It was nice not to wake up at the crack of dawn and have to be somewhere. So we woke up at the crack of dawn, anyway. Creatures of habit, we staggered down to the breakfast room. I am a wee bit tired of the hotel breakfast. It is all meats, cheeses, breads, scrambled eggs and canned fruit. Although today there was fresh fruit mixed with the canned fruit. Every day I have the eggs and a slice of bread, plus fruit from our room. I’m ready for something different. Eating the complimentary breakfast saves money, and I’m also fond of spending more money. Hotel coffee is amazing however, and I’m not a bit tired of downing the morning brew.
I was hesitant to tell George my desires of the day; I have drug this poor man all over Rome. He wanted to ride bikes on the Appian Way, and today was penciled in for a nice bike ride. But thunder and lightning was forecast. I’m not wild about riding a metal bike in a thunderstorm. Fortunately, George felt the same way, and we decided to go back to the fashion shopping district to pick up some gifts. There were two historic sites that we hadn’t hit yet in the same general direction, and I tried to make George think it was his idea to go there. Subtlety, however, isn’t my strong suit, so I finally gave up and said “Could we go to the Domus Romana and also see the bones of the Capuchin monks?”
George is a very amiable soul, and has agreed to every place I have wanted to visit. He may walk at a snail’s pace. Actually, it is possible that a snail might pass him, but he seems to get there. We looked at the map, and decided to hit the Domus Romano first.
The closest metro to the site was only one stop from our hotel. George shocked the heck out of me and suggested we walk. Whoa! He really is starting to get stronger from the exertion. I’d like to run a scientific test and stay in Rome another week and see if he could walk further after an additional week. I don’t want to go home, and I’m looking for an excuse, and this reasoning could vastly improve my husband’s health…
Off we went. The great thing about walking slowly is taking peeks in homes as you creep by. I know, it isn’t very nice; but short of knocking on doors and asking for a tour…. Most residents seem to live on the floors above stores, which means my all I can mostly see are ceilings – but there are some very interesting ones in these old buildings. Most of the buildings in this area date back to Renaissance or Baroque times. Just today, I saw ceilings with beautiful wood carved panels, colorful tiles of yellow and blue, and patchy stucco that looked like it was about to fall on the owners. On some of the tinier streets, there were a few front doors open to less expensive places and they had tile floors, stucco walls and old bare wood furniture. And beautiful children chasing each other around the floors, and hollering out the front doors at each other. I would love to rent a place and settle in.
Oh! I found this really cool app called Old Maps. It has historical maps from all over the world. I decided to see if we could walk downtown by using one of these old maps. I found a map of Rome from 1667, and navigated us with it! How cool is that?
We stopped often for George to rest, and this proved to be a difficult food day for me as a result. The first place we stopped, I was determined to only have coffee. This incredibly nice man ushered us in off the street and sat us at a little table in front of a deli case. It held one parma ham, one prosciutto ham, one salami, and two rounds of cheese. “Coffee?” I enquire. “No!” He exclaims and smiles broadly. “Water!”
Okay, I order a water. He didn’t speak more than a few words of English, but he was obviously the nicest man. We just couldn’t leave. We had just left breakfast and walked about eight blocks. I’m ready to just let George rest and drink water, but the man says, “Sandwich!” I look at George and ask him if he wants to eat, thinking no way.
The man is going to be heartbroken, so George tells me to order him a turkey sandwich. I look doubtfully at the food case. This place isn’t looking too successful, if the amount of food in the deli case is an indication. There wasn’t anything resembling turkey. The man proudly says “Ham!” We order a ham sandwich with strong cheese, which I can tell makes him very happy. He fixes a lovely sandwich on the best bread I have ever tasted and artistically arranges it on a bread board for us. To keep it vegetarian, I took the ham off my half for George, and ate the bread and cheese.
George wants mustard, of which George’s Italian “mustardo” doesn’t ring a bell with our host. We gave up on that one, and here I am eating when I don’t want to, so I won’t hurt this lovely man’s feelings. He starts humming and putting something in a casserole dish. I look over and he tells me it is aubergine (eggplant). I smile and say I love eggplant – so he fixes me an eggplant sandwich and insists I take it. Oh no. One breakfast, two sandwiches and it hasn’t been an hour yet. But the eggplant was delicious – grilled and basted with olive oil on bread to die for.
As we are sitting there, I look at the Old Map app and realize in 1667, this building existed and there was a grove of trees across the street. I tried to show our host, but didn’t get far and just confused us both. So off we went down to find the Domus Romana.
This is an old Roman villa that was discovered under the basement of a Renaissance palace, built directly in front of Trajan’s Column at the end of the ancient Roman Forum. It is a newer discovery and we had heard from fellow tourists and two guides that it was a definite must see. They have excavated it underground and added a 3D show that shows you the excavation, and then superimposes a computer view directly on the excavation and you can see what it looked like in ancient times.
However, it is proving difficult to find the place.
Like a lab dog that sees a squirrel, I am finding myself easily sidetracked in Rome. As we are going down the street, I realize that Trajan’s Forum and Caesar’s Forum are right here. These are the ruins of ancient markets added on by the above-named emperors for the people of Rome. There were multistoried, GIANT sized markets filled with rooms for meetings, businesses, everything it took to keep an empire running in a city of a million people. And they are still intact enough that you can walk through the rooms and walkways. And they are over 2000 years old. Whoa!
During the Dark Ages, people lived in the rooms and they were also used as stalls for farm animals. There are natural springs nearby and the water source was a natural draw.
