The Roman underground

By this time, we were actually feeling a bit over Rome. It was hot, it was really crowded and we’d packed a lot in already.  I know that sounds terrible – we’re in one of the most incredible cities of the world and we’re over it…but that is the reality of doing an action-packed tour of anywhere. You do reach a point where you have had enough.
The Poolboy had long-hankered over a trip out to see The Catacombs, but on paper it seemed like a big effort. However, sitting on the marble steps of the Capitoline Museums consulting maps and guidebooks, we decided to give it a go, and we’re glad we did as it provided a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle.
It involved taking the Metro Line A to the Colli Albani stop, finding a bus stop on the side of the road and waiting for the 660 bus to appear. Then a 20 minute or so bus trip to…actually, we weren’t quite sure, where to. Luckily, a man on the bus noticed our confusion and told us to stay on the bus until it terminated.

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.

Tomorrow…on the streets of Rome
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