Going Under

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For Thursday, I had booked a tour with Context Rome a few weeks ago. “Underground Rome–The Hidden City” sounded appealing not just for the subject matter, but for the potential for some time off the hot streets. And considering the temperature, they bet paid off.We walked over the bridge and caught the bus up the Lungotevere, then walked over to San Lorenzo in Lucena to meet our guide. We first had a brief history lesson,  Katarzyna our guide using maps and illustrations on her pad to good advantage. We went inside the church, and a caretaker unlocked a door in the back. We were led down a stairway, and with Kat explaining the signs of the different layers of structures under the church, remains of Roman houses from the reign of Hadrian including a gorgeous black and white marble floor in a curvilinear pattern. and an apartment complex or insula on top of these remains, which dates from the 3rd century. An early  church was built in turn within the ruins of this.

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From there, we walked over to glimpse remains on the Roman aquaduct that brought water to the city–unfortunately, it was heavily screened and in some process of endlessly interrupted  reconstruction. We walked past the Trev (also under repair, with the water drained and hordes of tourists staring at a chainlink fence) Around a corner and inside a door leading to a cinema, are excavations called La Città dell’Acqua. Remains of a 4th century house, an earlier insula, water pipes, an ancient bathroom, stairways are here, which you can walk over on a raised catwalk. Very cool with good signage and some exhibits of the relics also found on the site.

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Our last stop was the Crypta Balbi., a museum and excavations of the Crypt of Balbus, an annexe of the theatre that Cornelius Balbus had built in 13 BCE. The museum has really worthwhile maps, illustrations and explanations of how the site has changed over the centuries, reflecting the changes in population, use, and building styles. But even more fun, if you’re with a guide you can go outside through the actual excavations, walking through the remains of the theatre, public toilets, and outbuildings. And how cool is it to walk on an ancient Roman floor?

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We thoroughly enjoyed the morning, although we both reflected that more time spent with one of the other women on the tour who loudly oohed and ahhed at everything the guide said would have put us over the edge. And after 3 1/2 hours of walking on stones, up and down high stairways, we were exhausted. Luckily, my map showed a restaurant rec just two blocks away, the simple and busy Enoteca Corsi. Total grandma nad grandpa place, with tables in back of a wine store, lots of Italian diners, and good, traditional food. We shared a plate of vegetable lasagna, just long-cooked vegetables, pasta, and béchamel; and a secondo of roast pork with porcini. A plate of perfect spinach, lots of water, and a glass of wine, and we were very happy.

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We considered some plans for the afternoon, but decided that it was time to recharge our batteries. We took the tram back to the apartment, and enjoyed an afternoon of reading and lazing, watching the goings-on of the Piazza from the chair in front of the window. Larry went out looking for something light for dinner, and was happy to find fresh porchetta at the deli. Leftover tortellini, salad, and slices of porchetta for dinner.

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