We got up early and got our coffee because we had 9:30 reservations for the “Scavi tour” at the Vatican. Scavi means excavations and we had booked this tour, in English in January. It’s a tough ticket to get. They only allow 200 people per day to go through the area underneath St. Peter’s Basilica, to see St. Peter’s tomb; now I understand why.
When we got close to the huge piazza we could hear singing—and buzz from lots of people. We later found out there was a gathering of community churches and there were about 20,000 people having an event there.
We found our way to the special gate to go through security for the “uficio scavi” and, of course, had to wait there. We talked with four people from Louisiana for a while who were also going on the tour with us. The others in our group, of about 12 people were from a Masters in Theology class, from Kansas. Finally we met our tour guide who was from the Ukraine and has recently written a book about St. Peter and the history of his remains.
First he showed us some models so we would better understand what we were to see. He explained the history of the grounds and the construction of the “largest Christian church in the world” (but, Oh by the way—there’s a new one in Ivory Coast that may be bigger).
We descended through the levels of excavations. Much of it was done in the 1940’s by just 4 men, in secret. He showed us the difference between the pagan and the Christian sarcophagi. We reached the place where, it is believed, Peter, who lived into his 70’s, was actually buried. And finally we saw the “graffiti wall” where, it is believed, Peter’s bones are today.
There is no proper way I can describe the tour. You have to do it yourself, I think. Yes it’s a lot of archeology and history but the emotional/spiritual impact was great. To see and feel “the rock” whether you are Catholic or not—it’s something.
After we came out we sat at the base of a pillar, listened to more of the choral music from the square and watched these Swiss Guards doing their job. Finally we realized they were twin brothers.
We walked back into Rome by way of the front of the Castel Sant Angelo—very crowded –and over that bridge. At some point we came back to reality. Time to think about lunch! I called L’Asino D’Oro and made us a reso for pranzo. (not necessary, maybe because it was Saturday, they were’n very full) So we came back to the apartment for a bathroom break and shoe change and walked the 30 minutes to the restaurant in the Monti district. Lunch is a 12 euro fixed menu (best deal in Rome!) Including a glass of wine and water. I could see, if I lived here, going there very often. We started with a little crostini of olive and ricotta paste. Next was bread soup with beans from Bolsena. Next course was the best for me—a lovely crespelle stuffed with cheese and covered with a “sugo finto”, simple but packed with flavor, tomato sauce. Last was a plate with 2 small meatballs, saucy beans and carrots topped with some fantastic olive oil. It was a lot of food for me but Ken thought it was perfect. The food was very “down home” not at all fussy but the flavors were all true, fresh and full.
We walked back through Piazza Navona to hang out a little bit.
It was crowded but not overwhelming because it looked like rain. Back at the apartment we rested and it did rain intermittently throughout the rest of the day. During one of the breaks we went out and got some prosciutto, salami and bread for dinner and a few other food things.
The Campo was full of partiers all night and the noise was bothersome but we did enjoy the music, leaning out our windows—way better than TV!


The Scavi tour — 3 Comments

  1. What a great day! And I’m glad you enjoyed L’Asino D’Oro — great food and the best deal in town!

  2. Jan, I agree the experience of the Scavi Tour is difficult to describe. I think the best description is by H.V. Morton in A Traveller in Rome, in which he describes it as being in a Roman street.
    … Enjoying your trip vicariously.