September 08, 2014

Skulls, Catacombs and Wine…

Sounds scandalous, right? It really wasn’t. It was at times a bit weird and at times really beautiful. We started our morning near our hotel at one of the weirdest experiences we had our entire trip in Italy. There is a monastery near our hotel that is called the Santa Maria del Cappuccini—they have a crypt there to tour.

There was a museum to enjoy for a few minutes about the Franciscan Priests. Then you go into the crypt that has several rooms in a row. There are art designs (furniture and chandeliers included) and people in different positions were all set up—made out of human bones. Yes, truly human bones. They had been taken from cemeteries years ago and made into the settings. I was reprimanded for trying to take photos.  It was so odd I cannot fully describe it. I tried to ask the attendant what these people’s families thought about their loved ones becoming chandeliers but all she could say in broken English was that they were about happiness and beauty. Oddly morbid sense of beauty.

Here is a photo of the place I found on the internet (since I could not take photos)...weird place.

From there we had to get more of our (thanks to my Halloween loving wife) death tours yet. We rode a bus towards the outside of Rome to the Catacombs of Saint Calixto. It was beautiful to see the countryside. We loved the nature walk to the catacombs. It is one of 65 known catacombs in the area, and one of five open to the public. In years prior there were no cemeteries for Christians and Jews in Italy so they dug into the ground. Thousands of years ago there was a volcano that left ash and eventually became soft rock. It was into these areas that the catacombs were dug. The Catacombs of Calixto are massive and were the burial place of several saints and six popes. We went down into another version of the city under the city.Sadly, we could not take photos down there either...
Catacomb of Calixto

Relics found on the tombs in the catacombs

We went down several layers of stairwells and spent the next year wandering the dark, cool corridors of the dead. Tau’aho loved it down there because there was plenty of space to run and LOTS of rocks to pick up…I tried to keep him away from the white rocks (not sure if they would be actual rocks or not). These corridors were so long and tall it was hard to remember we were hundreds of feet under the ground. They would fill the corridor walls with bodies and then dig farther down for more room, so the oldest corpses would be far above our heads. That was a rather interesting way to experience part of Rome’s history. And not as weird as the crypt of bone furniture.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the sun and park (to make up for all the dark and death of the morning). We then made our way north to Tuscany in a rental car.

It was a beautiful ride. The iconic Italy was just outside our window. We stopped at Orvieto, a small medieval city on the hills overlooking the rolling vineyards. It was break taking. The large oddly black and white striped cathedral dominated the hill. From the main square there were several little winding streets with vine covered brick walls and cobblestone. We let Lucky run to his heart’s content and after a quick stop in a five hundred year old well we made our way north again.As a side story, we went to leave and the rental (a manual) I couldn't figure out how to get it into reverse. We had parked in a lot and were facing downhill with another car in front of us. I let off the clutch and it lurched forward and into the car in front of us! TALK ABOUT ADRENALINE pumping. SO we sat with high stress as I tried to read the Italian car manual (those are hard enough in English) and hoped that the people whose car bumper we were kissing didn't come back. I finally put Lady Hiva in the driver seat and in neutral and stressed out more when Lady said, "which one is the clutch?" I pushed the car up the hill away from the other car. Just as I stood up there was a couple looking around for where they had parked their car and just as they got close the car I was still standing next to beeped! PHEW! Luckily there was no damage and no questions, they got into their car and drove off without even knowing. We lucked out. And I was sweating.

Tuscany Vineyards

Orvieto Cathedral

Well in Orvieto

Driving through the Tuscany countryside was truly amazing. Sunflowers, grape vineyards, olive orchards, quaint little homes, and so much green space. Our, hands down, favorite stop of the entire trip was Montepulciano. It is high above the green valleys below and has all the old ideals an Italian city. We found out later that this is where they filmed the Vultory in the Twilight series.



We walked the streets and ate some food and admired the many local artists. We even took a tour of a wine cellar. It looked like a two stories stone building on the outside but we descended for several floors into the group and found LARGE vats of wine there. If we were drinkers we could have had quite a party! Haha. Everywhere we walked there were unbelievable views and cute corners. We were excited to be staying in an old castle in Tuscany for the next few nights!

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