Fast Train to Ostia Antica
Diario di Roma II: Rome Diary 2
Sunny and Pleasant 86°F/30°C in Roma
|The OTHER Mike Botula!|
As our tour group was forming up in front of the Metro station at Piramidé, I found myself musing Gee, Mikey! You’ve been here almost a month, now. Beginning to feel almost a native are you? And, just as that “thought balloon” was forming, the nice lady from Atlanta turned to me and said, Pahdon me, suh! But, do y’all speak English? Now, I could have been a total wise-ass, and replied, Non parlo l’Inglese! And I have done that in Spanish, French, German and Italian. But, this lady was well mannered, and had inquired in that warm Southern drawl that had Georgia peach written all over it. Yes, ma’am. I do speak English. Can I help you? I had remembered, too, that my son, Michael, was our guide for this trip to the ancient Roman seaport of Ostia Antica. So, even by association, I also represented City Wonders Tours. My word! You not only speak English, but you speak it beautifully! Ah can’t detect a smidgen of any accent. Wheah are y’all from? The lady from Atlanta had just made my day. She had mistaken me for an Italian. California, ma’am! Southern California to be exact.
|40 Minutes from The Coliseum!|
I’ll get to today’s ancient ruins in just a moment. But, first, I want to take note of the fact that Ancient Roma, founded on April 21st 753 BC by Romulus and Remus, is one of the world’s top attractions for American tourists. Chances are, when you come to Rome, you will run into someone who lives right down the street from you. Or is from the same home town. Or knows someone you used to work with. So, if you really want to get away from home and those pesky relatives or neighbors, book a flight to Baluchistan!
|Ostia's "Forest Lawn"|
A short walk from the Ostia Antica train stop brings you to the ancient city’s necropolis, just outside the main gate. Here is where some Californian no doubt got the bright idea for Forest Lawn. It is Ostia Antica’s City of the Dead, the cemetery, which by Roman law is located outside the city so the living can avoid the odors, and the smoke from funeral pyres, and also avoid the shadow people or ghosts that haunt every cemetery. Michael has loaned all of us a small wireless receiver and headset, so we can better hear his commentary and still wander away from our intrepid guide to better explore the city. It is a fascinating place, and my son has told me a number of times that it’s one of his favorite tours. Now, it’s also become one of mine, too.
In a total role reversal, these tours of the Italian countryside, have become for Michael and I, a sort of Take Your Father to Work Day! When he was little, I’d wait until the news director was out of town, and as a special treat take him or his sister Dana with me as I combed Los Angeles for top stories as a field reporter for KTLA. That way Mike and Dana could rush home at the end of my shift and call their friends so they could tell them first what stories would be on Hal Fishman’s Ten O’clock News. Now, that my little boy is all growed up and working in one of the most fascinating cities in the world, I’m more than content to tag along and go to work with him. As his dad, it’s a treat for me to watch him in action. And, I have no compunctions about plugging his company, City Wonders!
So, with a gentle lurch as our train pulled out and Mike’s standard comment that it had left on time, thanks to Benito Mussolini, we head out of Rome bound for the ancient port of Ostia Antica. On the way Michael regaled his audience with his own spiel about the history of the city we would soon be walking through. The wireless headsets give his comments the sound and feel of a personal conversation in a “back home” American accent– one to one – with your personal tour guide.
|Lasagna Topping - Jupiter's Temple|
In Rome, one is surrounded by history. And, in these parts, history runs deep. Michael likes to tell his audiences that Rome is a historical lasagna- layer upon layer of history. Where modern day Americans simply replace every building more than twenty years old. (Or so it seems). The ancients simply built on top of whatever was there. It’s not uncommon in these parts to find buildings that have been continuously occupied for a thousand years or more. A walk along just about any street in Rome will put you twenty or thirty feet above the street level in Julius Caesar’s time. In Ostia Antica, for example, a walk along the main street is like a trip nowadays to the Mall of America. There are restaurants, and markets, granaries and bakeries with goods brought in from the length and breadth of the Roman Empire, all flowing through the bustling port city we are visiting today. For entertainment, there are amphitheaters whose acoustics are still so excellent that a song or dramatic line done on stage in a whisper can be heard far away in the nosebleed seats. At one end of the forum, the Temple of Jupiter reaches into the sky behind a massive altar. Jupiter is the Roman name for the Greek God Zeus. The ancient Romans, it seems, were not above a little repackaging on a lot of fronts.
|MikeBo Meets a Native! Valentina|
As we began our walk through the Necropolis, the city’s cemetery, I noticed an attractive young woman with a professional grade Nikon camera taking more than tourist caliber snapshots. I had spent too long as a newsman, and later as a press secretary, not to recognize another pro in the field. This gal was good. Her focus was on our guide, and the smiling tourists who were obviously enjoying themselves in these ancient surroundings. (Oh! And, did I mention that she was gorgeous?) A little while later, as we walked to the next point of interest, I asked Michael if he had a company photographer along for some publicity shots or if he had a travel writer in his group, ghost writing for Rick Steves. Nothing like that, Pop! Her name is Valentina. She’s one of my students! She’s not a travel writer. She just likes to take pictures. I was incredulous. And, what, pray tell can a fellow like you, teach someone like her? He smiled. English, Dad! Remember what I told you about my other job – teaching English to Italian business people at multinational corporations? Well, Valentina works for one of my clients. With that, Michael introduced us. Fortunately for me, Michael has done a better job of teaching Valentina English than I have done learning Italian. She had come along on the tour to practice her photography and to see how Michael handles a multilingual tour group which helps fulfill her language credit. And, in my conversation with the two of them, a plan began to form in my feeble mind – I will find a way to move to Rome, and get better acquainted with my new surroundings and start a new career at the same time by exchanging English lessons for Italian lessons.Rick Steves.
PS: Since you are kind enough to follow my exploits on Facebook or my blog – mikebotula.blogspot.com – it’s only fair to tell you that my Rome Diary is also featured on my personal website – www.mikebotula.com! As we say in Roma Antica, A più tardi! See you later!
©Mike Botula 2015