York & Borgorose

Kitties and Catacombs
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Just back from the laundromat down the hill, after a day of sightseeing by bus and by foot (mostly by the latter!).

Let's see. Caught the bus out to the catacombs beneath the Church of St. Sebastian's. Apparently there are some 60 known catacombs presently around here. The one I visited today has about seven miles of tunnels on three levels and some 150,000 burials in it. Multiply that by 60, and you can get some idea of the magnitude of these things, which were mostly built in the early days of Rome by Christians who preferred to inter dead bodies instead of cremate them.

They are an unusual case of archaeological levels being reversed, because the oldest ones are at the top and the newer ones tunneled beneath them. Seeing all the old structures above is interesting. Thinking about all the subterranean ones, and visiting them as well, is even more to my liking. That's why the catacombs took first choice on what to see in this here town of Rome. In fact, much of the soft volcanic rock -- called tufa -- excavated to create the tombs was used to make bricks for the buildings of the living up above.

Unfortunately I have no catacomb photos because 1) signs said not to take them; 2) the guide whisked us through the place too fast to take some anyway; 3) the gift shop closed for lunch just as our tour ended, and I didn't want to wait 2.5 hours there for it to re-open in order to buy a guidebook with some in it. But they have some wonderfully pre-Christian burials too, with well-preserved frescoes, rare plaster work (!), and carvings. Plus it's quite comfortable down there when it's hot and humid above, like today.

After the catacombs I bussed over to The Vatican, but the sexist scheme there prohibits entry to men wearing shorts (even those that cover the knees), although women in skirts may go in. My handy-dandy guidebook never mentioned that point. Some guy there tried to sell me some kind of pants to slip on (they looked like surgical garments) for eight Euro, then dropped the price to six when I refused. But I still passed because I'll go back with my own sometime. Or not. We'll see.

Now, plenty of day left, and walking sounds good. So I strolled from The Vatican over to the Forum area, then to the pyramid, then back to my hotel. By air that's eight kilometers, but of course I didn't fly, and went back and forth, and around and around, and zig-zaggy, and up and down, so you could say it was a walk-fest of a trip. My feet want a rubbing something bad right about now.

Cats. Many cats. Most attractively colored. Lounging amongst the ruins. Sunning wherever they can find space. They have the love of the city, apparently, and know it. Maybe they runt he city and we don't know. But they seem to be all over the place, although it's not like they're running through traffic or anything. They just keep popping up here and there, and if you look, you'll often see feeding stations here and there as well. My guidebook says that one cat-saving foundation by the pyramid lets about 100 of them wander there, but the place was closed for the days when I tried to check it out.

Okay. I'm tired of writing. Here are about 10% of the images I shot today.

The best thing about this city are these fountains! They're all over the place and come in many guises, from plain as on the left to fancy as on the right. They can be free-standing like these two, or have water coming from a wall spigot. In every case, though, they offer sweetly cool, very refreshing water to all. People drink via hand, fill water bottles, put their heads under, wash hands, etc. With such freely available liquid around, I had no need to buy water or any other drinks. I hope other Italian cities have the same infrastructure!

Original stones of the Appian Way, the "Queen of Roads" used by Roman armies to conquer the south of the peninsula and the East. Many of the catacombs line this road.

Couldn't resist a snap of the Italian cover of a recent DVD release.

St. Peter's in Vatican City. Home to the Pope. Maybe the next one will allow modest shorts inside.

A "Smart" brand car. Chop off the front of a minivan just behind the two front seats, add two wheels, and voila! They come in many cool colors. England had some tooling around as well, but they're all over the place here! (Also note the billboard for "La Donna Perfetta" (aka The Stepford Wives).

Driving is stereotypically frenzied here for the most part. Parking habits are worse. They park every way you can imagine, and then some.

Gas stations resemble raceway pitstops more than anything. Forget the concept of gas stations with convenience stores as you know them in the US. Think, instead, gas station *on the sidewalk* and you'll have a better idea of the ones here.

Scooters, scooters, scooters. Here's a rack of them at the base of a block of flats. Obviously there's no parking problem for their owners, unlike people who rely on cars.

Today's mystery shot for your consideration. See answer at the bottom of the page.

Can't resist gnawing on a chunk of my favorite kind of cheese while hiking the town! Here's a entirely yummy (and now digested) hunk of Parmeson. Oh, but man it went down well :-)

Check out this scaffolding screen. In most places you'd see just the green kind like here on the right. But the rest of it is painted(?) to look like a real building exterior, which makes it rather attractive in comparison.

Here are a couple of cats lounging amidst archaeological ruins in the Forum of Trajan. They had other pals nearby, and I've got photos from several places that show quite a few more.

Pigeons would never make the endangered species list in this town either. (This is not a drinking fountain.)

For a city of its size, Rome has a lot of greenery and open spaces. These trees line the road up the hill on Monte Verde, the part of town holding my hotel. It's a decent part of town for sure, but Monica told me the city has many, many little parks and lots of plants around. Indeed, I've seen numerous examples plus many flowering bushes and attractive flowers.

I came across *at least* six weddings today, which make a guy miss his wife when she's at home!

But PPD keeps me company for now. :-)

Mystery shot: looking straight up the dome of the Pantheon, which is humungous, and packed with tourists. It's a perfect dome, some 21.3 meters across, with the hole being 9 meters in diameter. The building's stood for 2000 years, and has the largest concrete dome ever constructed (and we're still not sure how they did it).

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