Monday, March 30, 2015

Classical Italy Day 8: Baths of Caracalla, St. Callistus Catacombs, Via Appia, and Janiculum hill

Today we took a short bus ride to the Baths of Caracalla.  The bath complex was massive, the second largest in Rome.  The bus dropped is off in a location I didn't know well.  The baths had ten foot tall fencing all around it an appeared closed.  We headed left to find the entrance.  It turns out it was a few hundred meters to our right around the side.  As a result of our mistake we were able to appreciate just how large the complex was.  Tara and Sylvie gave their site presentation and then we realized that the baths were open when we saw a tourist group inside.  Just within the entrance to the site were three great diagrams which had the the layout of rooms and representations of the original bath complex. 

Fun facts: 
The baths of Caracalla were the inspiration for Penn Station and a few other major subway stations in the United States.  

The Farnese Hercules and Farnese Bull statues were in the large exedrae of the symmetrical palaestrae (wrestling rooms).

The bath complex was completely symmetrical and covered entirely with mosaic floors.  

The complex included a Mithraeum, shops, and gardens.  Six thousand Romans could visit it at once.  

We then headed to the Catacombs of St. Callistus.  Our guide Father Mason gave us a lot of good information about the catacombs which were the first official Christian ones in Rome.  The catacombs contained the remains of sixteen popes.  Students either really enjoyed or very much disliked them.  Some thought it was cool to see so many loculi in which the bones were set.  Others were creeped out by their proximity to the location of so many dead bodies, regardless of the fact that most bones had been removed. 

We grabbed quick paninis and then headed to the Via Appia for bike rides.  Everyone chose to ride a bike. Aside from a few chains and a popped tire, there were no major issues.  Some of rode two-thirds of the park and absorbed the shock of the cobblestones all the way.  I really enjoyed seeing the countryside and only hearing nature with Rome far behind us.  On the return ride, I almost met disaster as a truck turned a corner quickly (to ride down the ancient road which is infrequently travelled by cars) and didn't notice me.  I only had one hand on the handle bar at the time so I had to break with only my front break.  This caused the bike to flip over and me with it.  It looked a lot worse than it was and I came away with not even a knick or bruise.  It seems that most students had a great time on the Via Appia.  For me it was one if the highlights of the trip despite the incident.  

The bus then took us to the top of the Janiculum Hill. We walked to the Doria Pamphili Park, which in my opinion is the best park in Rome.  There we lounged on the grass or went for stroll enjoying some much needed down time.  

On our way to the park, we stopped at the Intercollegiate Center for Classicl Studies (known as Centro) where I had studied for a semester in college.  I was able to see three members of the administrative staff, whom I haven't seen in years.  I also ran into current Classics majors from UVA, Virginia Tech, Hollins College, and Bowdoin. I already knew the student from UVA.  It was wonderful to see them all again.  

We strolled out of the Doria Pamphili Park and found an ATM, cafe, and pizzeria which served rectangular slices in wax paper.  We then hopped on the 44 bus headed for Trastevere and then transferred to the 3 tram.  This was a day of much transportation.  After a dinner in Trastevere we took the 8 tram to the 3 bus to the 3 tram at the Pyramide stop, right next to the Pyramid of Sestius.  Students were happy to get home and pack for our flight home tomorrow.  

No comments: