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Friday 18 September 1998

[image ALT: Some large flat stones under a sort of pavement of glass panes surrounded by railings, all of it at an incline of about 10 degrees. It is some of the remains of the Roman street into the town of Ameria, now Amelia, in Umbria.]

Remains of the Via Amerina in Amelia.

Flexibility. Got to Amelia (knowing full well of course this would just be a first contact, that three hours would hardly do), saw a chunk of the polygonal walls next to the Porta Romana, walked thru which and up slightly the via della Repubblica, saw glassed- and grilled‑in pieces of Roman pavement here and there in the street (N‑S) and of course realized instantly this was the Amerina, or at least the Roman street into town: the official version puts Amelia merely on the edge of the Amerina on its way to Todi; which is a bit odd considering the road is named for the town —

Anyway, three men in shirtsleeves standing around, talking about what a shame it wasn't signposted even, let alone part of a percorso archeologico. After listening — kibitzing — a minute, stepped in of course, being American after all and being Booby, in the general sense of the conversation, to say of course I knew what this was, but was much less certain your casual tourist would get any sense of history at all out of it, and offered a few (cheap) suggestions. The group dissolved after a while, but Nazzareno Novelli, the informal leader of this little discussion — the two other men are local merchants keen on improving the street's touristic visibility — and I stayed on, and he started to tell me about tons of stuff, most of it unpublished, in town and in the area; at which point — he said that at 3 he'd be going with a friend to Serípola, the Roman port of Ameria — I caved in and decided to take a hotel room in town; to meet at 3 for the visit of Seripola.

Quickly ensconced at Anita's hotel 150 m from the Pta. Romana — three minutes to drop off my camera bag — and up into town to find a restaurant. The Anita has one, but it looks like the dining rooms of provincial French rail stations, and not appetising.

Amelia is disconcerting to navigate; much larger than Spello, but the same plan: a piece of straight street (the v. della Repubblica) up from the gate, then a one-way loop. Like an idiot, I followed arrows meant for cars and wound up all over the map: from the Porta Romana to the Carlèni​a where I wound up eating is half the walk I did, around one-thirty with a 3 P.M. appointment with Nazzareno in piazza pending, one sweaty and lost Booby arriving to be rather well fed at the little restaurant. Curiously unattended, off the street into empty rooms, a young woman with an air of uncertainty suddenly springing out at me from behind a piece of wall. . . I thought she was American, turns out French, Marie-France the wife of the owner, a retired age 69 test pilot later Alitalia pilot, he Italian of course. Two couples chowing down — one English, oddly enough (but Amelia is small) I'd bumped into them in my gyrations, asked 'em where I wuz but they in turn tourists like me and me to run off a bit rushed — the other Italian, turned out to be the owners Roberto & Maria-Cristina of a very nice agriturismo. . . at Serípola, precisely on whose property the ruins are. Simple meal — some kind of thin pasta, a salad, a dessert, coffee, grappa — and dashed down to my rendezvous with Nazzareno feeling comunque quite naked without my camera which he finding me from his car in the street as I was walking to the hotel I got there, and off to Serípola.

Via a farm on the way — Serípola is on the other side of Penna in Teverina at 14 km S of Amelia — where we stopped briefly to pick up his friend Pietro, who fussed about not being showered or washed — seemed odd to both of us — to go grub around in ruins, and I'd just done 10‑12 km of road on foot — Pietro, about 55, serious, quiet, glasses, washed his hands under the pump in front of the farm and off we went.

Nice countryside if leaning towards Lazio — Orte (upper) is the town I've been seeing from the train coming from Rome all these years, striking — thru Penna (excavations completed apparently a few years ago, American named Davidson, not published yet, they say),​b which from a car at least is nothing much: to Serípola, not much either, frankly. It has been identified with Castellum Amerinum, the 2d statio out of Ameria S according to the Tabula Peutingeriana, the 1st being Totano (distant view on its hill from the road). 'nyhoo, Serípola — for the moment — is a football field's worth of two‑foot-high walls, some floors of opus spicatum or very simple black & white mosaic, tessellation really, mosaic is too much; in one spot, a room of the baths (hypocaust and upwards flues nicely preserved) with ceramic floor, sesquipedales almost each with stamps, on the edge of full readability. The Tiber here has apparently not changed course in this area: hard in fact to see how it could've, since a rather narrow pass between two low hills. Of port facilities I saw nothing, ditto of bridge; but the site is by no means fully excavated, the remains brought to light only when they were building the adjacent A1 interstate highway bridge over the Tiber: this locates Castellum Amerinum very nicely BTW for future reference.

[image ALT: The ruins, up to 4 m high, of a semicircular niche about 4 m wide, with to the left a wall containing three arched niches about the size of a large computer screen. These ruins are under a temporary modern roof, and a man is standing amidst them looking away from the camera. It is a view of some of the remains of the Roman baths of Castellum Amerinum, now Seripola, in the northern Lazio (central Italy).]

Nazzareno guiding me around the Roman baths of Castellum Amerinum, now Seripola.

Later Notes:

a The hotel closed some time around 2005 or 2006.

b The diary account is pretty garbled. The site of these excavations is Lugnano in Teverina — about 13 km from Penna; the archeologists were David Soren and Noelle Soren.

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