carolbuckles (carolbuckles) wrote,

New Newport News News: Ostia Antica edition

“The trip of a lifetime” is something we never say.  We knew a very fine man who said that and died before he could leave on another trip.  But if we ever said it, this might be the trip.

This one began with a drive to Washington DC, where we em-planed on a craft with individual movie screens.  I love these flights, since I can never focus the hang-down screens.  This was a three movie flight, with very little sleep between Nova Scotia at sunset and the coast of France at dawn.  I was glued to the window as we passed the Ushant, Lake Geneva, the Alps, the Po Valley and the Ligurian Sea.

My only coherent thought [other than OMG] was that clouds have always looked like ‘this’ from the top, for countless millennia, that no one could see but God himself.  What a surprise He made for us of the jet age!!

While I was thinking this, Ron was composing a song,

            Rome, Rome on the range,

            Where the Tiber and the Popalope play. ♪♪♪

[Tiber is the river through Rome.  The Popalope is a fictional creature with the pope’s face, antelope antlers and jack-rabbit ears].

We had a spot of trouble getting a cab from Leonardo da Vinci airport to Ostia Antica.  They all wanted to go to Rome, not the other way.  They asked €50.  But dint of American stubbornness and cash-euros, we found one willing to take us for €20.  Using our GPS to get him there.  May I pause here to note that my husband is the best travel agent EVER!  He leaves nothing to chance, though there is plenty of flexibility.

We checked in with no trouble.  The Suite Ostia Antica Bed and Breakfast consists of 5 rooms, not lavish but impeccable, in a neighborhood of street cats and family dogs, right around the corner from the bus stop into town.  Ron found them online and made our reservations with credit card.  The room was right above a charming outdoor café, where currently underway was the “old retired Roman legion in modern dress” club.  They could have all been portrait busts from ancient times.

Buying bus tickets at the café bar, we went into town under slightly cloudy skies and 66◦.  Glorious!  We poked around, walking past the castle [fairly modern- 1500s] and a church, Santa Aurea, where all the pews were covered with elaborate dust [?] cloths.  Sighting a street bistro, Cipriani Ristorante, we had lunch under an umbrella, watching an old lady across the street bustle in and out with large covered trays.  We think there was to be a church festival the next day, but we never got to see the goodies.  BTW, we discovered that the same word is used for eating as for ruins = ristorante or restoration.

I had Gnocchi salsa di noci, which is potato dumplings with hazelnut sauce.  This is surely the “food of the gods”.  Well, if you like hazelnuts and cream.  Ron had linguini with bacon and tomatoes.  We wiped our plates with bread.  There is no doubt that Italy has the best bread in the world.

From there, we walked over to the ruins of Ostia Antica.  Ostia, meaning “mouth” [of the Tiber River] was the port of Rome from the days of the Republic up until the early Empire, when it had become too silted up to serve anymore.  It was essentially abandoned, all the business moving to what is now the airport (New Port also silted up); the port of Rome is now Civitavecchia which is where the cruise ships leave from.

Ostia is therefore a snapshot of its day.  It was excavated in a hurry by Mussolini as a showcase for the Olympic Games of 1933, so the standards of excavation were focused on getting a large area of the foundations above-ground, topping them with concrete as a preservative, treasure hunting, but without attention to detail.  Personally I doubt it would have been done at all without this motivation.  [No, I am not a Fascist, but a realist.]

Whatever the politics, Ostia is amazing.  With very little imagination, you can resurrect the bustling port city, filled with languages, filth, commerce, fish, grain, exotic animals, ships, sailors, temples and all the smells known to man.  Picturesque now, with wild red poppies, gold geraniums, purple crown vetch, and overwhelmed with the scent of jasmine, Ostia invites long hours of poking about, sketching, dreaming.  As it was, we took hundreds of photos and will have to daydream later.  The very best part of the city is the mosaics of the merchants, each a large logo at the entrance to the offices.  There are also baths, theaters, more than one forum [fora], insulae [apartments], shopping malls, roads, cemeteries, paved roadways, inscriptions, as well as a modern facility with snacks, toilettes and a bookstore.  It really doesn’t get better than this.

Except, on this trip, it did get better!

N4 42 Med cruise 1: Ostia Antica edition for photos for my blog

Tags: new newport news news

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