Another day, another plane! We got up at 6, made a pizza for breakfast, packed up, and headed out. Time to say goodbye to Malta. 🙁 Easy trip to the airport, parked the car, dropped the keys, breezed through security, and got to our gate. Boarded my last Ryan air flight of this trip, and am happy to say that my carry on (the big one that is a bit oversize and a few kg over weight) made it on yet again with no issues! Whew! So glad I bought priority boarding for all my budget flights. I think that helps them to look the other way. 😏

Airbnb ($65 a night for our own little apartment next to the metro!) check in was at 3, but I told the host we were landing at 1030, so she graciously agreed to a 1230 check in so we could drop our bags. The train from the airport to Termini station was 14 euros each and a half hour trip. From there, we walked the little over half mile to the bnb. Checked in, dropped our bags, and hit the street for FOOD! Ok. Here’s how lame I am. I’ve really been wanting fried chicken (lame when in Italy, yes, but it’s the result of weeks of peanut butter sandwiches!!). Darling Brian saw a chicken place on our walk to the bnb, so we headed back there and had fast food halal chicken, about 2 steps down from KFC, but worth it. 🍗 Sometimes, it’s the little comforts when you’ve been traveling for weeks on end…
We had a tour scheduled for 6pm, which gave us about 5 hours to cram in as much Rome as we could. We really only had a day and a half here. Why the heck such a short time? Because flights back to Los Angeles for Brian were cheapest from Rome, so it made better sense to fly to Rome from Malta, then to LA. Plus, I got a cheap flight to Romania out of there as well, so win-win. I had spent several days in Rome last year, so I had done the major “must sees”. Brian and I were going to fill in the gaps. But there are some things that MUST be done “when in Rome”. First up, Brian HAD to be able to cross off The Vatican as a country on his Been app. He had no interest in the Sistene Chapel or any of that (and I had done it last year), so we literally hopped the metro, walked to the Vatican, got within the walls, and Brian checked off his app. I asked him if he wanted a pope magnet? A pope necklace? A pope keychain? A pope soap on a rope? Pope nope was his response to each. 😝 See that line of people? All standing in heat that is a degree or two less than hell itself to get into the Vatican. Last year, I bought early entrance, skip the line. It’s the only way to go. You couldn’t pay me to stand in that line… We did get one souvenir from the Vatican- a free water bottle refill…(now, with holy water! 😇) I love all of the fountains around Rome…

Ah, the Vatican. So humble. Just like the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem in a Bugatti to stay at his 50,000 square foot gilded palace for the weekend… Keep tithing, Catholics! It’s for Jesus!

We didn’t burst into flames upon drinking it. We deem it #heathensafe

Next, we crossed the Tiber River and walked through the city to the Piazza Navona, with it’s beautiful water fountains. This is another of my “been there, done that” moments, but it was still fun to show it to Brian for the first time!

Wound our way around to the Pantheon. Another “biggie” that I checked off last year. And frankly, the one site that really upset me. This was built by the ROMANS. It is AMAZING. But oh no, the unoriginal Christians had to jump in there and turn it into some shrine for saints. Like damn kids who just HAVE to mess with wet cement….I find it revolting and blasphemous to history. Do not get me started on this place… 😡

Look at that gorgeous original Roman brick- standing for over 1900 years…

The Pantheon…a ROMAN TEMPLE. Roman.

Ancient Christian graffiti artists painting over gorgeous original Roman brick…

More walking and gawking. When you’re in Rome, it is imperative that you look down every single narrow street, because you never know what you might find! Like this Roman building incorporated into a “modern” structure. GORGEOUS! Or just a pile of amazing Roman ruins, waiting there like they’re waiting for the empire to rise again and restore them to their former glory…

It was super hot, and about a mile back to the bnb. We decided to take the bus. Not sure who the Roman God of public transportation is, but he/she was apparently displeased with us. The bus pulled in, and we got on. It was jam. packed. Like could not move. We didn’t even make it past the place where the driver was sitting, and a bunch of people got on right behind us. I was trying not to freak out. I could do this for 10 stops. Really. Until at the next stop where no one got off and more people crammed in- to the point that the doors could barely close. What the fuck?! It was so hot, you could barely breathe. People were crammed so close together that you couldn’t move. My claustrophobia isn’t terrible, but it exists, and it was taking all of my willpower to have an anxiety attack. Brian was trying to reassure me. Finally, we got to the Colosseum stop, and just like I thought, a ton of people piled off. We were able to sit down. I will NEVER take a bus in Rome again. Ever.

Chilled at the bnb for a bit, then headed out on the metro to meet up with our tour for the evening. This was something a little different- a tour of the Capuchin Monastery bone crypt and the Priscilla Catacombs with Walks of Italy. Our guide was Melanie. And from the get go, I knew she was gooood. You could feel the passion for the history emanating off of her, and I was soaking it in! Now, the bad news- we couldn’t take pictures in either of these places because the church wants to make money and have you buy photos in the souvenir shop wants you to respect the dead. Good old Christian hypocrisy at its best. Normally, I would take pictures anyway, because if you are selling pictures, it has NOTHING to do with respect. If you don’t respect the dead, why should I? (And why should dead people be respected anyway? It’s not like they care…). However, I did respect Melanie, and didn’t want her getting into trouble. So I didn’t even try to sneak one. That said, let’s “dig in” to the history of these two places (grave pun 🙃 ), and I’ll use other pictures from off the internet so you can see what I’m talking about.

