I have officially been here for over two months now. I would still definitely call myself an adopted Italian. In many respects, moving back to Italy for the first time in 6 years was relatively easy. I slipped right back into some old habits, but, more importantly, formed amazing new ones. It was empowering to be back in a familiar world as a stronger person than I had been as a shy, naïve 18 year old.
After two weeks of fiduciary isolation in my apartment (COVID restrictions), I decided that I did not want to be a tourist in the way that I have been on previous trips abroad. I wanted to savour everything. Imbibe the beauty of the places around me – even the places I had been before. To do this, I decided to make a few rules:
- Get to know my local area first. Regardless of where you are located in Rome, there will always be something historically beautiful in your local area. I simple grabbed my phone and listed a few sites within a 1km radius of my apartment.
- Only see one site a day. Sometimes…almost always… we tend to see as much as we can in one day. Logically, when we take a short trip, seeing one thing a day just isn’t bang for your buck. Yet, there is something to be said for sitting on the steps of one spot for at least an hour or so.
VILLA ADA and LE CATACOMBE di PRISCILLA
My first stop in my local area was Villa Ada. It is a public park in Rome- the second largest in fact – and was once owned by the Savoia family. The whole park is completely covered by stone pines and you often see local families enjoying a picnic in the afternoon, or exercise nuts doing their daily laps. You definitely feel like you are no longer in Rome. I meandered through without using maps and took random twists and turns.
As I came out one of the gates of the Villa, marked by concrete horse heads, I was again submerged into the bustling streets of the Salaria street. Directly opposite, I accidentally discovered the Catcombe di Priscilla, the largest yet little-known catacombs of the city. I went to the door of the monastery of the Benedictines of Priscilla, where a sign told me the only way to access the catacombs was by booking a visit over phone or email. I sent off an email thinking that I would hear from them who knows when and proceeded towards Villa Borghese. Before long a quick email beeped on my phone saying that there was still a spot in the Italian guided tour in 30 minutes.
In broken English and Italian, the tour guide told us that the catacombs had been used for Christian burial between the 2nd and 4th Centuries. Priscilla was not Queen of the Desert, but indeed the wife of Consul Manius Acilius Glabrio who had converted to Christianity and was killed. The catacombs even house two former popes and have been raided over the centuries for treasures and relics. There are still some frescoes in tact and it is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.