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Sunday 19 October 1997

(9 A.M., Foligno train station waiting room, at a table slightly too high but better than writing on my lap I think — continuing:)

Wednesday 15th was kind of rotten; the Zurlo's assemble and breakfast late, and I had no real plan, plus I wasn't sure where I was (about 3 km E of Marino proper, as it turned out); and for some reason the idea of being in Marino partly to go do some serious skating I guess threw me off: distracted and at some level underneath a bit upset, I made all kinds of mistakes, getting lost, taking the wrong subways, etc. . . and thus wasted much of the day, or so it certainly felt at the time.

In fact, I saw all kinds of interesting things and did quite a bit of walking plus a good skate, so the day was really OK. Walked into Marino — by accident, instead of directly to the station (but it didn't matter, there was only the one train at 1033 anyway which I would merely have sat longer waiting for) — A pleasant walk thru mostly chestnut forest, as is the entire Alban Hills area, and downhill, at least until where I should have turned: instead, uphill to the rather nice little town perched on a small sloping crest; then down to the station.

On the train, a young physics student, Marco, reading an English book about mirrors and the mind — his English quite good altho' we spoke Italian — who was finally (after all these years!) able to more or less explain to me why mirrors (seem to) reverse right and left yet not up and down. . . .

At Termini, mistake: I wanted to walk the Appia since the day was splendid; and took the subway getting off at S. Giovanni: nowhere near the Porta S. Sebastiano. Still, an instructive and rather peaceful walk along the Aurelian Walls from the Porta S. Giovanni past the Metronia and the Latina to the Appia. Rome is still very much a fortified city: as one of my recently bought books says, the Popes counted so much on diplomacy and their religious status to save them that they never bothered to modernise their defences really.

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Now I was well warned by the Hamblin/Grunefeld book just how bad the Appia Antica is for the first few kilometers; but it was still an unpleasant shock. I kept on wondering what those other poor souls w cameras and guidebooks trudging down the exiguous edge of all the cars thought; I certainly found the small 19‑20c cobblestones very hard on my feet, which hurt much more by the end of the day than from 30 km of asphalt.

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The fork (in Italian, bivio; from bivia, road) in the road in front of the church of Domine Quo Vadis? on the left, and the Catacombs of S. Callisto just offscreen behind the car — watch out! — about to hit the one in the middle of the intersection. The Via Appia is the main road receding into the distance, with the long queue of standing cars.

The Porta Appia close to impossible to photograph without a stream of cars; the little sarcophagus drinking fountain across the ring road quite forlorn amidst construction debris, cars & trash. Grungy dismal greyish formless ruderi of opus reticulatum under a superhighway; the "Tomb of Geta" a solid mass of scaffolding; the Tomb of Priscilla quite impossible to see let alone access; the church of Domine Quo Vadis? a great disappointment, although the fresco of the Madonna & Child over the altar is nice — and after all, the feet are only copies, the originals being elsewhere. The Catacombs across the incredibly congested bivio: closed on Wednesdays; the "elegant little tempietto" of Sir Reginald Po(o)le is a tiny round brick and tile thing in disrepair, surrounded by trash, construction debris and one of those bright orange plastic fences as the cars whiz by, relieved to be out of enforced gridlock at St. Spaghetti Junction. I moved over onto the via della Caffarella here, which quickly turned from a small semi-paved section past a few very large posh villas among which the Permanent Representation of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture (plaque in English and Chinese, no Italian) and the Domine Quo Vadis Tennis Club — as elsewhere, Roman fragments in the streetside walls here, including the epitaph of a pagan priest put up by a fellow priest —

to an unpaved path between loose hedges and barbed wire; I exited up onto a small rise to my right, in a field, and was rewarded with a good view of the SE outskirts of Rome — and the surprising outcrop of the dome of St. Peter's and the Porta Appia looking like isolated monuments in a distant forest.

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The Temple of the God Rediculus is indeed private property, many times over so to speak; after glimpsing it thru several layers of fence and scaffolding, I felt this was an appropriate place to turn back. . . .​a

A quiet version of the usual mad dash to Termini — on foot — easier than finding the proper transport — only to get there late for the correct train for Marino which would have put me at the Zurlo's house at 4 as agreed; so I got the bright idea to take the 1510h to the rink and save Maria-Paola a trip. Of course I got there realizing I didn't have my skates: two half-coherent and apologetic phone calls (the first, I'd got the time of the session wrong) and Maria-Paola appeared at 1645h with my skates.

Fortunately, the ice worked, and by the end of the session I was feeling much better; waltz jumps continuing their comeback, some spins OK, edges more secure, etc. One good RFI bracket. Maria-Paola actually sat and watched a few minutes then left and came back and picked me up at 7. Late dinner and to bed unusually tired at 9:45.

Later Note:

a For the charming story of the funeral of a bird at the 2d mile of the Appia, see Pliny, Natural History X.122: which had unfortunately slipped my mind when I was out there. The Grunefeld-Hamblin book assures us not a trace of the bird's tomb is left, though.

For more details about this so‑called Temple of Rediculus, see Rodolfo Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, pp291‑292.

Two days after this fairly unsuccess­ful visit of the Appia, by the way, I did it right: see next entry.

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