome, Quo Vadis, where Peter saw an image of Jesus and asked where he was going (Quo Vadis, in latin, where are you going?) and Jesus told him he was going back to Rome to be crucified again. Peter took this to mean he should go back to Rome and did so, asking to be crucified upside down b.c he wasn’t worthy of being crucified like Jesus was.

We also saw the Catacombs, where we took a tour of the Catacombs and Church of Saint Sebastian. We were given the tour by a Catacomb employee (required). She explained that the tombs were built by Christians who believed in the resurrection and wanted to be buried together for that day. She told us that the Romans knew about the catacombs and allowed them; the first tombs were roman tombs where the ashes of people were interred. She also showed us a feast room where funerals and day of the dead festivals were held. She showed us the church of Saint Sebastian, who died as a martyr – death by arrows! Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pics in the catacombs. Bummer, but they probably would have turned out poorly anyways, as the lighting was pretty bad.

The only intact circus from Roman days, a huge field where sports and races were carried out. This was the Villa de Massenzio.

Church of St Paul – 2nd largest church in Rome. They had the chains that bound Paul when he was imprisoned, and had medallian/pictures of each 160+ popes around the top of the church. There was a bright light illuminating the picture of the current pope.

Armando bought the tickets to the Colosseum and the Palatine for us, so we didn’t have to wait in a long line, and pointed us toward a restaurant for lunch. The day was super hot, and we trekked up a hill to a tiny trattoria off the beaten path. The boys got roast chicken and Mom and I got gnocchi with zucca and salsiccia (sausage), trying to figure out what the mysterious zucca was the whole time. It was orange, so we teased Dad that it was probably sweet potato. Later on the Lingo we realized it was pumpkin! After lunch we toured the Colosseum, which was massive and awe-inspiring. The pictures don’t truly do it justice, but I couldn't stop taking pictures of it. Again, I wished I'd thought ahead to buy a fish-eye lens before the trip!!

Then we took a hot and sweaty trek through the Palatine hill (the residence of Emperor Vespasius completed around 80AD), which was massive and included an auditorium and sport field. Then the forum, with relics thousands of years old.

After touring these amazing sights, we jumped on the subway (right across from the Coliseum, snapping another few shots) and headed back to the hotel for the good ol’ afternoon nap and another shower to rinse off the day.
For dinner Mom and Dad had found a restaurant on Frommers (Restorante Il Matriciano, Via dei Gracchi, 53) that they wanted to try out that was near Vatican city. We took the metro down two stops and hiked along looking for it. We decided we hiked almost all the way back to our hotel – on the way back it took us about half as long to get home as it did to walk there from the metro! Once inside the restaurant, a little old man named Stefano decided he was in charge of our restaurant experience. He told me I wasn’t allowed to have the cheese plate I wanted for an appetizer, and that we would be better off with a mixed fried platter. There were fried artichokes, the petals of which were crispy and salty, risotto balls, and many other fried delicacies. We had such a good time with Stefano, picking our dessert, wine etc. He was super sassy and a very good time – and we had a better meal because of his sass. We ended up taking a picture of him and Dad b.c Dad laughed so much at him!