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Italy


DAY 91

Pompei to Sperlonga 

But guess what? I didnít go. Many of us decided to extend our stay in Pompei so that we could have time to see the ruins of old Pompei. In fact so many people made other plans for Day 91 that only 50 actually rode to the next campsite in Sperlonga. I am wondering what scenery and experiences I have missed by staying behind. For me it was a last minute decision to stay in Pompei. After riding to Pompei on Day 90 I found my rib injury to be more painful and my cold had worsened. I realized I had been too hasty to be back on my bike. I thought if I stayed in Pompei another day it would have a double benefit, I could rest and I could visit old Pompei as well.

So I joined another group of riders who had been planning to stay in Pompei and told them Iíd go along with whatever their plans were. That way I would not have to run around arranging for a room and train tickets, they would do it for me. These riders were Inge, Maryke, Gudrun, and Joan I. I hurried to set aside my toothbrush and a few things I would need for the next two days and get all the rest of my gear into my locker before they closed the gear truck. I made it, but haste makes waste, and to my great regret later, I had forgotten my passport which I usually keep in my locker as it seems the safest place.

By morning the advance committee that had gone to reserve hotel rooms and buy train tickets returned to the campsite. I was disappointed because my friends had not done either for me. But Inge was going later to get her train ticket so I gave her money to get mine too. She was not going to visit old Pompei with the rest of us so she had the time to do it. It had been impossible for my friends to register for a room for me because they hadnít had my passport with them. Immediately I realized I had made an error that was going to cause me trouble. Without a passport it could be impossible to get a room for the night.

At last a group of 15 of us set out to explore Pompei with an English speaking guide. We had a two hour tour and for the most part we saw the same things I had seen on another visit to Pompei 27 years ago. That day it had been pouring rain, this time it was warm and sometimes sunny. Huge Mt. Vesuvious loomed over Pompei and appeared to be peaceful and quiet although according to its past history it is 26 years overdue for an eruption. It had destroyed Pompei when it had erupted in 79 A.D. That eruption began at 1:00 in the afternoon and turned the daylight to dark, darker than the darkest night. As the guide was explaining this, we realized it was exactly 1:00 and I thought about the normal activities that people would have been doing at that time. Pompei had been in existence for 700 years at the time it was destroyed and it was a rich and prosperous seaport city. The shores of the sea have receded since the eruption so that the ruined Pompei no longer has a sea coast.

Once its streets were filled with carts pulled by mules or donkeys. Over the years the wheels of the carts wore deep ruts into the paving stones. They are still there today. The guide explained that a cart was always pulled by 2 animals side by side so that it would be more stable. At the intersections the road builders had placed enormous flat boulders as stepping stones so that people could cross the streets without getting their feet wet and dirty. When it rained the streets served like sewer lines because people threw their trash into them. The streets sloped to the sea so that eventually the garbage drained into the sea. These huge stepping stones are close together and high making it necessary for carts to have high wheels and axles to carry the carts over the tops of the stones. I wondered whether as the ruts grew deeper over the hundreds of years of use if the cart builders had to build the carts with even bigger wheels to allow for more clearance.

The freemen of Pompei had a comfortable life. Water was piped to their homes, they had slaves to do any work, and there was a communal bathing area which included a large sauna room with heated marble walls and a marble floor. The room is easily big enough to hold a hundred or more bathers and I thought about the slaves laboring to keep the fires burning. There was an 8 or 10 inch clearance between the marble floor of the sauna and the foundation. The walls were double and hollow with a space of 2 or 3 inches between the walls. The slaves worked somewhere out of sight feeding fires that would heat the walls and floors of the sauna room so hot that when water was thrown on them steam was produced. That amazed me.

The advantage of having a guide on our tour was that he could explain what we were seeing. For example, when I first saw the sauna room years ago I doubt whether I realized how it had been heated. He surprised me with more new information when he showed us a large area of buildings that had been involved in wool production. Wool was bought and sold there and it was also manufactured into useful items. Many of the local people must have been shepherds whose flocks would have supplied the necessary wool. At the entrance to the wool merchantsí site were some large vats built of brick. The guide explained that the wool workers needed ammonia to wash the wool after it was sheared from the sheep. So the good people of Pompei could come to that place and sell their urine which was collected there as a source of ammonia! That must have been an eye-watering job. 

After our guided tour of Pompei we were tired and hungry so we stopped for lunch, then walked to the Villa of Mystery. This is a very big, opulent house that was built outside of Pompei and was covered by ash just as was Pompei. It has been excavated but archaeologists have been unable to determine why it was built in that spot, or who owned it so it is called the Villa of Mystery. They do know who owned some of the finer homes in Pompei.

