Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Caffarella Picnic

The woman at right was picking wild brocoletti
Not without interest.  The double negative seemed appropriate to Parco della Caffarella, the scruffy enormous open space adjacent to inhabited Appio Latino, on one side, and the Via Appia Antica, on the other.  Though we hadn't been in the park in years, we invited a friend to share a walk--and a picnic lunch, a delightful one that she graciously prepared--in one of Rome's great green spaces, once owned by the Caffarellas, the last in a long line of wealthy families whose lands have been expropriated for the public--and our--good.

In-park garden
We began our trek on via Britannia just south of Piazza Tuscolo, took the angled street through Piazza Zama and over the railroad tracks, sempre diritto al fondo (straight ahead to the end) to the end, that is, of via Macedonia, which runs straight into one of the park entrances.  On the left as we descended into the park, a very large garden, likely--but not surely--on public land.

Casale della Vaccareccia
The park is narrow here, running toward the southeast, mostly roads through open fields of weeds. On the left just ten minutes out, a very old homestead--the Casale della Vaccareccia--where they're still doing something--what it is is not clear--while participating in the honored local custom of accumulating junk and stuff.  Could be West Virginia.

Moving on, and bearing toward the right side of the park, we found a real, genuine, authentic ancient nymphaeum, the Nymphaeum of Egeria, fed since the second century AD by a spring, and perhaps (though probably not) once the source for the bottled water by that name, available in every market. The nymphaeum, now nearly 2000 years old, was constructed by Herodes Atticus. Except for a bridge to carry people across the wet grounds in front of the structure, nothing much has been done to maintain the structure or the grounds.  Water pools in front, covered with algae, much to the delight of several turtles that inhabit the area.

Picnic on a bench in the Sacred Wood
Ahead, to the right and up a hill, there's the back of the locked Urbana church, and views of Appio Latino and beyond.  And further along on the road, up another hill with small, recently planted trees, a nearly ideal place to picnic: a bench turned outward, toward Monte Cavo, Rocca di Cave, and the Alban Hills. And a breeze to clear away the bugs.  The hill is known as the Sacred Wood, and it is said to be the place where Herodes Atticus ordered a sacred wood to be planted.

After lunch we headed back down the hill, turned right for a brief period, then across the park, passing over a swiftly flowing stream--obviously the victim of a previous flooding--now strewn with plastic bags and other detritus.  Nice!  A large poplar distributes its "cotton" so that the ground appears snow-covered.

We were on our way back now, through a fence, past some friendly donkeys and a herd of
sheep being taken to the Casale by dogs that at first seem interested in protecting their flock from the intruders--meaning us--but then retreated, apparently exhausted by their day's effort.

And home.  Not without interest.

Never did figure out what this was

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