I guess we were very lucky today. Due to a general strike all transport in Italy was down. That’s what we found out when we stood in front of the closed Metro gates of the Ottavia station. But that’s not why we were lucky. It’s because we fly home tomorrow and not today. This strike also affects the airports and planes. So we were happy to walk a bit more and change our route and plans a bit.
We started in the Castel San Angelo. We have been there before, last Saturday, but did not enter. Today we did. In 134 to 139 AC a mausoleum was build for the Roman emperor Hadrian and his family. After his death in 138 the ashes of Hadrian, his wife and son were placed in the mausoleum. Following this, the remains of succeeding emperors were also placed here, the last recorded deposition being Caracalla in 217. The urns containing these ashes were probably placed in what is now known as the Treasury room deep within the building. Most of the tomb and decorations were lost when the mausoleum was turned into a military fortress in 401. Later on what was left of the Roman building was destroyed by Visitgoth loothers (410) and again by the Goths (537). In the 14th century the popes converted the remaining structures into a castle and connected the castle to the St Peter’s Basilica by a covered and fortefied corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. As a prison, it was also the setting for the third act of Puccini’s opera Tosca; where the heroine leaps to her death from the Castle’s ramparts. We walked up and in, admired the beautiful frescoed papal rooms, walked around but didn’t find the prison, or even a way to walk down. Perhaps we’ve missed it.
From the castle we went on to our next stop, the one of our initial pre-strike-plan: the Terme di Caracalla. The original 10 hectare complex compromised baths, gyms, libraries, shops and gardens. Between 6000 to 8000 people passed through every day. Underground hundreds of slaves were tending to the intricate plumbing systems, 9.5 kilometers wide. The baths were in use till 537 when the Visigoths cut of the Roman water system. Most of the ruins that are left are remains of the central bath house. There are beautiful mosaic fragments to be seen. And they are still restoring mosaics today. You won’t find this site often in the top-10 must sees in Rome. But if you ask me it worth while visiting. Even when you have only a few days to spent.
We walked from the Terme to the Basilica St Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran). At least another half an hour by feet. It is the cathedral church of Rome and houses the cathedra, or ecclesiastical seat, of the Pope. The President of France is ex officio, first and only honorary canon of the archbasilica, a title that the heads of state of France have possessed since King Henry IV. When we visited the cathedral it was loaded with people. Not sure what the occassion was, there was a mass attended by a lot of groups from all over the world, nuns, priests…. Impressive I must say. For this reason it was a bit harder to have a good look at all the rich decorations, the beautiful ceilings, the huge statues of the 12 apostles, etc.
Tomorrow, day 8 and our last one in Rome. Because our plane departs in the evening we still have the day to spent. We have to check out the appartment at 11h. That’s why I arranged a pick-up for our luggage so that we can walk around the city untroubled. In the late afternoon we have a transfer from the Galleria Borghese to the airport. I’m sure we’re going to make the most of our last day in Rome.