20.07.2011 32 °C
Tues 19th July
Ruined in the Morning, Saved in the Afternoon
Deciding to forsake the crowds of Rome we made to bold decision to "learn us some history" and were soon headed to Ostica Antica, an ancient Roman city, only about 1/2 hour by train from Rome, assuming that you can figure out how the railway stations change their name from one name for the station when the train arrives to a different one for departures and no signs for direction. That figured out we soon arrived at what seemed a country village, no ruins apparent. However we followed some signs and soon came upon the entry to what looked like a abandoned park.
Paid the modest entry fee and 2€ for a walking map and off we went, first things to see was a pile of rubble and broken walls, but then it developed into a wonderful city structure, dating back to around 2 AD. Briefly the city began because it was on the Tiber River where it went into the sea and became an important trading city and military base. It continued to flourish for about 200 years before the river silted up and the trade moved elsewhere. The silt and earthquakes covered the ruins until they were discovered in the 1800's. It is only partially uncovered and only a few signs are scattered around describing specific buildings or roads. One can only imagine the city at its peak, it was quite a modern place with bakeries, theatre, council chambers, gymnasium and athletes area, inns, separate latrines, a shop that sold hot and cold take-away food and bath houses with hot and cold baths. The hot water was created by circulating hot air from fires under the baths. They had 3 storey apartment buildings and palatial villas. Sue was looking for the "condensed version" a 1 hour trip that covers all the basic stuff, Peter was quite happy wandering down each alley, looking at the each of the buildings. Finally we compromised and called it quits and bought a book in the gift shop to complete the picture. And the best thing was NO CROWDS, there were a couple of school guided tours but mostly there were just a few people scattered around. Did see an Archeology group being very intense about the whole thing. Some reports say that it is a smaller but suitable substitute for Pompeii if you don't want the crowds and the travel.
Having some time left in the day we took the train back into Rome with the aim of checking out Santa Maria Basillica, that was the plan. We ended up in an industrial area, not even on our Rome map. A kind gentleman showed us the correct route and soon we were on a tram heading the right way. After wandering some narrow streets and alleys, we came upon the church, the oldest in Rome. No crowds again and free entry, and this was a very nice quiet respectful place, able to sit and look at the amazing roof and murals on the walls. No security guards here.
On the way out we were confronted by a old crone, covered in black, with deformed feet and back, or so Peter thought only to be informed by Sue that the skin on her hands was smooth and normal, it was all an act.
Found a cool little piazza to have a refreshment, then wandered off to find a train to get "home". On the way, near some restaurants, we saw some street sellers running for their lives and a little while later we saw why. 2 guys, selling bags, had been nabbed by some undercover police and were being given the 3rd degree. After much to-ing and fro-ing the police let them go, but keeping most of their bags. Maybe a few months work down the drain for them and one of the risks of the trade.
Back to our apartment for our ritual drink, snack and recount of the days outing, each with different highlight, for Peter it was the ruins at Ostica, for Sue it was the Santa Maria Basillica, at least both of us had a good event to remember for the day.