Arrived on the 12:30 train from Naples, despite leaving on time for a 70 minute trip we were still obligatorily late - this time by 25 minutes. We caught a taxi to our accommodation Arpinelli Relais, literally 50 metres from the fabulous Trevi Fountain. The hosts then sat us down and gave us a great overview of Rome attractions and restaurants that are recommended by them. Our rooms were lovely and with sound proof windows so despite only being 50 metres from Trevi there is virtually no street noise at all. The beds are comfortable and the bathrooms excellent (we did have trouble with the shower but it was attended to immediately). The location is perfectly situated for many of the attractions. We decided to walk to and up the Spanish Steps in the 37oC heat!! We then meandered to Piazza Navona plus the excavated Greek-style stadium buried underground, and the Pantheon. The Pantheon is staggeringly beautiful, not as fussy in decoration but the sheer height and engineering feats is astounding and hard to believe its over 2000 years old. Suffice it to say we were all totally worn out by the time we got back to the hotel. We showered and went to dinner.
On Gareth's recommendation we decided to visit the Catacombs. This became a bit of an issue. Finding how to get there became a real pain. Our hosts here told us to catch a bus from Piazza Venetia. That was easy enough - but a decent walk! Having got there, then trying to find which bus became a mission. Two bus drivers told us two different answers. We eventually figured it out but had to wait over 40 minutes in oppressive heat for our bus. This then took us on the Appian Way (never built for buses) for about 20 minutes to the Catacombs and then had another 40 minute wait (thankfully shade and drinks from a self-service dispenser were available). The Catacombs are where over 500,000 christian Romans were buried. They originated about the middle of the second century and are part of a cemeterial complex which occupies an area of 90 acres, with a network of galleries about 12 miles long, in four levels, more than twenty metres deep. In it were buried tens of martyrs, 16 popes and thousands of Christians. It is a fascinating place to visit - the excavations are amazing, going down as note twenty metres. Well worth the visit! Marred by the trip back - waited another 30 minutes for the bus back, packed in like sardines and having to stand in a low air-conditioned bus was not a lot of fun! We walked back to our hotel stopping at Macas on the way for a late lunch before going out for tea at 9:30. Another uninspiring but acceptable meal.
We had pre-booked 'skip the line' tours for both the Coliseum and Vatican City. We took an Uber to the Coliseum and given pretty average instructions on where to meet the guide finally found her. 'Guide' was possibly overstating her purpose - which really amounted to her getting us in quickly, because once inside she virtually told us nothing and left us to our own devices pretty much. Nonetheless it is still an awe-inspiring piece of Roman architecture - and the information sources inside are much improved on when we were last here in 2008. Having seen the queues when we exited, we were still pleased we paid the extra to skip the lines. We meandered back and had lunch at a nondescript cafe but the food was molto buono (very good). We then caught another Uber to Vatican City. This turned out to be a bit of a disaster. Not only did the driver get lost he dropped us off at an entrance miles away from where we were meant to be. Accordingly we missed our pre-booked tour - but a savvy Indian fella saw an opportunity and signed us up for another tour (yes lucky us :-) ) Anyway, as it turned out the guide 'Jad' was brilliant. He had a dry sense of humour was knowledgeable and interesting. Patrick marveled at the Sistine Chapel and the halls leading up to it and the Basilica itself - these are still incredible legacies of the Catholic church's inclination in that period to overdo the glorification of God and all things related.