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Monday, December 1, 2014

Marcello and Sophia's Wild Ride in the South of Rome OR, an RST itinerary for the Jet Set

Sophia - photo explanation below
Arizona State University historian friends of ours asked us to lay out an auto itinerary for them… outside Rome, à la the second time.  We asked what they liked – small towns (we’re okay at that), beaches (hmmm, we’re not so good at that). 
We came up with an itinerary mainly to the south of Rome that includes the Castelli Romani, Norma/Norba, the Mussolini-created town of Latina (near the beaches), Anzio (more beaches + WWII), Ostia (more beaches), and Ostia Antica.   The itinerary is a full and interesting one, developed mostly by Bill.  We’ve included Bill's original itinerary at the end of this post; for those RSTers who want to go farther afield.
Brian and Cathy amended the trip somewhat, as we hoped they would.  They went off in a convertible with an unusual June rainstorm looming and added more religious sites – the latter makes sense since Catherine – of the Loren car scarf - is a specialist in Catholic church history.
Brian dutifully wrote us a report of their trip – which we found interesting and funny and fun.  And he included photos.  We asked him if we could use his text and photos as a guest blog post.  In a weak moment, he said “yes” – and so it follows (again, with Bill’s original itinerary and a map at the end):

               I will send in a moment a link to a set of photographs that will bore you [included rather than linked here, and photos of Italy never bore us], but they do demonstrate a high level of compliance to your commands. Obedience paid nice dividends, thank you very much.  Our getaway into the Castelli Romani was smooth, and the temperature dropped 10 degrees—on the road trip the front brought in rain, but not all the time, hence Marcello and Sophia (pictured) looked really sharp with the ragtop down, RayBans on. 

Norma - and to the left, Norba
        I freaked out over Norma, its precarious position alone quite stimulating save when drunk.  
I provide photographic evidence of the scholastic role the Mussolini family played there, but the best part were the chistes [Brian, being Arizonan, prefers Spanish to Italian; apparently this means “jokes”] between the old men and the old ladies in the piazza. The old ladies won. 

Meanwhile, Cathy danced in the street, flipping her Loren car scarf at the pious inhabitants of the tortured dank alleyways. 

We dropped down onto the malarial plane [the Agro Pontino] and found it a place not unlike Phoenix…agriculture being king as it once was in that American desert city.  And, like that city, there are some pretty conservative views there, as a photo of a sign on the gate to a “pilgrim’s way” suggests.  

Near Latina, we found an inexpensive luxury beach hotel, and you will see the proof of that. 

Someone with an engineering sense had laid out these weird, for Italy, straight roads called migliara [ok, Brian – that refers to “miles”].  Once we found these we were set.  Primarily to head back to the hills and examine monasteries that my perfect spouse insists on visiting.  I think she prays in them, god forbid. Indeed, it was claimed we stood in the very cell in which Thomas of Aquinas died, joining in that moment the natural law with the divine one. 
I attach a shot of me standing around while Loren recited the rosary, and of the cool Solomon’s riddle that the Cistercian monks had placed in the chapter room of their truly beautiful abbey. 

I failed in my search for porchetta.  Sophia kept insisting I could get it in the next town, waving her scarf “adelante,” until we ended up in another monastery town, Sermoneta, in a torrential rain.  The waiter, hearing the word as I pronounced it and seeing as I pointed to the trattoria sign that said they had it, motioned us to sit down at a soaking table under a suspect umbrella, napkins drenched, water dripping on our heads, and Italians in doorways barely suppressing their laughter at these Yanks, too slow to come in out of the rain.  I did prevail upon the man to seat us inside.  He presented us with bending plates of excellent cheeses and first-rate olives and scrumptious red peppers, the display heavy with delicious meats, all of the porcine variety but well cured and lacking a trace of porchetta. [Hey, Brian – note we said porchetta in Ariccia – in the Castelli Romani.  Local means local in Italy.]

We surmised that, desperate for customers, he had decided that the Americans were going to get a “big pig feast” all right, just not the one we indicated.  It was grand, as was the cool castle at the top of the town where we listened, with some comprehension, to the tale of the Castiglione, dukes of the town and of the pestilential plain, one of whom, at the battle of Lepanto, met a fetching Aragonesa and married her, bringing Spanish ducados into the ducato.

