Friday, March 11, 2011

Our Day in the Taxi!

I have promised you this post for a while but I finally have time AND energy in which to tell you about what we did!  We arranged with Leonardo to meet us at the Coop in the morning, but he ended up having to send a friend to take us in his stead.  He had a “vee-peh” job (I nearly cracked up when I realized that it meant VIP).

The friend, who shall be called taxi guy, took us to a ruined Roman village that is in the area (Carsulae).  It was really fun to wander through the remains of the houses, walk down parts of the Via Flaminia on the same stones as the ancient Romans, and see the theater and the forum!  We went into a basilica that was built later (around 1100), which still had frescoes on the walls.  The tour was a powerful experience because everything was so available:  no ropes, tour guides, designated walkways.  We could walk right up close wherever we wanted.

We could have touched these!  No guards!  No ropes!
The scenery was superb
Look at the stone patterning behind James.  The Romans did herringbone and other patterns.  This was the forum.
A rather large tomb.  The blocks were about 2' by 4'.

Fragments of the basilica
(L-R) Jeremy, Trey, James, Ashley, and Eleanor in the basilica
Then we drove to the catacombs.  These are near Todi, and are the only known catacombs in Umbria.  They were discovered relatively recently (1950s?), and much later (only a few years ago), a basilica was found at the site just above the catacombs.  The basilica contains a sarcophagus that has never been opened, an opened sarcophagus with bones in situ, and the remains of the altar.  Inside the catacombs, we were able to see the different types of graves and walk along the little alleyways.  The tour was by appointment, and was a completely private tour.  At the appointed time, the guide drove up, unlocked the gate, and off we went!
Ashley showing scale of blocks
Quite a bridge, huh?

After the catacombs, we went to the oldest bridge in Umbria, if I understood it correctly.  It’s about 2300 years old (?), and was HUGE.  Not only that, but cars still drive over it.  And guess what?  Leonardo had finished with his vee-peh, and missed us, so he drove out to meet us! Taxi guy left after I paid him (we didn’t miss him particularly), and Leonardo took us to Massa Martana. 

Crumbling at the other end
Jeremy showing scale of bridge
I wouldn't want to stand on the edge!

The Romans marked blocks for location

Ashley, Florence, and Leonardo in Massa Martana's piazza
I loved all the arches!

Massa Martana is an amazing little town.  It’s Roman, but was the epicenter of an earthquake in 1973 or thereabouts.  So they’re rebuilt the town completely – stone by stone – to recreate the town as it was in medieval times.  It‘s absolutely adorable.  All the plaster is fresh and stuccoed in different colors.  Everything is spick and span.  The sad part?  After all that work, the inhabitants are scared to live there because of the earthquake, and many of the houses are vacant.

On the way home, we went via Collevallenza, which is kind of like a mini-Lourdes.  Apparently there’s some miraculous water there.  We went into a 1970s modern church complex, looked around a bit, and decided it was time to head for home.  So off we went, and got back home after a quick trip to see Massimo at the pizzeria!  After spending hours with us, Leonardo wouldn’t accept a single euro!  He said I’d already paid the other driver, so we were quits.  (A side note on Leonardo, which is not chronologically correct – when he took us to Perugia the other day, he parked and walked in to make sure we made it onto the right train.  How sweet is that?)

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