We chatted with the owner of our B&B when we awoke, getting information about what sites she liked in Rome. She suggested going to see some catacombs south of the city center and explained which bus to take. We agreed this sounded very interesting, but first we needed to make train reservations for the night train from Rome to Vienna tomorrow.
We had decided to take an overnight train because it only counts as one of our travel days and would be a cheap way to combine travel time and sleep time. To make reservations, we decided to take the metro to the train station, and it quickly and conveniently brought us to the station Roma Termini, where we stood in a very slow line for reservations. It was reassuring to know that we were not in any rush -- in contrast to other times we've needed tickets -- so we patiently waited around for an hour before making it to the front of the line. After buying the reservations, we found lunch at a nearby kebab/pizza shop and then made our way to a McDonald's looking for wi-fi. Unfortunately, the internet did not work, but we enjoyed seeing the giant, fancy, and very busy McDonald's, as well as the two cappuccini we ordered at the McCafe.
We continued north a little bit and ended up at the top of the Spanish Steps, which were incredibly crowded and mostly unimpressive. From here, we took the metro back to our home station of San Giovanni.
Next, we wanted to head to the Catacombe di Domitilla, so we found the bus and, with some help from the bus driver, bought tickets. The bus driver also helped us by telling us when to get off the bus.
We arrived at the catacombs, which were one of many catacomb complexes along "Appian Way," an old road that connected different parts of the Roman Empire. We learned that while the catacombs are often believed to be a series of secretive underground passages to allowed Christians to move and escape persecution, they were actually well-known, officially recognized, and authorized by the government of ancient Rome; that is, they were hardly secretive. Instead, the catacombs were used to bury Roman citizens outside of the main city of Rome, as burying people in the city was against sanitation laws of the time.
The catacombs are several levels of tunnels dug into the volcanic rock. The tunnels have alcoves on either side to hold bodies, with the size and complexity varying depending on the wealth of the deceased. Some of the graves of wealthier people included full frescoes (usually portraying biblical scenes and identifying the deceased by occupation) painted on an arch above where the body was buried, and some of these frescoes have survived over 1500 years to today. We took a guided tour (in English) of these specific catacombs (one of many in the same area) as you weren't allowed to explore the 15 kilometers of catacombs on your own. Along the way, you could see hundreds of fragments of gravestones with inscriptions about a buried person.
As the catacombs were on the southern outskirts of the city, there wasn't much else around, so we took a bus back into the city once our tour was complete. When we got back to our room, we looked online to find a place to stay in Vienna, booking a nice studio apartment in the center of the city on Airbnb.com.
After booking a place, we set out for a late dinner, stopping at another pizza and kebab shop. We ordered a couple of pizzas and tried a snack called suppli, a delicious Roman food where rice, tomato sauce, and a mozzarella cheese stick are balled up and fried. Our dinner was great, and we capped it off with some caffe e tiramisu gelati from a very crowded dessert bar across the street.