Well, that was a two hour diversion. George was tired, so we stopped at a gelato store to sit down. The girl was so nice. The size George chose would hold four scoops, and she insisted that we try four different flavors. My plan was to get the little kiddie size, but when I saw his four scoops, I decided to just share. Yeah, right. I fought him for my half of the giant cup. There was pistachio, hazelnut, ricotta white chocolate and mandarin with ginger and basil (Oh my, this was the best). At this rate, I’m going to need new pants by the time we hit the bottom of the hill.
On to Domus Romana. I had been following the 1667 map, but realized it wasn’t going to show a buried Roman villa, so I decided to Mapquest it, rather than use the road map. This is a confusing area with streets going every direction. Mapquest gave nice directions, and we started walking – and there was the Capitoline Museum – the oldest museum in the world. With a statue of Marcus Aurellias that I wanted to see. It is a huge marble palace in itself and there was no way George was going to walk up it, so he went to another Gelato stand to wait for me.
176 steep steps to the entrance – this was a workout. And then I found out you have to pay admission before you can see the statue of old Marcus; I had thought it was outside. I didn’t want to make George wait all day for me, so I gave up this one, and marched back down the stairs. Another reason to come back to Rome!
Back in search of Domus Romana. Next, we saw a toy store. Thinking we might find some good grandkid stuff, we diverted there, and got a couple of things. Then it was back on Mapquest, which said it was .8 miles away. Hmmm, this didn’t see right, but we will follow the directions. Off we go, George really tired, but working hard to make this a lovely day for me. I look at the phone and it is giving me different directions now. Did I miss a turn? So we follow it for another few blocks, and the directions change again! The darned app was messing with us and we were walking way out of our way. I hated to tell George, but finally had to fess up. When I looked at a paper map, it looked like it had been across the street from the toy store. Ooops!
After another gelato break to rest his feet (I abstained this time), we went back. No museum. We walked three blocks past the toy store – no museum. On the way back, I saw a small sign on a government building that said Domus Romano. At last! I rushed to the building but the doors seemed closed – but one was cracked open. I pulled on it and it opened. Some other tourists follwed me who had also been searching for it.
There was a large hall inside, with a courtyard in the middle of the big building. I stepped in, because I thought I saw a ticket office. Suddenly a policeman jumped into the hallway and yelled at me. I jumped and asked if they were open. He sternly said NO, the door is closed! An Italian lady behind me asked him where the Domus Romano was located, and he hollered something about around the corner. We followed these people and it turned out that this side of the building was a police station and on the other side was the museum. He could have let us walk through the courtyard, but oh well.
They only allow small groups guided tours in several different languages. The English tours were filled for the day, but they had an Italian tour open in 40 minutes. We decided to take the Italian tour, otherwise we would miss it altogether. It was amazing, even if we barely understood a word of it. This was a palatial Roman Villa, right in front of Trajan’s Column (which we had walked past an hour before and could have gone in the door right there). It had marble baths, central heating, reception rooms, a library, even the paved street outside of the front door is there. And it was all under the basement of a some dude’s palace from the Renaissance. Covered up when Rome was basically abandoned, it had filled in – as had the Roman Forum. What an amazing treasure. It was absolutely worth all the walking to find it. Even George thought it was worth all the effort. Can you imagine how much we would have loved it if we could have understood what they were telling us? They even have glassware from the palace with a beautiful pattern on it. These folks knew how to live!
Sadly, we were not allowed to photograph the museum, so I don’t have any pictures to show you. But I would absolutely agree that it should not be missed!
By the time we finished, it was dinner time. I really needed solid food, no more gelato! We tried to go to the wonderful restaurant we had visited near the Forum, but it wasn’t open yet. We ended up at an open air cafe and sat by two ladies from Virginia. We had such a great time that we ended up sharing our meals so we could all try different things. Another man came up and said he heard us talking that we were from Portland. They live on Sauvie’s Island and his wife had won a trip to Rome! It was a lovely time and I ate way too much. I had an appetizer of octopus, salmon and calamari, followed by a porcini pasta. I ordered coffee and George ordered a dessert – asking for something chocolate. They brought two desserts and I ate one. I know we walked a lot today, but I think I definitely out-ate the calories earned from walking.
As we started home, so did the rain and now there is a huge thunder and lightning storm going on. The rain is pouring, but we are back in our room, snug as a bug. I’m not sure where this leaves us for weather tomorrow, and a bike ride.
We were going shopping and set to see two historical sites today. We didn’t shop and only made it to one place on the list. Honestly, everywhere you turn there is some new (well, actually ancient) discovery to be had. And we only have one more day……
I’m not sure we will make it to the Carpuchin monks. This is a bit on the ghoulish side, and George isn’t excited about it. It is an interesting group of friars. They came to Rome in 1671, bearing the corpses of 300 of their fellow monks and a bunch of soil from Jerusalem. Since this historic arrival, no friar have ever left the monastery – when they die, their bones are kept there. But wait – there’s more. They don’t just bury them, say a few prayers and that’s it. Nope, after 20 years, they take the skeletons apart and use the bones to decorate the monastery. Chandeliers made of bones, wall coverings….yep, it doesn’t get much higher on the ghoul meter than this place!
The Marquis de Sade (from whom we get the word “sadist,” remarked in 1775 that the journey to the crypt was well worth the visit. I think that says it all!
But, alas, it may not come to pass. George is not impressed with this destination.
Tomorrow will probably be my last entry. It is hard to write about the trip home, because we arrive in the evening and my first job as a leader for Weight Watchers starts at 8:30 with the weigh-in. I didn’t want to waste a second of this trip, so I scheduled as much time in Rome, as possible. Boy, this week has flown by.