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Saturday 25 October

OK, from San Marino back to Rimini, where I'd left a bag of books at the hotel to pick up later — rather than lug them uselessly to and from San Marino — and was so afraid I'd forget them that I'd written notes to myself all over, including on a paper wrapt 'round my train ticket. . . And no I didn't forget: into town from the station, back out with the books; quickish change in Falconara, second reasonably quick change in Foligno — home and to sleep without dinner, having had a chocolate bar in Falconara (no lunch in S. Marino, either: I just didn't see anything normal and I didn't want to reward snacksters).

Yesterday, up at 4, packed showered shaved; ate a large breakfast of tagliatelle al tartufo; train with no problems at 0525, although I was asked for my papers by a carabiniere. The 0525 is nice 'cause it goes direct to Rome from Spello, no need to change anywhere. In Rome close to on time, and it's really true, the trip to Ostia costs one metro ticket — unlike the gouge for the airport! And so, standing under the pines at the entrance hut at Ostia waiting about ten minutes for the 0900 opening.

About Ostia, although I spent over five hours carefully visiting, writing down inscriptions, photographing and recording pretty much each shot taken, there isn't really much to say: it's beautiful, quiet, basically empty, and every bit as interesting as Pompeii: not at all the dry hot dusty red brick horror I was expecting.

It is indeed brick, mind you; but there's a lot of trees, and you can sit down pretty much anywhere. Three or four groups: one particularly attentive group of American college kids (but on a break several of them were discussing American vs. Rome McDonald's — and how McDonald's pies have gone downhill, because they're not really baked pies any more, apparently). But most of the time I was alone.

A definite tendency to put "Achtung! dangerous area" where they really meant that they don't want unsupervised people poking about: often the better parts; but not really that much inaccessible, even counting the reburied mosaics (2 cm of sand on big plastic sheets, ragged edges sticking out here and there).

The Fire Brigade's Quarters (with an elegant little chapel at one end), the Square of the Guilds — a sort of website with various corporate logos and stuff — and the Villa of Amor and Psyche with an extremely elegant, perfectly beautiful courtyard with niches, marbled walls, mosaic — stand out in particular; but lots of interesting areas, and the good fortune of gorgeous weather after a night's rain to bring out the colors, especially of mosaics. (One mosaic inscription was two-thirds readable, where it was wet; I wanted to read the last third, I wanted my picture — I found a Swift solution to this. . . !)

[image ALT: The head and torso of a naked man and an inscription JULI CARDIHCE. This mosaic from the Casa dei Sette Sapienti in Ostia Antica may represent a victorious athlete.]

Mind you thruout I was lugging not only my camera bag, which in fact is almost negligible, I've repeatedly done 30 km/day with it now; but also my skates and a few books. This, plus approaching skate time in Marino and I left without having seen everything, reserving about 30% for today (I basically saw everything from the entrance thru the old town past the West gate and had started on the via delle Foci area); did, however, stop at the bookstore — disappointing although a nice woman behind the counter; and (finally), some cats.

Putt-putt to Magliano, change to the Termini line, then Termini, where the 4:10 for Velletri left a good 15 minutes late: jampacked and me with all my bags on my lap — I'd added a plastic bag of books —

At S. Maria delle Mole I found out there was supposedly a motel on the Appia 800 m east of the intersection: my plan was to skate, then during the closed session (7‑8:30) and the half-hours of zamboni before and after, go check in, eat dinner, come back.

Didn't work out that way: during an OK skate (flexibility unusually good, and me out of practice not really digging in so that my waltz jumps were very sloppy) I fell once, at very close range, pretty much intentionally, to avoid scaring (or worse, colliding with) a young woman just learning swizzles and stroking with a teacher — and unfortunately it was on my lower back. After the session it seized up and became very painful, the slightest forward bending movement unless done very very slowly was agony; snap decision to come back home, since after all it would be better for me not to skate the planned multiple sessions. So I was back at the apartment in Spello at about 9, thus saving the considerable expense of lodging in or near Rome, plus the hassle of finding them, etc. I used 30ML of the savings to give myself a cab ride straight from the station to my front door: with my back (this evening as I write, much better but still not right) and the tiring day starting at four A.M., that was wise. And so — snacking on prosciutto, pinoli and yogurt before bed — slept pretty much immediately.

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Page updated: 21 Feb 03