Friday, June 16, 2017

The Baths of Caracalla - A Negative Review

Sigh.  Lets get this one over with.

As you can tell I love Roman sites.  It takes a lot for me to dislike one.  But the Baths of Caracalla worked hard to get this negative review.

As you go here and there in Rome you can see the Baths from afar.  They are huge. The location is near the beginning of the Appian Way, but on this "History in a Place" stroll we visited it on a walk that started out near the Circus Maximus.

Here's the complex up close:

You need to think of Roman Baths as being a sort of full service public entertainment complex.  You had your swimming pools, hot and cold baths but also libraries, gardens, an exercise area.  All built by the Emperor for the pleasure of his people.

Many of the best mosaics - and some really first rate statues - have been removed to various museums.  But of the plainer mosaics there are plenty. Below a team is stabilizing one of them.  Note also the wall decoration...few people realize that mosaics could be vertical as well as horizontal.

So what's my gripe with the Baths of Caracalla?  The above photos have just shown you all there is to see.  Its fine, but if you are into this sort of thing there are other, if smaller, baths that show you more.  The main reason we wanted to visit this one was to see the extensive network of underground service tunnels, drains, cisterns etc. Heck there is even Rome's largest Mithraeum down there.  So lets get out of that hot sun and see neat things!

A locked gate.  No notice that this part of the site was not open.  For that matter the officious guy at the ticket office who refused to honor the 3 site pass I had acquired (I had not been able to specify the exact time of our visit) rubbed me the wrong way too.

So my advice is take a look at the marvelous Baths of Caracalla from some nice vantage point.  The Palatine Hill or the Aurelian Wall gate of San Sebastiano give you a nice view.  
Wrapping up this week's "History in one place" visits:

1. Case Romane del Celio was very much worth the visit.  Strolling up that more or less original Roman Imperial street coming up from the Colosseum area was a nice lead in.  Opening hours are listed as 10 - 1 and 3 - 6.  Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

2. From Case Romane its just a short stroll past the Basilica and into the park where you can visit the obelisk.  We had the place to ourselves other than a shabby looking guy snoozing on a bench.  If you need a bathroom there is actually a decent looking public facility in the park.  It costs one euro but heck, in Rome the alternative is usually going to a cafe or bar and buying something.

3. We exited the Celimontana park next to the "little ship" on Via Navicella.  We should have stopped in at Basilica di Santo Stefano Rodondo which was right in front of us.  Its a fifth century church with some extremely over the top frescoes depicting every form of martyrdom you can imagine.  And a few you probably didn't.

4.As I said, skip the Baths of Caracalla.  But as we were strolling towards our next destination we did find something interesting and useful on Via Aventino.  At number 32 you will find....a buffet.  In Italy, where meals are supposed to take forever and you only get one course at a time!  It was a revelation and when you have places to get to having things go at your pace is welcome.  Food was quite good too.
I actually have at least four more weeks of "History in one place" features, but lets take a break next week.  Pot luck.

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