The bus dropped us off right on the Via Appia Antica (the Appian Way), one of the world’s oldest roads. Right next to the bus stop was a lovely open-air rustic bar/cafe where we were able to get some lunch and consult our maps.
The Poolboy wanted to visit the Catacombs of Domitilla – which involved about a 5km walk along the Appian Way from where we were.
A lovely walk, which took us past tombs and ruins, and through fields and woods.
Finally we reached Domitilla.
The catacombs of Domitilla have about 15 km of subterranean tunnels. It is the largest and oldest of the catacombs of Rome, with a subterranean basilica housing the graves of the martyrs Nereus and Achilleus forming the site of a pilgrimage sanctuary right up until the Middle Ages.
Catacombs are warrens of narrow tunnels carved out of the soft tufa rock. Rectangular niches were carved alongside each of the tunnels, and corpses wrapped in white sheets were placed into these niches and sealed in with marble or terracotta slabs.
With claustrophobic tendencies, I thought I’d freak out completely down in the tunnels, but it was actually not bad at all.
There’s no bodily remains left there now – when Barbarians plundered the Catacombs looking for treasure, they broke the seals…and the air getting in caused the bodies to turn to dust.
Just as well.