Thursday, November 28, 2013

Darker side of Rome

Today we had two tours pre-booked. That's an unusual thing for me when I travel but these tours sounded very interesting so I thought it was worth it. It was. These tours focused a little on the darker side of Rome's history. By darker side I mean the Colosseum where gladiators fought, as well as crypts, and catacombs that can be found throughout Rome. Our day was unintentionally themed. 

This morning we started off with a tour of the Colosseum. This wasn't like any other tour. This one took us to the stage of the Colosseum, underneath it, and to the third floor. Normally you can go to the first and second floor. The guide was rather knowledgeable and gave us tons of information on how the games were held, and what life might have been like back in the day. It was pretty damn cool to stand on the stage of the Colosseum and to look up at where the seats would have been. I was almost able to picture it in my mind. The crowd cheering around you. It must have been something.

After the tour we walked a little in the ancient Roman Forum. I'm not sure what we were looking at but it was all quite lovely. It would have been really neat to see what the city would have been like back then. We also came across Caesar's grave. At least, it looks like his grave. There were flowers and people had thrown some money on it. 

This afternoon we had our Crypts and Catacombs of Rome tour. For some reason I thought the meeting point was at Trevi Fountain so we headed there only to realize once it got there that it was at the Barbarini fountain. Luckily they were only minutes away from each other. We grabbed some pizza at Trevi and made our way back to Barbarini. This tour was amazing. I'd been in the Colosseum before so I wasn't as amazed as I'd have been my first time but this one was great. First we all hopped on a bus and headed towards the ancient Via Appia to see the Domitillan catacombs. This is the largest of the ones nearby and held a few thousand people. In total, between all of the catacombs the tour guides said they held nearly 4 million people. The one we visited has three layers and it's as old as the 1st century A.D. I believe he said they had started to dig them in around the years 150-250 A.D. They were old. The deeper you go the newer the graves. 
These catacombs were forgotten over the years and rediscovered. When they were rediscovered they reused some of the marble that was inside that was being used as grave markers and over the years the graves were cleaned out. The ones we went to you can see some of the remains of what was once the skeletons. It was also a little sad because there were tons of really, really small holes. Meaning those were graves for children and infants. Children had a really high mortality rate back in the day. 

After the catacombs we went to the church of Saint Clemente. For those of you who follow my blog I was there last summer. It's a church built upon another church build upon an ancient Roman house/street. There's now also a stream that goes through the lower levels. The guide took us to the lowest level first and we slowly made our way up. He explained why it was the way it was and how the early Christians coped with life and their religion. That was pretty neat to have a guide to know exactly what things were. 

FInally the tour took us to the crypts of the Capuchin monks. These monks devoted themselves to poverty and helping others. They based their ways off of Saint Francis of Assisi. There was a sad yet impressive museum before the crypt that was built in the last few years. It allows the monks to showcase what they have over the years. Seeing as they devoted themselves to poverty it's not much. I was impressed by the displays and the cases they built for the few artifacts that were there. Plus there were a couple of really neat bibles. One was covered in vellum. It was pocket size and gorgeous. Although they are all in serious need of preservation or restoration.  Anyway, this monks when they moved to this new church that was donated to them had decided to decorate their crypts with the bones of the deceased. When you enter the crypt there's a message in latin "as you are now we once were and as we are now you will be one day". The monks are suppose to contemplate death on a nearly daily basis so that they don't worry about what things will be like for them once they pass away. It's only their earthly body that will leave. For a rather morbid thing, the crypts were rather lovely. They made patterns and designs out of various bones and the symbolic meaning behind some of the patterns is amazing. There were a few hour glasses with wings to symbolize that time flies. Eventually when Italy was united as one the monks were told by the state that they couldn't decorate their crypts anymore because that was just too disturbing. The new state that was Italy wanted to be known for things but not by what they monks were doing in Rome. To this day it's still illegal for the monks to decorate their crypt with human remains and if any of the bones fall they must bury them rather then put them back. There was a few places where I could see that some had fallen. There were also a few bodies that had been mummified. One you could even see remnants of beard. It was pretty neat in a mildly disturbing way. 

All in all, I recommend that tour to anyone going to Rome.

So after our tours we decided to grab some dinner since we were both pretty hungry. We went to a restaurant near the hostel that turned out to be pretty amazing. We both ordered one of the homemade pasta dishes and it was great. We ended our day by inventorying what we had bought had the supermarket. Some of the food might have to come on our carry on for the flight home. Such as bread and star cookies. We'll make sure the fruit gets eaten. We have plenty of grapes, some bananas, and random tiny red berries. 

Tomorrow we have Tivoli on the agenda. It's a small town near Rome. It's famous for it's Roman villas and gardens. 

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