After taking in all of the fantastic art in this church, we headed to the nearest subway station and headed off, bound for something quite different and quite non-christian: the Baths of Caracalla.
The baths are one of several built over the course of the Roman Empire. It was one of the largest, apparently with a capacity of more than 1,500 people.
Even though these baths are one of the best preserved examples, they are still pretty ruined. Continuous centuries of plundering, attack (especially those annoying barbarians from the 6th century), and the effects of time have stripped away much of what would have made these buildings breathtaking. Still, they are a neat place to visit. The huge, thick vaulted walls of Roman brick and concrete give you a sense of the ponderous size of the place. And there are a few nice stretches of original Romain mosaic tiled floor. The baths are situated in a pleasant pastoral sort of setting, with big trees and large open spaces of grass.
We wandered about under the hot sun for about an hour or two, then plopped ourselves under a shady tree for a break. It was close to noontime -- time to call my Aunt Rosetta, in preparation for our afternoon visit. We agreed that we would arrive at her place around 4pm. That gave us a good three hours-plus for us to make our way back to the carpark at the Villa Borghese and drive the 2-hour drive south to Avellino.
We said good-bye to Pu, who was planning to spend the afternoon in the Roman Forum, and worked out details to meet up at 10pm in the evening. We only had one key to the apartment and we didn't know which button on our building's door buzzed our unit. So, careful planning for a meetup was important.
The trip from Rome to Avellino was uneventful: down the Autostrada del Sole towards Naples, then, with the famous cone of Vesuvius visible in the distance, we branched off onto an autostrada heading into the forested peaks of the southern Appenine mountains, heading inland. The moderately-sized city of Avellino, spread out on the floor of the valley between these mountains, soon appeared. It had been five years since I'd last been, and it was nice to be seeing a few (and only a few, it being such a short visit) relatives again.
Our short time in Avellino was spent visiting with my Aunt Rosetta and several of my cousins: Giovanni and his family (including new baby Gian Andrea), and my cousin Paolo and his wife Gael. Since I'd last visited, Gael had opened a pastry shop and factory in downtown Avellino, and one of the things we did during our visit was a tour of the place. Fun, and included lots of free samples!
You can see and read much more about our visit to Avellino by going to the Avellino visit in-depth section here
When the visiting was over, we said our good-byes and headed off, driving back north towards Rome.
We made pretty good on our 10pm appointment time, managing to be only about 5 minutes late. We hung around in front of the bars and restaurants below our apartment, soon spotting Pu. He had had a good afternoon sightseeing, but wasn't too happy with his evening meal experience. Apparently the price of the place he chose wasn't cheap and the service was horribly slow. Our cheap and fast little Navona Notte restaurant had spoiled him!
We ourselves were pretty hungry. The plateful of pastries from Maga in Avellino had worn off, and we had not yet had any dinner. We chose the nearest pizzeria -- one of the ones in our apartment building, in fact, and ordered a couple of basic pizzas. They totally hit the spot!