Friday, June 20, 2008

Italy - Day 6

To all you fathers out there, happy Father's Day!!

After checking out of our hotel, our day began with a two hour bus ride toward Rome, broken into bite sized pieces by a brief rest (and snack-buying) stop along the way.

The first destination of the day was the Ostia ruins, a small Roman city with some similar architecture and tile floorwork as Pompeii. Unlike Pompeii, though, this city slowly died out and was left to ruin over time. Many of the tile designs are remarkably well-preserved, though, having stood the test of time and weather quite well.

Speaking of weather, today was absolutely gorgeous: sunny skies, very few clouds, a nice breeze, and only luke-warm temps (vs scorching heat).

After a break for lunch and gift-shop shopping, we bussed to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, only a short drive away. Here we were given a brief introductory explanation of the cartacomb structure and its origin, then we got to go underground for an up close look. I believe the guide said that only approximately 10% of the tombs remain un-plundered after centuries of pirateering and conquerors, but the structure itself is pretty amazing to walk through. We even saw a few small shrines down there where believers came to hold mass. Quite neat.

After the catacombs we walked a short distance down the street to St. Sebastiano's church (our first official church visit on the trip) - the ceiling paintings and sculptures were remarkable, and again, plenty of pictures were taken.

Checking into our new hotel was an adventure. Because the hotel lacked parking space in front (Sergio knew this in advance so we could plan ahead), we stopped the bus on the side of a crowded street, unloaded extremely quickly, and then proceeded to walk several blocks (or '200 metres') to the hotel ("200 metres" has become our running joke of measuring distances - Italians are not always the best at estimating the distance between two points, so when this was grossly exemplified several days ago [as Mrs. Vitt, Sergio, and I were trying to find a cell phone store], we latched onto the phrase as our default answer whenever anyone asks how far away something is... Maybe you have to be here...).

The walk was quickly forgotten, though, because we have a really nice hotel. Very elegant and fancy (including interestingly shaped rectangular toilets), as well as decent sized rooms.

We met shortly thereafter and walked around the block (200 metres, of course) to an upscale restaurant, where we were served a delicious first course of ravioli and a second course of veal (an apparent hit among the male youth).

After dinner we took a short 200 metre walk to a nearby gelato storefront for a second helping of dessert, after which we returned to our hotel and did bed-checks. Wake up is at 6:20 tomorrow morning, because we're leaving early to go to the Vatican!

We had many quotes-of-the-day for today, so please bear with me:

"Let's go and use the [communal] toilets" - Alberto, our local tour guide at the ruins, referring to the ancient Roman public toilets

"I don't think they [mummies] ever thought they'd be dug up and put under glass." - Ann Bexell
"Yeah they did, they signed a contract." - Nick Kozel, thinking the conversation was still about the recent bodies exhibit at the Science Museum
"What?" - everyone
"Oh, I didn't realise we''re talking about the mummies again!" - Nick

"I love you and I curse you" - Michelle, quoting an ancient story
"That's the story of my life" - Nick Kozel

"We each went home with a piece of the monster [turkey]" - Sergio, telling us about his first Thanksgiving celebration with friends

"BYOM [bring your own monster]" - Mrs. Vitt

"Tony is perfect" - Sergio, then Mrs. Vitt, in reference to the length of Tony's pants

"How can this [beautiful landscape] be in the middle of Rome?" - Mary Learmont

"Nick says ['go ahead and start eating']. That's 's-e-z.' " - Mrs. Vitt

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