First up, the Capuchin Monastery. Melanie wove the history of these monks in a way that had me completely captivated. A lot of times I’m super interested in a tour. Rarely am I CAPTIVATED. That, my friends, is the difference between knowledge and passion. Ok, so let me try to recap this history in a nutshell… There were all of these Franciscan monks, who were supposed to be all pious and humble and taking care of the poor and shit. Oh, and chaste. Most of them decided those rules were more like “suggestions”, so they tended to take the opposite approach. #typical One group of Franciscans in the 1500s though were firm believers in the rules, and they were kinda making the rest of the Franciscans look bad… So the naughty Franciscans, who were moved and humbled by these other monks, decided to turn their lives around and rededicate themselves to the tenants of their order. Oh wait, that’s not what happened. They persecuted the monks who were doing what they were supposed to be doing and forced them to go into hiding. The persecuted monks added a hood to their robes- called a cappuccio (see where we’re going here??). A few years later, they got permission from the pope to travel and preach to the poor. And the order of the Capuchin monks was born. They lived in serious squalor, but that was one of their rules. However, some biggity wiggity that I forget his name came to power in Rome and was kin to one of the biggity wiggity Capuchins, and didn’t want them living in such a horrible run down church (more because it made him look bad than concern for the conditions). So he gave them another place to live. This place we were visiting today.

One little problem…the Capuchins had been burying their dead under their old church (the one that didn’t exit through the gift shop) for about 100 years. So they packed up what paltry possessions they had, and still had a lot of space in their carry on (this was before Ryan Air). So they dug up their fellow monks (THOUSANDS of them), and brought them with, sticking them in the crypts below their new home. And then one day, they got bored or something (no wifi). Someone decided to go down there and arrange the bones. Like pin them to the ceilings and make chandeliers out of them and shit. Vows of poverty do weird things to you…I vow never to be impoverished! And the famous Capuchin crypts were born. The monks come down here to walk, reflect, and pray each evening- as a reminder that life is short. In fact, there’s an inscription… “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.” Lovely. Ok, now that you have the 411, here are the pics… It really isn’t as creepy in person.

Out of the crypt, into the catacomb! We all piled into a van and headed off to the next location- the Priscilla Catacombs. Different place, same story. No photos. You have to respect the dead by buying pictures inside of the gift shop, because Jesus. Oy with you Christians… 🙄  So pics aren’t mine. Ok, history lesson time!  Ancient Romans cremated their dead. When Christianity came be-bopping along, they were against cremation. After all, you needed that body for the resurrection (frankly, I’d prefer a new body with a smaller butt and better knees for eternity, but whatevz). So the catacombs were born- a series of burial chambers built outside of the city walls. This particular one is about 8 miles of tunnels!! On either side of the tunnel, there are ledges carved into the walls where the bodies would be placed. They’d dig your ledge to fit your body. The catacombs were raided over the centuries, so when they were rediscovered in the 1800s and archaeologists started doing their thing, a lot of destruction had taken place. Bones were strewn everywhere. Remember how adamant these Catholics are about respecting the dead by not taking pictures? Well, yeah…tell that to the pope. Because a massive amount of this destruction was caused in the 1600s when not one but TWO popes sent down treasure hunters. Yeah, now that I think about it, I do remember reading in the Bible that, “He who robs and desecrates the dead shall be blessed with riches, but he who takes a photograph shall be damned for eternity.” Have I mentioned oy with you Christians yet?? 🙄🙄

Image by © MAX ROSSI/Reuters/Corbis

The archaeologists have cleaned up the catacombs. The vast majority of the ledges are now emptied- the bones stored somewhere down here inaccessible to the public. But ledges where dead people once were aren’t the main draw down here…it’s art. Some of the oldest Christian art in the WORLD! Let’s look at two of them….

This one is the oldest known image of Mary and Jesus, dating back to about 150!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!

And this one is probably the oldest painting in the world of the Annunciation (when the angel told Mary her EPT test would be coming out positive).

Soon we were out of the catacombs and back to the land of the living. I can not recommend this tour enough!!!!! Seriously, between the Sistine Chapel/Vatican Museum tour and Coloseum/Forum tour I did last year, this is BY FAR my favorite. And that is 100% because of Melanie. Book with Walks of Italy and ASK FOR MELANIE BY NAME. You will get a guide who admittedly geeks out over this stuff!! Brian said that she reminded him of me- how I get all animated when I’m talking about this kind of stuff. It’s called passion. And it’s what makes a good tour a GREAT tour!!

As we were leaving, I told Brian I really wanted to talk to her about teaching for my school. No sooner were the words out of my mouth, than she started talking to someone next to her (our audio was still on) about making money doing this kind of thing, how it’s her passion, how she TRAINS (aka TEACHES) other guides in the off season….everything I needed to hear to go from tentatively considering approaching her to knowing this was fate! We had a nice conversation. I hope to bring her on board next year! We asked her for a restaurant suggestion. And speaking of fate, she gave us one. I never split one day up into 2 journals, but what happened next deserves its own entry…

CONTINUE TO DAY 1.1

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