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Tue. 4 October

Up at 5 and into my taxi at 5:45 as planned, but perversely ate none of the ersatz breakfast I bought last night (hot pepper sausage, pane sardo, belpaese, and olives — where pane sardo is a crêpe except dry and brittle); I got to the airport at 6:10 — James arrived at 6:20 but all the monitors insisted that, although other planes were in, his was not; so I wasn't yet on the alert, although waiting by the exit from customs. Sure enough, James had in fact arrived and was floating around disconsolately — really hadn't been too long — 'til I spotted him. He was OK, a bit sleepy, more tired than sleepy —

Train to Rome at 7:54, we arrived at the station at around 6:55 and bought our tickets out of a machine; the third one worked. Incredibly, we met a small clutch of Americans who were wondering how to get tickets: they'd flown to Italy without lire. . . How people can do that, I don't know! So we sat on the platform and I caught up on news from the house and the block and the office, none of it very interesting, still, good to know; then the train came and we got to Termini and to the hotel comfortably, I carrying James's suitcase rather than rolling it even, since it was fairly light.

At the hotel, James freshened up but didn't want to sleep, so we came back down with a vague idea to eating breakfast on our own (hotels are expensive for breakfast as we found out last year in Orvieto) but were pounced on and almost put at a table downstairs so didn't resist. The usual European breakfast although maybe a cut better: sweetish rolls disguised as croissants, cappuccino,º a sort of yogurtlike dessert, orange juice, canned, from concentrate (Spanish).

Out and to the Coliseum, spent a good 45 minutes in there, and then spent several hours meandering thru the Palatine and the Forum. It had been 27 years I'd not been in the Roman Forum — found my memories reasonably accurate when I had remembered anything, but major things I had no memory of. Also things are slightly different now, a few things are now closed which were open then: I believe I have memories, rather moving ones too, of walking down under­ground and seeing the Lapis Niger; this is not now possible.​a On the other hand, other than the obvious — the Arches, the beauti­ful little Temple of Vesta, the Curia — much of the rest, huge and often photographed as it is, I was unable to identify.

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Maybe I should have just relaxed in the shade of the Ficus Ruminalis!
In the background: the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the NW corner of the Palatine.

The most strictly interesting place, mostly because as an archaeologically monomaniacal 17‑year‑old I almost certainly chose to ignore it in 1966, was the Farnese Gardens, and more specifically the very cleverly designed use of a rather small spring at the top of the hill, which was made to feed a fountain first, then flow into the ground under a twin summer house with a magnificent view over the Forum and reappear as a waterfall or rather waterdrip feeding an inclined plane of mosses and ferns 25 feet high, caught in another basin with wonder­ful splashing noise then inside the hill another story down to reappear inside an excavated building as a grotto waterfall in front of which was a cool dark area with arches overlooking the Basilica of Constantine — this area almost certainly for cool lunches, a delight­ful place though now sadly disused — before finally draining off into the Forum itself — a masterpiece of garden design.

Also of some interest was the (apparently so‑called) House of Livia, with fairly substantial 2000‑year‑old frescoes, giving an idea of what a posh Roman house was like.

By the time we got out of the antiquities enclosure (12000₤ per person, very well spent) it was 2:30 and we had lunch in the Trattoria Nerone an inauspicious it would seem to me name for a restaurant although at least not named the Locusta — on the Oppian Hill — we both had cold veal tongue with chopped green relish of some kind, very good if a bit vinegary — supplemented in James's case by a mixed green salad which he said was very very good, in mine by a fairly good frittata since I had an eye on skating and that's starch.

Up to the hotel and out to Termini and out to the rink by my usual 4:10 train, which left a few minutes late. Now that I know the route, I sat us at the best seats (the port side of the train) to see the Claudian Aqueducts by the via Appia, esp. the classic stretch shown in all the guidebooks of about one full uninterrupted mile thru the fields — James not unduly impressed, but appreciative I think (starting to fade).

[image ALT: a brownish field with two small 18‑foot-tall sections of an arched Roman aqueduct in the middle distance]

At the rink, I abandoned James who chose to sit low in the stands for the length of the session and watch —

I did my usual exercises and got to the ice at the opening time; the lateness of the train made up for by my having changed into my slinkies at the hotel —

Relatively few people at first, and the level of the skaters can be judged by the fact that I was the 3d best skater out there. I did dogbones and worked on backwards stroking and on general form, stroking; and on crossovers F & B and edge rolls à la Giampiero ([. . .] says this is patch style, fine); a few spirals — the back is arching better, the leg up higher — I may soon have a back spiral, I mean really.

Unfortunately, I collected a gaggle of groupies and wound up giving little lessons in ice skating (in Italian, of course — for sheer lunatic chutzpah this can't be beat, I couldn't help thinking of Lucia!); as little as I could, but one pair of maybe 9‑year-olds, little blond Martina and somewhat plumper little dark Roberta, at times stuck to me like glue — I also took at least 2 young women of about 20 for a dance, incredibly (I've never danced happily with anyone in my life, and don't know how to dance!!) Well now I have after a fashion — I'm an incorrigible flirt, and had a grand time — still got a fair amount of practice in. Afterwards I told Giampiero he owed me 20,000₤ since I was giving lessons for him. . . He was shocked until he caught on, then thought this was just a great joke —

Off the ice, swilled down 2 gatorades, had a coffee with James — he also had a slice of torta ai pinoli — we then watched Silvia and the FS session, people actually practicing their programs on a highly disorganized laneless rink, some near misses — One young woman, Claudia — she wears her name in silver sequins on her back — had the strongest tendency always to beº where she interfered with the skater doing her program — Silvia having an off night, doubling her triples, three falls, 2‑foot landings, she was not happy —

At about 7:23, we walked to the train stop, everything routine, back to the hotel where we had a light picnic of the BelPaese and the pane sardo and some of the pepper sausage (unusually oily and I felt slightly nauseated until I fell asleep) washed it down with peach juice from the room fridge.

Later Note:

a It is not now possible to walk down under­ground and see the Lapis Niger: Well . . . it is not now permitted, which is a very different matter. One can jump the little metal gate and get to the under­ground space; but if you're planning on this, do bring a flashlight. It's pitch-dark in there. 
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Page updated: 7 Dec 20