Day 4 – Mixed Connections
Perhaps it was fallout from the previous day’s bus adventure; it wasn’t down to drink as I had only taken one glass of a very nice white the night before, but whatever the cause, on Friday morning I was uncomfortably aware that all my little grey cells were not firing with anything resembling precision. To compensate I made up my mind to leave for our selected meeting point as early as possible and thereby minimise any need to make quick decisions caused by delayed trains or sundry other acts of God or the Italian parliament.
My instructions had been to take the Linea A (blue line) to Termini and change for the Linea B (red line) to Piramide Station. The mechanics of this seemed quite simple and as I had arrived at my destination with ten minutes to spare. I trudged up a urine-scented incline and emerged into a dusty traffic-haunted circle with no sign of a café to sit in or of anything resembling a pyramid. Perhaps this should have tipped me off to the possibility that something wasn’t quite tickety-boo, but in my damaged condition, it didn’t.
Half an hour later, and with no sign of N., I had become quite concerned and quite awake. It was then that I discovered that I had left my telefonino back at the B&B. ‘Now what the F! Do I do?’ Clearly the only answer to THAT question was – Hot foot it back to Prati and see if N. had been trying to reach me. Which she had. Guess what! There is another exit to that station – at the other end of the train platform. Telling her to find a café near that exit (Which is probably where she was already calling from. She’s French – not Italian, and pragmatic with it.) I dashed out; carefully first checking that this time I had everything with me that I could possible need – even my umbrella - just in case, and dashed back into the metro retracing my earlier two journeys. Finally, only two hours late, we connected in a very nice shady café just in front of the entrance to the Ostia Metro line. Dead ahead was the piramide just as it should have been. As I was almost prostrate with embarrassment and adrenaline, N. kindly allowed me to wolf down a tuna fish sandwich and a cinotto – she’d had the same earlier, and finally we were off on our journey into the past.
Boarding a sleek modern moulded plastic train car with only minimal graffiti scarring, we were soon zipping our way into the past. Twenty minutes later we reached Antica Ostia, headed over the roaring traffic below and were progressing down a tall pine lined avenue towards the entrance to the park. One of the most distinctive images I have of Rome is of those umbrella-like creatures hovering over the most ancient sites – hoary sentinels still standing guard, sheltering their charges from the elements.
Today, the sea is some five-silted up kilometres away, but in the time of Augustus, it was directly on the mouth of the Tiber, making it a major port for the reception of grain and other essential supplies from all over Mare Nostrum. The aristocratic ruling families who lived here built splendid mosaic-embellished houses. Every convenience and necessity: shops, taverns, customs houses, theatres, temples and later churches and even from the end of the 1st century AD, a synagogue was available for the favoured inhabitants.
After my misadventures of the morning, I was afraid that Ostia Antica would prove to be an anticlimax. It emphatically was not. The day was lovely, sunny, warm, with none of the oppressive heat of earlier. As we strolled along the smooth worn paving stones an awareness of the past life of those who had lived and built this ordinary place infused my senses and mind. That word is not a misprint. For this was not a famous town, just an essential one; a place where real people – not Gods or heroes - lived, gave birth, grew up, worshiped, went about their business, and died – and were buried.
Unlike the magnificent Rome whose history and monumental glories overwhelms any sense of the human, here in Ostia Antica it was possible to catch a glance, sniff a whiff of the life of ordinary Romans.
I loved it!!
Not only was there a cascade of ideas and references for ‘Kore Baby!’ pouring into my head, but, with dawning glee I realised that, as much of what we were looking at could be used as a simulacrum for 5th Sinope, I was looking at a template for my Good Bishop’s own world. Yippee – two projects advanced for the price of one!
We took a break for lunch on a sunny terrace, fed three sweet dogs and after our rest continued on our way, walking and talking. The shadows were growing long and the light was no longer sufficient for good photographs when we reluctantly turned our faces in the direction of the train station. It had been a splendid journey into the past.
As before, photos are the work of my long-suffering friend - Spacedlaw