Tuesday, 15th March.Today we had a very good day, the best in Rome so far. We decided to write 2 entries. One from My perspective and one from Karens.
Before I get into my description of today, I thought I’d tell you a little about where we are staying. We are in the only campsite that is open this way, at this time of year, in a place called Castel Fusano. It is quite a basic site with only 3 amps coming from the electric, so every time we boil the kettle with the telly on, it trips and we lose all power. However, it does have everything else. We are on the coast about 16 miles south west of Rome. The area of the site is actually surrounded by roads, which enclose it like a large motor cycle track, and at midnight, they become that. You can hear the Italians racing their scooters for all they are worth. Although this reads badly, we are not that disturbed by it, Ray and I find it quite funny. You can take the biker out of the kid, but you can’t take the kid out of the biker.
Most of the restaurants and bars are still shut out here, due to the early season, but there is a lovely little town nearby called Osita, which has supermarkets and shops, enough to keep us going. Being on the coast, the evenings have been very cold, and as I write this, the wind is picking up again.
It has been quite funny that during the day when we ride along the road, as was in Spain, there are a number of prostitutes who all sit at the side of the road, some with their own chairs, plying for business. During the day, they are on the inner road, but by night they work the coastal road, where there are lights. (As I read this back, I don’t think I’d be asked to write a tourist information book about this place, it’s not as bad as it seems …..Honest) !!!
We have a nice wee spot on the site and have the sun all day. We put the bird table up and Leon was outside like a shot, poor soul had been going stir crazy as he doesn’t like snow and ice, mud, wet, noise, etc, etc, etc, so was happy for about 10 minutes until the stray cats all came round for a nose.
As it turns out, they are all very sweet, I think they are ex-pets as they like human company which is unusual for feral cats, so they get fed as well, my new venture is Karen’s soup kitchen and just so you know how mad this place is, the blackbirds eat the cat biscuits out of the cat bowl, and completely ignore the birdseed on the bird table.
Now that you have a feel for the place, today, we ventured back into Rome. We have been there several times, and yesterday was a sightseeing tour. We finished with a visit to the Vatican City, to St Peter’s Basilica, and on getting home last night, we decided that we would go back there today. I particularly wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. I remember being fascinated in school by the fact a whole chapel had been painted by one man, (with artwork, not white wash. Michaelangelo) and it was always on my “to do list”. As it turned out, the Chapel was painted by numerous artists of the day. Michaelangelo painted the ceiling by himself, and what a job he did. See the pictures, unfortunately, they are good, but do not do the sight justice. I was completely mesmerised. We had looked at doing a tour of the whole Vatican City following “Angel and Demons, the book by Dan Brown, but it turns out that there was only one location in the city we would be allowed to go, the rest was outside the city, and the price was extortionate for what it was, and although I am not very religious, but it did seem a tad hypocritical. Having done this part of Rome, we both had been looking forward to seeing the Catacombs. We were a little bit specific on what we wanted to see in Rome, but I do understand that people come here and could spend day after day touring churches’, chapel’s, more religious sites, but we wanted a smidge of everything, so Ray programmed the “tomtom” and we headed to the outskirts of the city to find the Catacombs. We missed the one we planned, and found St Sebastian, which turned out to be a blessing. It was amazing. I confess to being a bit sceptical as we stood outside awaiting the tour, but I was completely caught up, a) the catacombs, themselves, b) the guide, and, c) what we actually learned about the tombs, (Ray does the science stuff), the religions that were prevalent back then and just the incredible feelings that made you want to run straight out of there and buy every roman history book ever printed. This trip has left me with a feeling of complete inadequacy knowledge wise, but, more at one with myself. (Sorry, haven’t quite got round to the rosary beads just yet).
I move on again, back to the real stuff. Ray. A STAR. When it came to our first trip through Rome on the m/c, in a four word sentence, “I crapped my load”. It is a free for all and not one driver/rider seems to be watching the road. They are all on the phone, on the horn, or reading the paper. Roads join and leave the main road, there are turns and off roads that you would never imagine, and scooters are possessed by the devil and his twin brother. Ray is lucky that I have a silent button in my helmet, because I have never screamed as much, watched so many lunatics survive accidents, and (in a religious city, prayed as much). I was, (blah, blah, blah,) an advanced driver for the Police, and they said it was a fine line between brilliant and dangerous driving, basically, if you get away with it, you are brilliant, if not…….(this is the Italian way and we are learning fast).
