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Report 1396: Roman Holiday

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Fall 2007

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Page 4 of 16: Monday September 3 – Scavi Tour

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Swiss Guards at the Vatican

We arrived a few minutes early for our Scavi Tour at 9:30am. In addition to the English-speaking guide and the four of us there were eight others – four Australians and four Americans, two each from Indiana and Missouri. I had read H.V. Morton’s description of the excavations in his A Traveller in Rome and think I was better prepared for the experience than most of the others. Here is a selection from Morton’s description:

“We were standing in a Roman street... Tombs, one after the other, stood behind a continuous facade of beautiful red Roman brick which was pierced every few yards by massive travertine doorways and by windows. A road about five feet wide separated one row of buildings from those opposite... The tombs consisted of one room or, at the most, two. They were beautifully designed to look like the houses of the living, and the rooms were brightly decorated; there was nothing sad or gloomy about them. Some were painted in brilliant Pompeian red, and the walls and ceilings were bright with cupids, birds and flowers. They were sitting-rooms for the soul. Some of the tombs were furnished with niches for cinerary urns, some with shelves for sarcophagi. I glanced up at the roof-line of the street, once in the open air of the hillside and now untouched by sun or rain for sixteen hundred years: and I thought of the people thirty feet or so above, who were at that moment walking upon the polished pavements of St. Peter’s, unaware of this strange scene below.”

And that’s exactly what it was like. I was almost as thrilled that I was retracing the walking path of H.V. Morton 50 years ago as I was impressed by the antiquity of the necropolis itself.

Following the Scavi Tour we were able to go directly into St. Peter’s. From there we decided to proceed to the top of the dome via a short elevator ride and a climb of 341 steps (€7). The views from the top of the Dome of St. Peter’s were spectacular and served as a companion experience to the Scavi Tour. In the early afternoon we joined the line for the Vatican Museum (€13) and then had a walk of almost an hour inside before reaching the Sistine Chapel. We had a late lunch at a restaurant a few blocks from the Vatican on Borgio Pio before walking back to the apartment, arriving at 4:00pm – totally exhausted.

After resting in the apartment for a few hours we returned to the area around the Trevi Fountain which we had visited on our walking tour on Sunday. There are many restaurants in the area, all catering to tourists but we found one which we can recommend if you are in the area – Trattoria della Stampa di Bucci at Via del Maroniti, 32. Tourists get an English menu; locals a verbal account of what’s available. There are no outside tables and no shills on the street. We were one of only two tables that got a menu. This time I tried another recipe I had made earlier in the summer – Penne Melanzane. Il conti for the four of us was €105.

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