Thursday, 16 February 2012

When in Rome

Rome is an impressive city. It combines the best bits of European cities. Winding, narrow streets galore, and wide open squares - most featuring fountains, statues or monuments. Romans seem to love fountains. While there is a strong touristy vibe in Rome, it doesn't overpower the feeling of culture and history throughout the city. I also love that there are actually trees and green areas in the city - something that Florence seemed to be lacking. I have come across the less reputable part of Rome - on a crowded bus I had some things stolen out of the bag on my back. Fortunately only some camera memory cards - all of which had already had all their photographs transferred onto my iPad - as well as my picture transfer device. Which sadly means that until I can find somewhere to buy a new one, no more pictures!

Despite this, I am really enjoying the city. A highlight has been our visit to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano. I know we seem rather morbid, having already visited catacombs in Paris but these were much different. The Catacombs of San Sebastiano are from ancient Rome, having been used between 100AD and 400AD! Unlike the catacombs we visited in Paris, these had specific family burial rooms, and no remains were actually in the chambers. They had all been removed in respect of the dead, seeing as the public tour through daily. We were taken down as part of a guided tour which gave us a much clearer picture as to how the catacombs were used and their history. They served as burial grounds for both Christians and Pagans of ancient Rome. Particularly cool was the ancient graffiti along the area that was used as space for funeral banquets. Ancient graffiti seemed to mostly comprise of requests to the dead. The most prominent names, repeated hundreds of times, are those of Saints Peter and Paul. Their remains were once moved here from the Vatican for safekeeping, though they were returned when Constantine legalised Christianity.

The guide also told us that the word 'catacomb' actually originated here. As the Latin words 'cata', meaning near, and 'cumbae', which is the name of the caves that are part of the underground complex. The name was eventually given to other underground burial sites.

This was only one of the interesting things we've seen in Rome. More to come!

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