Friday, July 20, 2012

The Rome Countryside

Civitavecchia.  When I first saw this city name, I thought "how the heck do you pronounce that?"...after hearing it a few times, I learned to pronounce it, and have since decided it is a very pretty vi ta veck' e a.  Live and learn.  Day 5 of our cruise took us to this harbor for a visit to the Rome area.  Because it was hot, and all of us had been to Rome before, we decided to take a tour to the Rome countryside.  Our first stop, some Catacombs.  Being raised as a Catholic, I was taught the importance of the Catacombs to the early Christians, as their sacred burial grounds, and for hiding from persecution.  Again, history has changed, we were told that the early Christians did not use them as hiding doesn't matter, they were very interesting.  There was a pretty garden by the entrance, with blooming oleanders and some cacti.

    To enter the DomitillaCatacombs, you walked down steps, 

and entered this basilica.  The windows are at ground level, placed to let in light. 
 These pictures are postcards, we were unable to photograph inside the Catacombs.  There were 4 levels, we were able to enter 2 of them, and to look down at the other 2 levels.  It was cool, and dark.  We followed our guide, who would point out various features.
There were different sized galleries, "owned" by families.

Early Christian symbols, marking a grave.  The body slots ranged in size from 2 feet to about 6 feet.  Lots of small ones...children. 

There were areas that maintained their paint/fresco color.  
A 2nd century fresco.

St. Paul.

Back on the bus, our guide (can't remember his name), told us that our next stop would be The Appian Way...really, The Appian Way from Latin class, translating Julius Caesar?  I was delightfully surprised by this announcement.  As it turns out, our bus was having transmission problems, so we had to pull over to wait for a replacement bus...what a great place to pull over!
Looking to the south,

and to the north, toward Rome!

 Rome off in the distance.

Some of the original stones are still in place, and the chariot wheel ruts are visible!  The Romans had to be precise when building the chariots' wheelbase, so they would fit in the grooves.

Today, cars, bikes, people travel the ancient road.

In addition to the Umbrella Pine trees, tombs lined the road.

This large tomb was sold to a farmer, who build a house atop.  The dog growls if you touch the fence.  He knows his job!

This wall, with monument remnants, was interesting.

Sort of a scary face.

A lone poppy, reminding me of our California home!

Next up, a winery/country house, where a woman made pasta, and we ate bruschetta, salad, and pasta...and local wine of course!  They made fresh gluten free bread and pasta for me!  And it was really good!  The gardens were beautiful...the hydrangeas were in bloom.

After lunch we drove to Castelo Gondalfo, a picturesque town about 15 miles south of Rome, that overlooks Lake Albano, and happens to house the pope's summer residence.  We walked up a hill, with lovely homes,

and entered through a gate

to the main square.

The Papal Palace, a 12th century building, is the main attraction.  Supposedly, if the doors are closed, the Pope is in residence.  We were told he was there, then not.  When we left, workers were setting up a canopy in front of the palace, maybe for a blessing?
A 12th century Bernini church, at the other end of the square. 

The rest of the square contained little shops, and restaurants...and a gelateria!  Still trying to find the find the perfect I had nocciola, hazelnut, my new favorite.  Does it look like this person needs to be eating gelato?  I think not...
The beautiful lake...this is the Pope's view.  It is surrounded by villas, summer homes.

A garden. 

The Happy Travelers....Hmm...looking more like my mother... 

Walking back to the bus...sigh...

  A mosaic.

 An old olive oil making stone...don't ask me how it works. 

And down the mountain to Civitavechhia, and our air conditioned ship.  Oh, and the Europeans are convinced that global warming is with us.  Their winters have been too rainy, too dry, and their summers are getting hotter.  Barcelona was in the 70s, France and Italy, near 100 each day.

Tomorrow, the Amalfi Coast.

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