Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 13: Our final day in Rome

Well..it is hard to believe, but our stay in Italy was quickly coming to an end.  It was our fourth day in Rome, and we had made no definite plans for this day.  It was really nice to have this flexibility.  This gave us the freedom to revisit any missed sights or explore some new areas depending on how we felt on our last day in Rome.  We felt that we had seen most of what we wanted to see the past three days in the city, so we thought we would venture out past the city's walls and explore the ancient Appian Way (Via Antica Appia). 
The road was built in 312 B.C. and was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic.  The Appian Way made it all the way to the port city of Brindisi on Italy's southeast coast, 560 km from Rome (about 350 miles). It is named after a censor who recognized the need for a road to aid in his travels and this would eventually lead the way for advancements in transportation, communication, and military strategy throughout southern Italy. Near Rome the road was lined with tombs; the ruins of many can still be seen today. Since it was forbidden to bury the dead in the city proper, many were buried along the roads leading out of Rome. Important people built tombs for themselves or for their whole family. Sometimes these tombs were as large as a house. The Via Appia was lined with such monuments, and many of them are still visible today.

In order to get here, we walked to the Colosseo stop to hop on the Metro (covered by our Roma Pass) and traveled south for two stops, getting off at Piramide.  (Later, we learned we could have simply walked south toward the Circus Maximus and hopped on the 118 bus without even taking the Metro, but it was a good experience for us anyway.) 

Many of you have probably heard about the pickpockets in Italy and Rome's public transportation is probably the biggest pickpocket breeding ground. In regards to our personal affects, we were extremely cautious everywhere we went in Italy. Sam never carried a wallet or anything in his pockets. We did buy a money belt, but it was just too hot to wear it. I had my cross-body bag referred to in this earlier post on packing, that included many zippers and pockets,convenient for hiding things away. However, I never put anything of importance in the outer pockets.  In fact, we left our passports and anything that was not absolutely necessary in our hotel safe.  I had a small zipper-style coin purse where I brought a copy of our passports, some cash, and one credit card at a time.  I then placed this small coin purse in a zippered pocket within the zippered purse. We kept our iphones safe within this purse as well. I almost always had my hand over the opening of the purse no matter what we were doing.  This just became second-nature.  Another word of advice is to not set down your purse or bag anywhere- even when dining.  I often ate with it in my lap, which was not a big deal.   I really never let it leave my body if we were out and often had to double-check that everything was zipped up after each use.  

The Metro, in particular, was a bit shady in terms of pickpockets.  I wasn't really scared on the Metro or anything like that, but you could tell that there were people that were planted there to try and take your money- and I am sure this was not the only place.  However, since we were educated about this and felt prepared, it wasn't that big of a deal.  When we entered the Metro, we stood in the middle and held onto those vertical metal bars.  Standing directly in the doorway, strategically placed so that we would have to push by them- were two women holding a baby. They had several blankets over the arms, large bags, and baggy clothing. This was my first clue.  I had read that pickpockets will often carry babies in order to appear innocent and then use the baby and extra layers to hide wallets that they lift.  There were not that many people on the train, but one of these women kept falling into me, intentionally brushed up against me- and then when she got really desperate- she actually sneezed on me without covering!  She was expecting me to take my hand off of my purse in all of these situations, and probably to her disappointment, I never did. 

Before we left for our vacation, we watched this video, which was very fascinating.  It delves into the  gypsies and pickpockets in Italy, and it is very helpful!  If you are going to Italy, watch it!  

Anyway, after our adventure on the Metro, we got off at the Piramide (Ostiense) stop and waited for the 118 bus that would carry us down the Appian Way. While at Piramide, we caught a glimpse of this monument, the Pyramid of Cestius. The pyramid was built about 18 BC12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius. 
€ 8,00 each and were taken underground for about a 30 minute guided tour, seeing only a portion of the miles of underground graves. This cemetery is named after the martyr St. Sebastian, who is buried here. But there are thousands of others who were buried here, and there are even underground chapels and mausoleums that look like something straight out of Indiana Jones. For a time, both St. Peter and St. Paul were buried here before they were relocated. After the underground tour, we toured the chapel above. It was very fascinating! For more information about San Sebastiano Catacombs here
The Tomb of Saint Sebastian
The Chapel of Saint Sebastian
From here we walked further down the Appian Way, eventually trading in cobblestones for the large pavers that make up the original road!  Along the way, we encountered several tombs- some small and some larger than mansions! 

Another tomb...
Eventually we stopped for lunch at the Cafe Appia Antica, recommended by Rick Steve's  We sat outside and ate some fresh sandwiches and split some eggplant parmesan.  See the full review here.
Pork Sandwich
Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich
Eggplant Parmesan
Cafe Appia Antica
After we finished our lunch, we rented bikes at this same establishment at a rate of €4 per bike per hour. The ladies working here were very accommodating, as we didn't bring any documents- license or passport- in exchange for the bikes.  However, they were nice enough to take our copies and let us go on our way.  The bikes were somewhat rickety and worn, but were satisfactory for some tooling around for an hour.  With those huge pavers, some better shocks would have been appreciated!

Actually, we quickly learned that cobblestones were ok to ride on, but the pavers most definitely were not!  As we continued down the road, other bikers had created a dirt path off to the side of the road, which made the road much more smooth and enjoyable.  We passed many more tombs along the way.  
The ancient road- showing the switch from cobblestone to the original pavers
After riding for about an hour, we decided we had enough of the bumpiness and decided to return our bikes to the cafe. We walked back down to the bus stop in front of San Sebastiano and hopped back on the 118 bus to take us back into the city.  It is here where we eventually recognized one of the stops that was very close to the Colosseum and our apartment, so we decided to hop off and walk the rest of the way, rather than backtrack and get back on the Metro.  

We made one more quick stop at the market around the corner to stock up on cheap water, juice, and snacks for the airport the following day.  

After resting for awhile, we cleaned up and headed out to dinner close by- only about 100 meters away!  I found Naumachia on Trip Advisor, and we were lucky that it was so close!  We had walked past it several times, but did not realize it was so highly recommended. We were immediately greeted by an energetic server who took us to a table in the back. He tried very hard to speak English and make us feel comfortable. This place was fantastic!  Very good food and wonderful service unlike I had anywhere in Italy!  Our server was not only helpful and attentive, but funny as well.  Here we shared a large bottle of their house white wine , and when we asked for another small bottle, he gave it to us for free! We started with an appetizer of friend ricotta cheese laced with honey.  This was so good! Sam also ordered one more delicious fried zucchini flower filled with mozzarella and anchovy. We both ordered a pasta, and they came homemade! I had fettucine with a tomato sauce. Sam had a pasta with pecorino cheese, parmesan, salt, and pepper, and it was to die for!  We had not really tried any desserts in Italy (except for gelato of course) so we decided to split a piece of tiramisu.  HEAVENLY! It was delicate and light, but perfectly sweet. See the full review here
Fried ricotta with honey! 

Sam's delicious pasta!
Fettucine Pomodoro
After dinner, we walked the short distance to our apartment and went to sleep, ready to wake up early and head to the airport.

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