I chose Ostia Antica for a day trip from Rome, rather than the much longer trek to Pompeii. Aside from a few school groups, I had this remarkable place almost to myself.
I realized that there’s a different crowd on buses in Rome, and I’m betting in most cities during non-commute hours, people who enjoy seeing where they’re going, aren’t in a hurry and socialize as they go along, seeing acquaintances during the course of their usual comings and goings. This was a pleasant and very useful discovery. I got back on the 280 bus at Villa Farnesina where I’d first arrived in Trastevere, but I wasn’t at all sure where I should get off. Directions are the easiest of conversations, especially on a bus or other conveyance, one's intent and place names recognizable, even when spoken in different languages. Passengers around me on the bus were of a certain age, and I asked the lady closest to me about the train to Ostia Antica. I found myself immediately adopted by everyone around me and one gentleman seemed to be saying, “don’t worry, just follow me.”
The bus stopped just beyond the unmissable pyramid that gives Piramide metro station it’s name, at Piazzale Ostiense. He gestured to follow, it was confirmed by the ladies and we got off. We continued across the road and entered the Roma-Lido train station. At this point a language in common would have been helpful, not that there was any doubt now about how to get to Ostia. As the helpful gentleman got on the train with me and sat nearby, I was thinking this appeared to be help beyond the call of duty. I admit, I was somewhat reassured by the fact that he didn’t sit with me. After a number of stations, my guide got up, pointed to the map, indicating the next stop would be mine as he exited the train. Finally, all was revealed, obvious in retrospect.
I climbed the pedestrian bridge that crosses the highway and, continuing on, I found the entrance to the Rovine (Ruins) di Ostia Antica across Via dei Romagnoli. Walking through the gate and into the site, I entered a peaceful park, shaded by innumerable trees. The other possibility had been a long, probably exhausting journey to treeless, shadeless Pompeii, so I was pleased by the cool and beautiful setting.
Other than the school children, there were very few others, so much of the time I was alone. I walked among the stones and the greenery, and felt the time-standing-still feeling I get occasionally when all elements fall into place, and I wonder if I’m where and when I think I am. Walking the soft streets of Rome’s empty port city, deserted by it’s sea, was one of those.
I rejoined the 21st century on a rooftop also occupied by 3 other Americans, one of whom asked if I’d like her to take my picture. Sure, why not, and then returned the favor. I had lunch in the cafeteria before walking back to the train station and making my way home to Trastevere. It was a good day, in time and space.
More PortMoresby in Italy
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