Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ancient Baths and a Modern Tragedy

Wednesday 26th June

Started the day as always with strong espresso on the terrace, watching the swallows swooping over the terracotta rooftops and listening to the church bells.

Then out for breakfast to our local café, Er Baretto for cappuccino & cornetti. Today we have a different pattern.
We are revisiting the Baths of Caracalla this morning as part of the labyrinth of underground tunnels have been opened up to visitors. The baths were the second largest in Ancient Rome, holding 1600 people at one time, and the remains give an idea of the grandeur of the buildings with glorious mosaic floors and marble decoration.

We also witnessed a novel way to control the seagull population that must be a menace to ancient monuments - a resident hawk with his handler!
The tunnels that run underneath the baths were built to accommodate the waggons filled with wood that were necessary to keep the fires fuelled that heated the baths above. Today they are used to display treasures from the baths in an imaginative way.

Once more out in the sunshine, we pick up the 118 bus to take us on to the Appia Antica. Somehow we seem to find ourselves travelling this ancient Roman road every time we visit the city.
We alighted at Porta San Sebastiano and took a quick look at the Aurelian walls before walking up Appia Antica itself.

The church of Domine Quo Vadis is built on the spot where St Peter is said to have met Jesus whilst fleeing from Rome. It contains a replica of the stone said to be marked with the footsteps of Christ.
Shortly after the church the road forks and we take the Via Ardeatine. After a less than safe walk uphill we reach the memorial to the victims of the Fosse Ardeatine massacre. During WWII the Nazis slaughtered 335 innocent people in the caves here as revenge for a partisan attack.
The memorial is  beautifully peaceful , which makes it all the harder to envisage the atrocity that took place here. As well as the statue itself you can see the caves and the tombs, each with a picture of the victim.

We head off in the direction of the bus stop where we meet the delightful  Patti & Jamie, mother & daughter from Nevada. They are looking to hire bikes so we walk with them to the Antica Bar where we are going to stop for lunch & cycles are for hire.
Refreshed, we take a quick look inside the tomb of Cecilia Metella (included with the Caracalla Baths ticket) and also at the ruined church of St Nicholas opposite, which houses an unusual modern Pieta.

The bus drops us off at the metro station just as a storm breaks overhead. Hope Patti & Jamie managed to finish the bike ride in time.
Back to the apartment where the new router has arrived for WiFi - no more excuses for not keeping up with the blog!
5.30 finds us in the Gesu church, awaiting the daily ritual of the unveiling of the statue of St Ignatius of Loyola. This takes place to the sound of soaring choral music & readings whilst a painting is lowered to reveal the statue.

The tomb itself is surmounted by what was thought to be the largest piece of Lapis Lazuli in the world but is actually concrete coated in the mineral.
 Next stop the Area Sacra to check out the cats.
Then back to the apartment to prepare for dinner on the terrace.

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