Friday, January 30, 2009

Rome - Day 4

Bernini, Catacombs, Ruins, San Giovanni & the Subway!

Today was thrill-packed! Looking back, I cannot believe how much we fit into today.

We started by walking up the hill from our apartment door – a new and exciting direction for our adventures! Up the hill is the Villa Borghese, which is a park and the home of the Galleria Borghese. The Galleria Borghese is a museum that is famous most of all for its collection of works (paintings and statues) of Bernini.

Seeing Bernini’s statues was at the top of Susie’s wish list for Rome, specifically the Apollo and Daphne statue. That was lucky for me! If it wasn’t for Susie, I would have missed out on some amazingly beautiful sights!

Of course, Bernini is the mastermind behind many of Rome’s famous fountains, too: the Trevi Fountain, the Barberini Fountain (on the left, this was only 3 blocks away from our apartment), the fountain at the bottom of the Spanish Steps (3 blocks away from our apartment in the other direction), and the fountain in the center of the Piazza Navona.

Wow, wow, wow! Like so many things we have seen in Rome, the Bernini statues literally took my breath away. They are so life-like . . . so glowing . . . so detailed. They are truly spectacular.

No photography is allowed in the museum, so please, please take a look at this site. You simply must see some of his sculptures if you haven’t already.

Next was lunch (we need a lot of fuel for all this walking!) and a taxi ride to the St. Sebastian church on the Via Appia, which is also the starting point for the St. Sebastian catacombs.

The Via Appia is amazingly old – like so many things here. It was the original road into Rome from the east. It has an amazing history, including the fact that there were many famous citizens buried along this road. It was illegal to bury the dead within the city, so this is where many were buried. That includes burials in the catacombs.

There are apparently over 60 catacombs around Rome, and the one we toured today formerly held over 500,000 bodies. Can you imagine that? There were four levels, and it was a labyrinth beneath the ground. Along the walls were hollows that used to hold from one to four bodies each. Also scattered periodically throughout the narrow passageways (and on certain levels) were areas the held entire families.

It was quite amazing (I use that word a lot since moving to France, don’t I?!) and overwhelming. It was so vast! And this is only one set of catacombs.

Sorry - no pictures allowed again.

When Max, Josey, and I reached the surface after the tour, my hands were almost numb from the power of their grips! And – Dado, Susie, Mark, and Sean were nowhere to be seen. They had lagged behind and lost our group. Turns out that the tufa stone in the catacombs absorb sound quite well, and they could not see or hear the group. The tour guide went back for them.

The St. Sebastian church also had some beautiful sights to see – including the sculpture of St. Sebastian that was designed by Bernini.

For more information on Via Appia and the catacombs:

Since we had taken two taxis to reach the catacombs, we had to find a way back to the apartment!! Luckily, there was a bus stop close by that could take us near the Colosseum. We wandered along the path to the bus stop, right along with a group of girls that looked much like Girl Scouts, only their hats looked like ladybug shells. I mention this because they were singing quite merrily in Italian – and Dado joined in!

We successfully took the bus to the Piazza di San Giovanni, where were found ourselves staring at the enormous and beautiful Basilica di San Giovanni. It turns out that this is the actual head of the Rome diocese for the Catholic church – not St. Peter’s basilica at the Vatican. The interior reflects the fact that the Pope sometimes says mass here. It was astonishing in its scale of magnitude and the ornate decorations . . . almost like a miniature St. Peter’s in many ways.

Upon leaving the Basilica di San Giovanni, I took it upon myself to guide us home. Normally, I have zero sense of direction. However, after letting Mike act as the navigator yesterday, I decided that his sense of direction is in the negative number range. And guess what?! I got us home – on the subway. How cool is that? The kids were thrilled. In a single day, we rode a taxi, a bus, and a subway (which they called the train). Yeah for Mommy!

However, our adventures weren’t quite over yet. Susie and I had been itching to shop the last 4 days! We kept walking past all these great stores – all advertising “Saldi”, which is Italian for sale (not an Italian designer, as Mark once assumed). So, on the way home from the subway stop (only 3 blocks from the apartment!), Susie and I hit up a couple of stores.

We didn't buy these shoes . . . in fact, we didn't even try them on . . . but I thought of Alex every time we walked past them. I bought her the purse to match the gorgeous shoes she bought in Avignon while she was here. :)

Susie got some cute “European” outfits of leggings and short sweater dresses and a new pair of cute gray boots. I got a great new pink sweater, and I found a perfect dress for Alex (it is a sweater dress – black with narrow purple, white, and grey stripes – the same purple as the purse and the cute shoes she bought in Avignon!!). Fun, fun.

We returned to the apartment – tired, hungry, and pleased with our shopping . . . but my day wasn’t over yet. It was a little after 5pm, and I had to head out again with Mike to shop for dinner. Not so fun. Most stores are closed on Sunday – a fact we knew, but we just had to try! We walked at least 32 blocks and ended up almost empty handed. Sigh. Sean had to go without milk, but he’ll survive.

Love to all!

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