Yesterday I had the opportunity to read a marvelous adventure story on the Emily Luxton Travel Blog, about how in travel, sometimes the random choices and unexpected events end up being the most enjoyable parts of our travel experience. In Emily’s case, she ended up hiking an unmarked path through the Vietnam country side. Read all about her adventures here.
Her story reminded me of when we were in Rome with our then 3 children and my in-laws. Near the end of our trip, the grandparents and older two children wanted to spend some time recuperating from our adventures with some hotel time. My husband and I wanted to go and explore some more. My husband has always been a huge fan of the Apostle Paul and tales of antiquity. As a history major, he is a vast source of information about the ancient civilizations of the world. He really wanted to find the Appian Way, the ancient road by which Paul entered the city of Rome. I was game, so we packed up our baby who was still nursing, and set out to find the Appian Way.
Now, the Appian Way is not one of the major tourist attractions in Rome. We took the metro to a part of the city that was definitely outside of the mainstream tourist areas. We did find a street called the Appian Way, but it was a modern version, and not the ancient thoroughfare we were searching for. With a baby in tow, time is a very precious commodity when traveling. When the baby has had enough, everyone must break to take care of the baby’s needs. There is no negotiating with a tired baby. So, we hailed a taxi and asked them to take us to the Appian Way.
The taxi driver did not know exactly where the Appian Way was, so he took us to where he thought it was. This also happened to be the site of ancient Christian catacombs outside of the city.
The countryside was absolutely beautiful.
I love exploring cities, but there is something so magical about getting beyond the cities and absorbing the natural beauty of the part of the world we are visiting. Flocks of sheep drifted about the grasslands rimmed by cypress and other towering trees. It really was an idyllic setting.
The only way to see the actual catacombs was to take a tour. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed. If you are ever in Rome, I highly recommend going to see them. Aside from the amazing size and maze like tunnels stretching for miles beneath the earth, the catacombs have beautiful frescoes. The subject of the paintings are of death and resurrection. Stories like Jonah and the Whale are depicted above the doorways to many of the rooms. Because they were the earliest Christians in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., all of the writing is in Greek instead of Latin. The fish symbol so prevalent in the early Christian writings was also depicted throughout the catacombs. We learned that the word fish in Greek is an acronym for Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There was a solemnity to seeing those ancient graves with their beliefs of the afterlife so vibrantly depicted in those frescoes. Touring the catacombs was one of our favorite things we did in Italy. Unfortunately, our little baby was not as much of a fan. She started crying about halfway through the tour. I don’t think she liked being underground.
Above ground, we fed her and took some time to walk around. And guess what? We did find the Ancient Appian Way, the road that Paul walked on his approach to Rome to appeal to Caesar.