Our last morning in Rome and we slept in, which for us means 7AM. Since we are leaving today for the Amalfi Coast we needed to pack and check out of our room before we meet our Context Travel Underground Rome tour.
Context Travel is an atypical tour company in that they insist on very small groups of 2-6 people and employ field experts as tour guides; our guide has a PhD specializing in Byzantine Archeology and has published two textbooks (one in french). They certainly cost more, but what you get from their tours is something akin to Roman History 101. Last year we spent 5 hours in the Roman Forum with a guide and this year decided to do the Underground Rome tour that included heading 30 feet under the streets of Rome.
We weren’t able to take pictures on most of this tour (sorry) but we loved it!! We started in a piazza in front of church learning about the settlement of this area of Rome. Short version: super important stuff here, so what ever might have been in this area wasn’t poor or shabby. Under the church we visited is an archeological site that has several layers. The first is the church before the church you see today. The second, about 8 feet lower was the foundations of a Roman apartment block, and about 8 feet below that was a palatial house. We were able to see bits of each of these, including mosaic floors from the house dating to 100 AD or so. Seems all they did in Rome was tear down enough to allow for stable foundations and then fill in with dirt…
We visited a few other sites that were similar; more churches and another apartment block with its aquaduct attachments and cisterns still intact (its below a Mr. Panino, sort of like the Roman version of Subway). The tour was nearly 4 hours and all the sites are open to the public for 3 Euro, and they are even in the historical center of the city, but the entire time we were the only people in them. The cisterns/apartment block location was actually in within feet of the Trevi Fountain with thousands of tourists.
Our guide also took us, as a side trip/bonus, to a church Jake and I had walked by several times but hadn’t been able to enter. The attraction here, you know, besides God, is the Tromp L’oiel ceiling that defies description. Here’s picture, but you really need to see it in person to get the full effect; as you move across the room, the two-dimensional painted column angles appear to change and the three-dimensional effect is, well, this won’t do it justice, but like when the eyes in a painting follow you.
Once our tour was done and we were starving and hot and agreed to stop at the first place that didn’t have a “menu tourista” in front of it. Of course as I sit here typing I’ve not brought the business card of the restaurant with me and can’t at all remember the name. Also, I had wine. And it was hot and they had air conditioning, so perhaps my rave review should be taken with a grain of salt. I had a spinach salad with egg and bacon (and that good Italian bacon too, not the crap bacon we have in America…) and Jake had Amatriciana (also a good Italian bacon dish). Both were excellent, expensive for lunch, but really well done. It was across the street from the stock exchange and as such was full of super duper well dressed business people. We looked like sweaty sketch balls.
One last stop at Giolitti for gelato, pick up the bags, catch a cab (this time, totally fast), hit the train station, wait 30 minutes for our train, ride for 2 hours to Salerno, get a bus with in 20 minutes, and whammo, we are in Atrani. Frances (the manager/owner of Rooms With View) was there, we showered fast and did what we do in Italy: went to have drinks and dinner!
Tomorrow: our first full day on the Amalfi Coast!