The journey to Ostia Antica was nerve wracking but I sailed through looking calm and confident (la bella figura) despite almost being lost amongst strangers who spoke no English at all.
I never know who will be speaking English and who won’t. In the important places, like the pharmacy, the train seat booking window, the telephone company shop TIM and the bank, they speak English. But not in the Post Office. And not on suburban train stations either.
I keep losing my bearings in Roma, everything is upside down and, to go north I have to aim myself south, if you can follow what I’m saying. The sun is in the wrong place.
Intellectually I realise that I’m in the northern hemisphere, but that fact means very little to an old Antipodean like myself. (Oh how I miss the sight of the glorious Southern Cross).
Anyhow, I made it to Metro Line B for a longish ride out to a station called Piramide. Yes – there is a pyramid there, I walked out of the station to get a closer look.
The Metro line B station, Piramide, is next to the real train station Porta San Paulo, the San Paulo gate. Sure enough, here’s a picture of the pyramid and the gate.
It’s a real Pyramid!
The inscription reads ..
C · CESTIVS · L · F · POB · EPULO · PR · TR · PL – VII · VIR · EPOLONVM
I’ll nut that out later but I can see it’s the tomb of, or a monument to, Gaius Cestius who was, among some indecipherable other things, a Praetor (PR) and a Tribune of the Plebs (TR – PL).
A good start to my trip to Ostia Antica, the old town at the mouth (ostium) of the Tiber, founded about 620 B.C.E. It was a fort, a naval base and a supplier of salt.
With the fall of Rome, the port was abandoned and, over time, the harbor silted up with the Tiber retreating more than a mile away. Ostia was buried in mud and forgotten.
All that mud preserved the town from the ravages of time and, most importantly, from the later assaults of the thieving medieval peasantry and their stone-scavenging ways,
It was a 35 minute train ride from Porta San Paolo to Ostia Antica and then a walk over a somewhat high bridge with zillions of steps up and zillions of steps down, followed by another long walk into the archaeological site itself. And it was hot!
The ground gets really hot, all those stones bake and send up heat.
So why did Osta break my heart?
You’ll never believe it. The woman at the ticket office shook her head at me. “Chiuso lunedi“. What? “Fermata lunedi“.
Ostia Antica is closed on Mondays!
Hell’s bloody bells.
I dragged myself back to the train station, up and over and down the walkover again, my mind set on a a cold drink from the little bar by the station, a couple of panadol and a good rest in a garden seat.
The little bar was, of course, closed. But I sat in their damned garden anyway.
Tn case you’re wondering about the top photograph in this entry, it’s a gravestone from the 1st century C.E. and is located quite near the station.
It contains the ashes of Manlia Montana, liberta (freedwoman) of Marco, and of Manlia Felicula, liberta (freedwoman) of Marco. Rest in peace, ladies.
But wait, there’s more!