Now it was nearing evening and I still had no room for the night. I couldnít register for one because I had no passport which so far has been absolutely required here in Italy, so I would have to be a stowaway. One rider, CJ, had rented several bungalows for 3 at the camping ground next to the one where we had stayed. CJ said that one of the bungalows had only 2 occupants and I could be the third. I was grateful for that and went there with CJ and the others. We discovered that each room had a big bed and a bunk bed but only one set of sheets and one blanket. Three people could not sleep there comfortably. Furthermore there were only two towels. Liz, one of my roommates, finally persuaded the owner that she wanted to sleep in the bunk bed and he grudgingly provided her with sheets and a blanket. Now there would be space for me in the big bed. I only needed a blanket but of course I couldnít ask for one as I wasnít a registered guest. I couldnít even be seen for fear of being found out and having to spend the night in the open. Good fortune was on my side though, the cleaning woman left her cart of linens standing out when she went home so I was able to snitch a towel and sheets for myself. CJ and other riders discovered that they had an extra pillow which they donated so I was all set. I planned to sleep in my clothes and with my clothes and the sheet covering me I should be warm. As it turned out, the heat came on and I was comfortable.

Ciao! Alice 

DAY 92

Sperlonga to Lido di Ostia

Lido di Ostia to Rome 

I didnít do this ride either. I had stayed in Pompei an extra day and night, smuggled into the room of friends because I didnít have a passport and therefore couldnít register for a room. I hated sneaking around but it seemed a better alternative than sleeping on the ground somewhere.

Very early in the morning of Day 92 we were up and on our way to the train station as were many other riders. We all had tickets for ourselves and our bikes for the 8:30 train.  But that was the trouble. No one really believed that all of us and our bikes would get on the train in spite of having prepurchased our tickets. So most of us were up way early arriving at the station 2 hours before departure, each of us hoping to be at the head of the line. But there was no line. We just parked our bikes side by side along the length of the platform. When it seemed everyone had assembled at the station we counted 51 bikes and 1 tandem. I am sure each of us were wondering where the most advantageous spot to park our bikes would be. That would depend on whether the baggage car was on the front, the rear, or the middle of the train. But as we waited we formed a plan. Rather than 50 individuals making a dash for an open train door, we would work as a team, passing bikes along until all had been loaded. Some of the men would board the train first to receive and stow each bike in turn. It would be orderly rather than chaotic.

At 8:30 our train arrived and we all watched it anxiously for the location of the baggage car. But what was this? There was no baggage car! For a few moments everyone just froze. We had no plan for this eventuality. Suddenly everyone rushed to the train loading their own bikes onto the passenger cars. The first few fit but there was no room for more. We hadnít solved that problem yet when we were all kicked off the train, bikes too! We showed our tickets and pleaded our cases but the trainís crew held firm, no bikes. The train left seconds later while we stood on the platform and watched it go.

What to do now? A couple of people went to town to inquire about leasing or hiring a truck for the bikes and a bus for the people. Three others went inside the station to confer with the railroad employees. This was a hopeless undertaking until at last someone appeared who spoke Italian and English. Eventually the committee of riders emerged and explained to all of us anxiously waiting that the officials would make the necessary calls to arrange to have a baggage car attached to the 12:30 train. No one knew whether to believe this would really happen but it was the only choice. There were no trucks or busses available to rent. We would have to wait at the station for the 12:30 train. Some people, too impatient to wait for a decision from the railroad, had already left opting to go by taxi or by rental car.

Those of us who waited found various ways to amuse ourselves. We ate, read, talked, and walked into modern Pompei. I ate (again), went to the Post Office to mail a digital picture card and bought cookies at a bakery. The hours passed and finally it was 12:30. The train arrived, we loaded our bikes without a hitch and boarded the train, relieved to be on the way at last. But this was just the first leg of the journey, a short hop to Naples where we would board another train for Rome, so we couldnít relax yet.

The railway terminal in Naples was big. There are 18 platforms and by the time we arrived we had only minutes to locate our train to Rome. We found it in no time and began loading the bikes into two baggage cars, one at each end of the train. One car had large hooks in the ceiling just for hanging bicycles by the front wheel. When all the hooks were full we stowed the rest of the bikes wherever we could hurrying to finish because it was departure time. In a rush we all climbed aboard and found a seat. We had just begun to settle and relax when I noticed first one rider and then another running down the platform with a bike. Immediately anxiety set in. What was happening? Why were bikes coming off the train? Would our own bike be left behind? Would the riders out there get back on the train in time? Eventually one of the running riders boarded our car and explained that the bikes that were stuffed into the baggage car after all the hooks were filled had had to be moved because the train crew had been unable to get past them to the engine. But every bike was now somewhere on the train and all the riders too. Then our train just sat in the station giving us further cause to worry. When it finally pulled away it was 45 minutes past departure time.

