Today started with a short walk to Castel Saint Angelo, where we made our way through the museum/castle to the top and then stopped in the cafe (4th floor, out of five) on the way down for breakfast. There were more great views of Rome from the top and I think it was worth the 10.50€ per adult (18+) for entry.
Leaving the castle we walked to Piazza Navona, where they reportedly have some great markets. However, all we really found there were mostly just more street vendors. The main difference was that there were more artists and more police. The three fountains were pleasant enough to look at.
From there it was on to the Pantheon. Here it was free to enter, so we went in, looked at all walls (in the round building), looked at the ceiling, took photos, then left again. This time we were heading for Trevi Fountain (which we knew is under repair/rennovation until at least January 2016). Therefore that only required a brief stop and we were off again.
Our last stop, before heading to Piazza Barberini for lunch and our afternoon tour, was the Spanish Steps. This is another area known for pickpockets, but DW and I decided to head up anyway – DD has developed an aversion to steps. At the top a street vendor handed DW some roses “for free” and then took our picture for us – I was dubious handing him my phone. He then asked for payment so, saying I only had coins, I pulled a few out and gave him 4€, to which he indicated he wanted more – in fact, he wanted all of the money in my hand. It was only about 8€ total (including what I had given him) and I didn’t want to risk any consequences. My advice to anyone visiting any of these (and other) tourist places where street vendors are prolific, just keep saying no to them and move on. In fact, if possible, don’t even engage in any sort of conversation – that’s where we got caught out this time, because he wasn’t trying to push selfie sticks, water, or anything like that.
At the bottom of the steps again we collected DD and headed to Piazza Barberini. Again, not much in the way of shops, but definitely lots of places to eat. We had lunch at a restaurant and then waited in the shade for our Crypts and Catacombs tour.
The first stop on the tour was just off the Square and we got to see temples and shrines, for lack of a better term, made out of human bones. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside any of the stops, so we got some postcards instead. The second stop was outside the city walls, where they used to bury the dead – and there’s a long history about that. The interesting thing here is that it’s 14km of graves underground, and the oldest ones are on top. As time went on, they would dig deeper (under the first graves) for the second set, and so on. These aren’t just graves as we know them, they are burial chambers where there might be a whole family in one room. This isn’t the only place these graves exist – I think they said there are over 60 of them all around the country, but these are the largest.
The last site was a church, which truly shows the lasagne layout of Rome. The top level was built in the 12th century. Beneath that, we went into an area from the fourth century, then below that to one from the second century, and finally to one from the first century (about 64AD). This is typical of Rome (and Italy, I think) where they just keep building on top of what’s there. For example, where the Colloseum once stood on a hill above all of Rome, the top is now only a floor or two above street level.
After the tour we took the subway from Barberini to Ottavia. Since there are only two lines it was easy to work out, but the train was packed. They are working on the third line, but it’s taking a long time because every time they open a new archaeological area, work has to stop again while it’s dug out.
At one of the stops before ours (there were only three others) there was a bit of a commotion as people got off the train. It appears that a lady had noticed a pickpocket trying to steal from her and then he pushed her to the ground and took off with her bag. I was happy to be getting off soon after that. They don’t check tickets on exit, as in the UK, you just walk through the turnstiles. At this point it seems like you pay to ride anywhere on the subway, but either as a 100 minute window, or on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Out of the subway, we made our way back to the area of our apartment (about 10-20 minutes) and stopped for dinner on the way. Just light meals this time, because we had had a big lunch. It was a short (2-3 minutes) walk back to the apartment, with plenty of time to rest and update the blog.