my favorite day
My family got a bit tired of me talking about my favorite day, so am hoping that writing about it will put it to rest. But the sights, and even more so, the smell, will always be with me, happily.
A few days after we’d arrived in Rome, my niece, who had never been to Rome before, came over for a visit from London, where she was taking a summer course. After a day of pounding the marble in the heat of the Old City, we all loved the idea of getting out of town a bit.
Our neighbor Linda had recommended renting bikes and going to the Appia Antica, and so, with very little research or knowledge of what we might be in for, we boarded the train at Barberini and headed south to get a bus in a small residential neighborhood. As we had no clue what we were in for and the ride there was uncomfortably hot, our expectations were low
Fortunately, Philip was determined that we would visit the catacombs (as usual, we got a late start and thought we were up against a 5 pm deadline to return bikes), so we turned right on the Appia Antica, a pretty, well actually strikingly beautiful, cobblestone road with trees and many ruins.
Turns out the catacombs we visited were the first built, out of a quarry, before Christian times. We loved both the cool of the lower depths, but also those things that helped us to understand individual lives before ours – small temples for loved ones with carvings of their favorite things, the small scale of the graves, their use of limestone to keep things sanitary, the entry and exit for the viewing of St. Sebastian’s tomb. Laid to rest here after for a second time risking his life in defense of Christianity at a time that this sort of thing wasn’t wise behavior, St. Sebastian has since been venerated for his bravery.
Here is a photograph of the building that houses the catacombs, a church and an archeological museum.
Where the road was particularly bad, there were paths on the side that we could use. We couldn’t believe how few people were visiting this beautiful spot and spent our time stopping to talk, take photographs and marvel at the ancient things that remained on this very old salt road. I wish there were words to describe how peaceful and wonderful it was. Every sense was indulged.
As well as beautiful old things on this road, there are habitable houses. Actually, really beautiful houses. I don’t think Philip was relieved to hear that I no longer wanted to retire to Berkeley California, but to the Appia Antica in Rome. Here are some of the gates. Rather pretty, it all was. And smelled so good.
The thought of living so nicely made us hungry, so we followed a small handwritten sign that advertised food, down a pine tree canopied road, surrounded by fields of Queen Anne’s Lace, another favorite.
Of all the unlikely places to find at the end of this dirt road, a tennis club. And so there was sat, enjoying cold agua frizzante, pizza, and the local flavor, older (and to all appearances very successful) men smoking, talking and playing cards (you can vaguely see them in the background below).
Back in the city, even the subway was beautiful.