People were discussing their plans while we journeyed to Rome. I mentioned my problem of no passport and therefore no room and immediately Mark and Sandy Bovee, tandem riders, offered to help. They had a room reservation and if I could not get a room for myself they would smuggle me into theirs. Their hotel had been recommended to them in Pompei and the reservation made from there. We found it without trouble and were delighted to see that it was very close to the railway terminal which is next to the terminal for the Metro System (subway) and the busses. At reception we were upfront about my predicament and I was given a room after promising to bring my passport later. I was so thrilled to get a room that I agreed to it sight unseen and without knowing the price. In my predicament I couldnít afford to be choosey. (Sandy and Mark had seen their room and told me the price which I found acceptable so I thought mine would be similar. I had read on the hotelís card that each room had a bath and a television. It sounded great to me. Rooms were very scarce for the weekend.)

We carried our bikes upstairs and upstairs some more before reaching our rooms. I got a peek into the Boveeís room, it looked good enough, and then my room was unlocked. There I stood bike in hand looking into the tiniest room I had ever seen, perhaps I looked  stunned, while the hotel man suggested that I should put my bike into the Boveeís room because they had more space. I thanked him, but thought to myself, if Elbert can get his bike into his tent every night then I can surely get mine into this room. And I did. The room is 6 by 8 feet and has a single bed as wide as the room. A wardrobe, a tiny table and chair, and a small sink complete the furnishings. There is no window and no TV but there is a grand double door for entry and a wall outlet for recharging my camera batteries. The shared shower and toilet are just down the hall. Everything I need is at hand and the location is perfect, just a 5 minute walk from Romeís new Terminal. There one can get a train, bus, or subway to anywhere. The price was right too, only 50,000 lira a night or about $25 U.S.

I could hardly wait to settle in there for the night, going to bed as soon as possible, free to stay there as long as I wished because the next day was the first of 2 layover days in Rome.

Ciao! Alice

DAYS 93 - 95

Rome Layover Days 

The first thing I did in Rome was to sleep in. What a luxury! I am usually up by 5 a.m. but I slept until after nine. I went forth then, feeling obliged to do some sightseeing, but my heart wasnít in it. I walked to the Terminal and wandered around trying to get inspired by all the hustle and bustle there. At last I thought the least I could do was a bus tour of the city and maybe that would get me excited about seeing more. But it didnít work. I kept dozing off during the tour missing most of the sights.

The second day I did the right thing. I got up early and went forth resolved to make the most of the day and the opportunity. First things first, and of course in Rome that is the Coliseum. I read that the Coliseum was finished in the year 80 A.D., just one year after Pompei was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvious. Life does go on. The inaugural celebration lasted 100 days during which time there were so many events held that 5000 wild animals were slaughtered. (Another source said 8000.) I find that utterly disgusting. Giraffes, elephants, lions, animals of all sorts were brought from Africa and kept in the dark and without food, apparently so that they would be feeling really mean when released on the stage of the Coliseum. They had to fight to the death against each other and against gladiators.

I walked and gawked for about 10 hours seeing the Coliseum, the Forum, St. Peterís, Piazza Venezia with its enormous monument, the Capitol with stairs wide enough for horses to climb, Piazza Navona with itís three fountains, Piazza di Spagna with the Spanish Steps, dull and dreary now because there were no flowers, and everything in-between. I went to a special Monet exhibition. In short, I made the most of the day. The third day it rained, cutting short my adventure but I had seen enough, all of it familiar because I have been to Rome in the past.

On the first and third days the Bovees and I took the subway and then the train to Flaminio where Odyssey was camping at the Camping Flaminio Campground for the layover days in Rome. The earth was soggy and water stood in puddles from recent rain. I was glad I had a hotel room. The riders there though seemed comfortable enough and I felt like an outsider looking in. 

The new terminal is my new favorite place in Rome because there is a book store and a place to buy tissues (very important because of my colossal cold) and phone cards, telephones, a gelateria with the best deepest darkest chocolate ice cream ever, and a self-service sit down restaurant where the food is ready or cooked to order and sometimes someone is playing a grand piano. The choices include 3 different soups, pastas, meats cooked to order, freshly steamed vegetables, fresh vegetable and fruit salad bars, and desserts. I have been stuffing myself with freshly steamed vegetables, pastas of all sorts and big fresh fruit salads.

Ciao! Alice


Italy

   

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