On our way to the Domus Aurea tour we had booked for 9:30am we stopped first at Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. We had to go through security to enter the church – maybe due to the fact it’s Vatican property.
We then had a short detour to Arch of Gallienus which was an old city gate, outside of which prisoners were executed (since that was forbidden within the city walls).
We then headed on to Domus Aurea, Nero’s palace. Google Maps is woefully wrong as to the entrance location, and after searching for a while did a Google search to find a lot of other people have had the same predicament. It turned out the entrance was on another street altogether, appropriately names Via della Domus Aurea.
We were yelled at in Italian for a bit by the caretaker as we tried to use the toilets before the tour started. Nero’s Palace has only recently been rediscovered since it was variously demolished and incorporated into a later complex. There are some frescoes that remain, and an excellent VR part of the tour shows you how it would have looked and put things in context. It was quite cold underground, a lovely respite from the heat of the day.
We then went a short way down the road to St. Clement Basilica, which is church built on the ruins of an older church from the 4th century, which is built on a pagan temple from the 2nd century. You can go down through the levels to see the remains of each.
From here we took a taxi to the Appia Antica, and hired some bikes to cycle the ancient road. It was very hot, and started out with some long uphill sections. The part with the original stones was impossible to ride over. We came to a restaurant, the Appia Antica Caffe, but they didn’t really seem to want us as customers, since we were looked straight through, and they served everyone but us. So we left and went a short way up the road where we had delicious panini sandwiches at Locandappia (with much friendlier service).
Being way too hot we decided we’d cycled far enough and headed back. As we passed the Catacombs of St Sebastian we decided to stop off for a tour of the place, which was well worth it. It was lovely and cool below the ground.
We continued on, returned our bikes, and with a bit of difficulty found a taxi to get home. We stopped off at the gelato shop Come il Latte just up the road again, however the person at the counter decided to ignore us over other customers, shorted us on the gelato, then overcharged. I don’t know what was up today, but some Romans certainly had it in for us today. It must be time to move on.