"What do you absolutely want to do when you come to Rome?" I inquired of Red, via email.
We had planned to do the obvious things that most people do when they visit the Eternal City. But I wanted to check if there was anything specific that she felt she had to see or do.
Catacombs, she said. She didn't care which ones.
Some research and recommendations from showed that two were worth it...
- The Necropolis, under the Vatican, where Saint Peter is allegedly buried.
- Catacombe di Priscilla, a smaller one, in the city and easily walkable to get to.
Since the Necropolis has a long waiting list, and you have to book months in advance, Priscilla was it!
After grabbing lunch, Red and I made our way north of our hotel, walking about three miles, to the Catacombe.
When we got there, it was 2pm. Which meant we had 30 minutes to spare while it reopened from it's afternoon break.
Eventually a little old nun opened the doors. She spoke no English. There were other people who had since lined up with us while we were outside. All of us spoke English.
She led us inside...
And we met a gentleman who would be giving us a tour. He spoke English and knew his way around the intricate mazes of the catacombs. He informed us that the nun was "92 years old."
"No way!" I said. "Really?"
She didn't look it. But apparently she enjoyed working. The age explained the "gruffness" we got when we were paying for the tour.
We weren't allowed to take pictures... But we got to see some very old paintings above tombs down in the cold darkness. It didn't smell, which is what I had been expecting. And I didn't see any vermin or bugs crawling around the place. I was really pleased that we chose this catacomb, rather than some of the others that are further outside the city.
Afterwards, we walked through the park, and the Villa Borghese gardens.
We eventually stopped at a cafe for some fruit and water. It was a very hot day, and we'd burned a lot of energy on the walk to the catacombs.
On previous trips to Rome, I hadn't ever walked so far into the park, usually staying just at the edge. There were lots of people out relaxing. Some people even laying out to catch some Sun.
The walk back felt much faster than the walk to. And before we knew it, we were at the Spanish Steps, being aggressively courted by gentlemen trying to push red roses into our hands to buy, or convince us to buy fake designer bags.