Traffic lights here, it is like the start of the Moto GP 125 race.
Rome is in a nutshell, hypnotic.
Would I come back? Don’t think so. Am I glad I’ve seen it? Absolutely. I would also recommend it.
We visited the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. It was awesome. Whilst we are not Catholics, we do have Christian beliefs and at the end of the day, as far as we are concerned, it is the same meat with different gravy so to speak.
The museums tended to go on and on with marble statues, mostly without willies attached (unlucky Karen) lining all the walls. I thought the British museum did a good job of plundering the worlds artefacts but the Vatican seriously takes the biscuit here. The place was enormous and ALL the walls were painted or carved with some sort of religious depiction. It was quite a sight to behold.
The highlight was a visit to the Sistine Chapel. When the Pope gets the painters in he does not mess about. The ceiling was adorned with paintings by Michelangelo and the walls with paintings by Raphael, Bernini, and Sandro Botticelli. Obviously the sign that said “No Photography” did not apply to me and I managed to shoot some piccys which we respectfully took out of view of the guards. I got Karen to lean forward serrupticiously and I took the photos, (however if this is ever read by any official Italian Polizie, we were never there, copyright protection and all that)
Following this we rode to the Saint Sebastiano catacombs. The word “Catacombe” means “near [a] quarry”. This for me was the highlight of our visit to Rome. We did not realise it when we rode there but we managed to select the one of 5 that are visitable (out of a total of 60 in Rome) that previously held the remains of Saint Peter and Saint Paul prior to their relocation to their respective Basilica’s.
Sadly, the Vatican has copyright over all photography and we were not allowed to do so. We were in a party of 4 with a guide so even I could not get away with it.
Catacombs are underground burial chambers where Christians are buried in slots dug out of the soft rock walls and then covered with a plaque and cemented in place to seal from disease. This particular one has 7 miles of tunnels. Romans are regarded as Pagans and as such are usually cremated. Their ashes are interned in Mausoleums.
The origin of this catacombs name is that Sebastian, born in Milan, was a soldier in the Roman Army around 250 AD. He was Christian by faith and hid this from his masters. He miraculously cured a woman of blindness and deafness. This act converted many of his friends and converted many of his friends to the Christian faith. He also released all his slaves and convinced all his friends to do likewise.
When the Emperor became aware of his faith he was cast out and ordered to be executed by shooting with arrows. He survived this ordeal was nursed back to health by a follower and then went back to the Emperor and denounced him. He was then stoned and whipped to death.
His body was cast into a secret location and despite this it was located by another Christian and taken to the catacomb for burial. His remains are still there albeit in a special casket on display in the chapel that has now been built over the site. In the year c. 257, the remains of the apostles, Peter and Paul were taken from the Vatican where it was feared the Emperor would desecrate them, and placed in the St Sebastian catacomb. There are many relics and references to their presence on display.
In 1920 a French archaeologist discovered that the Christians had buried a Roman mausoleum built directly adjacent to the catacomb which was directly underneath the chapel. This was excavated and has been preserved exactly as it was found and is displayed (albeit through grilles) as such.
The visit to the catacomb was a quieting experience. Most of the spaces for the bodies were only about 5’ long, reflecting the stature of the Christians at the time. As we walked through the tunnels, every 15 or 20 feet there were more tunnels leading off in both directions. It was as I imagined, a complete maze and we were glad of the obligatory guide. The tunnels were only about 6’ high in most places, lower in others and about 3’ wide. An interesting thing is that families of the deceased were able to come into the catacomb to morn in the same way we do today.
I recommend a visit to anyone going to Rome.
We were allowed to photograph in the ground level chapel:
First....picys of the Vaticam museums.
First....picys of the Vaticam museums.
|One of the many museums from the outside garden|
|Karen made me take this - said something about a resemblance|
|The scale of the place was immense|
|It went on and on and on|
|Teradactyls bird bath.|
|The detail was incredible|
|As was the scale|
|Part of the Vatican garden|
The Sistine Chapel
|The Sistine Chapel. Michaelangelos paintings.|
The famous hand of God giving life to Adam can be seen above centre.
|Karen (on guard watch) gazing at Michaelangelos masterpeices.|
The St Sebastiem Catacomb. Bearing in mind we could not photograph underground.
|Inside the St Sebastien Chapel|
|More St Sebastien Chapel|
|St sebastiens remains (in casket) and statue.|