As we returned we visited Anzio, a sad thing really, all those young, slender boys with smiles on their faces and guns in their hands. Going along the road to Ostia Antica, with its mosaics and its Roman playwright’s coffin carved in honor of the muse, we encountered what Bill once did, a sign for a bar named Tom and Jerry, a reminder of my purpose in life, which is, it appears, to give a TnJ party every year.


PS… threw in your picture again, as a sign of thanks for being so kind to us.  We offer sincere congratulations for finishing the f*!@#g wall.  [You may surmise that Brian accompanied us on one of our “wall walks” of Rome.  That section was posted on the blog in early November.  From his comment, you may – or may not – want to replicate that section of the wall, esp. in blistering Rome heat.]

The itinerary as offered by us:

Hi Brian and Cathy,
   "Small towns, a beach" isn't much to go on.  But with those guidelines, here's something you might like: 
1.  First day.  Drive into the Alban Hills (Colli Albani/Castelli Romani) on highway 7, catching towns of Castel Gandolfo (Pope's summer residence, town just OK, not so fascinating; view spectacular), Albano (great cistern there, better town), Genzano (famous for Pane (bread) Genzano); Ariccia (home of porchetta, and a Bernini church, castle, etc., one of our favorite towns).  There are two lakes up there, Albano and Nemi (smaller), though if you choose to explore them you likely won't be able to reach your "destination" (Norma), archeological sites, etc.  Then through Velletri (site of 5th army breakthrough; mostly rebuilt after the war) and onto an area on the fringe of the Monte Lepini that's pretty cool.  Latter includes Ninfa  (an amazing park-like area, sometimes open to the public - on the flats before Norma/Norba) and, on the bluff, Norma (where's there's a hotel - and it's decent).  Norma is paired with "Norba" - an ancient Roman site, mostly buried now and the land used for grazing - but Norba/Norma is spectacular area for views and distinctive tiny town.
2.  Day 2   Drive southwest off the bluff and (back) onto the flat plain of the Agro Pontino, once famous for mosquitos, then for eradicating them, to the town of Latina, one of several in this area constructed by the Mussolini regime.  Nifty Fascist-era modernism. Don't miss the "M" building.  From there, over to Nettuno/Anzio, where the allies landed and where I assume you can find a beach.  Good (if idiosyncratic; run by an individual) World War II museum and, of course, cemeteries.  OR from Latina you can head to the coast and go SOUTH, cruising along a spectacular beach /Lido, spending some time in another of the Fascist cities, Sabaudia, and finding your way (not far) to Monte Circeo, which you can hike--it's not hard and there's a great view from the top up the coast.  There are hotels in Circeo and wine (labeled Circeo) is made there.  If you stop short of Circeo, there's another very small fascist town, Pontinia, which has one (good) hotel.  Note that the hotels often have the best dinners.  It's sometimes not easy to find good dinner eating (lunch, yes - including full meal lunches) in small towns.
3.  Day 3  (assuming you don't head south on Day 2).  
From Anzio you can either shoot straight north to Aprilia, then left to Pomezia (both Mussolini towns) or putter along the coast going northwest til you find a good beach.  Lido di Ostia is a great large beach town and has some wonderful modernist architecture.  From there, head toward Rome to Ostia Antica, the 2000 year old port city, the remains of which are quite something.  Then to Rome.  OR if you're into the Etruscan scene, continue NW to Cerveteri for some quality time with tombs.  Another good beach town, instead of the more crowded Ostia, is Fregene.  You can get access to public beaches in all these places (though many beaches are private), and there's a good public one in Fregene.  Then to Rome.  You can also do Ostia and Ostia Antica by train from Rome.  Fregene no.  
   Nota bene:  though we've seen everything mentioned above, we have never done this as a three day itinerary, and we don't know your habits, whether you're into 3-hour lunches, etc.  Some of the roads are very curvy and slow, others straight and fast.  Traffic and curvy mountain roads will slow you down, maybe significantly.  So it's hard to know if this sequence will work for you. 
   You'll need a Lazio map to get a sense of distances and to plan in detail.
Hope this helps!
Bill (and Dianne)

1 comment:

Marco said...

Jusy my two pence: Ostia is not a town (it's a district of Rome)and the Agro Pontino is far from malarial these days. The streets there have that pattern because the fields they enclose were equally dvided among the "colonists" after the reclamation.