As previously mentioned, this is our second trip to the Eternal City. Last time I threw my coin into the Trevi Fountain, and see, I went back! I made sure to repeat the procedure this time, too, even though the fountain is undergoing renovation. There is a special little place to throw your coin during restoration.
A second visit to a city is delicious on a whole different level than the first. The wonderment and thrill of an initial tour gives way to a comfort and ease and digging to a second layer. You can’t dig too far in Rome without finding some kind of evidence of earlier civilization. In fact, Rome, a city just shy of 3 million, only has two subway lines with a third one in process and a fourth in discussion. Digging those tunnels is ultra slow-going. Who knows what they’ll find next?
In 2009 we visited all the top-layer, world-famous attractions: the Colosseum, the Forum (a particular favorite of mine), Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Vatican, the Trastevere, and we tried twice, unsuccessfully, to go into the Pantheon, only to come at times when it was being used for some event. We loved it all (and wanted to love the Pantheon).
This trip, while H was learning more about photovoltaics, I got a chance to descend to another layer of equally interesting sites, the second line, if you will.
Our AirBnB put us about 600 m from the Colosseum. The Basilica San Clemente (just up the street from the flat) literally descends into layers of Roman history. The Basilica you see now was built in the early 12th C.
You can wander around the church for free and see a beautiful gold mosaic above the alter. See photos on this website of this mosaic which looks Byzantine. But what you really want to do is pay the €5 and go downstairs to see the 4th C church on which this one sits. (No photos allowed, but you can see some on the website, and here are some I shamelessly took from the internet.)
The 4th C church has some remarkable frescos in great condition as well as some well-preserved marble columns and such. This church is on the stop of Underground Rome tours, so I would listen in to various guides throughout my subterranean wanderings. At one point the guide showed a fresco that was like a precursor to a comic book with the words next to the people as what they were saying.
Even better, this 4th C church was built over a 1st C BC Roman Temple. Descend another layer and get good and creeped out. Here is the Mithraeum, the room where people worshipped Mithras. As I wandered through the various rooms and tunnels and halls, I wasn’t sure I was going to see everything as the layout was quite confusing. If you didn’t check the link I put in two paragraphs ago, it will show and tell much more about this bottom level – from the time when Rome was a Republic. You have to scroll down a little bit to find out information on the Basilica of San Clemente, but it’s a fascinating read. With pictures.