Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ostia Antica - Death by Silt. A Quiet Death

Compare Ostia Antica to Pompeii - the one expiring over time as water levels altered and port capabilities diminished; the other with the drama of violence, painful death, sudden cataclysm.

Nonetheless, go to Ostia, near Rome, before your flight takes off. We stopped there on the way to the airport, in our rental car, but this article in New York Times 9/17/06 says at page 12 that you can take a boat there from Rome. Perfect. We squirrel away things like this for a return trip, and that is the great advantage of going first, researching later. Find what you want on a second run.

Less touristy, a sense of the place, the streets, the people. "Ostia" means mouth - and the city does seem to be swallowed - it ultimately melts away into the river. See the baths, amphitheater, storehouses, a synagogue, and a temple. Metropolis. Finally - as late as the 9th century, says the article, Ostia became a mere quarry area. Its marble went to Pisa, and Florence, anywhere needed. Organ transplants.

The communal nature of living in those days - we saw it also at the Roman villa in Sicily - see Sicily Road Ways , look for the Villa del Casale post. Hoppers were all in a square at the house, the holes looking at each other, with kindly running water beneath, all genders do your business and move on, group togetherness. Sometime look up the equivalent of TP, a stick with handy bulbous thing. Note also, as in Rome, the two-story apartment buildings. The ancients did ok.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Venice and the Plague

An approach to this recurrent deadly epidemic was to quarantine the sick on an island, a few miles from the Piazza San Marco. See The eras of greatest impact here seems to be the 15th and 16th centuries. The mass graves: so far, som 1500 bodies have been found, with many other burial grounds still undisturbed.

Mass graves: and what to do with the bones. Some places made room for more by removing and stacking the prior dead. See Czech Republic Road Ways, Kutna Hora post, with references also to the monastery at Sedlec where the bones were made into chandeliers and sconces and decorations at the monastery in the 19th Century; or Poland Road Ways, Kudowa Droj post. Ossuaries, Charnel Houses, what to do when the dead become too many. In World Wars I and II, there were so many unidentifiable remains that the ossuaries are huge. See Douaumont, for example, at Verdun, France where 130,000 French and Germans rest, go to France Road Ways;

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Venice - The Rialto Bridge; Marco Polo

Gondolas. Very expensive, and water buses are a good alternative. The Rialto Bridge. First stop was for pizza so we could walk around with it like everybody else.

Best spot for supper: little St. Margaret's Square. We located a landmark near our hotel so we could get directions back more easily when we got lost, and just wandered into lovely St. Margarets. A local resident community, not as touristy.

Marco Polo: We had found Marco Polo's birthplace (so the sign said) on Korcula island, off the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia, see Croatia Road Ways . For stories of his life as a Venetian, see

A read-aloud. I used to teach 4th grade. At one school, it was customary to read aloud for 15 minutes a day, before lunch, and from this venerable book: Louise Andrews Kent's story, "He Went With Marco Polo: A Story Of Venice And Cathay". (London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1936). A good read for kids and grownups.

For a big enterprising list of Venice novels, see For any web references, go to the home page and navigate, using the rest of the address only as needed.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Florence - train Venice to Naples

Florence. So much of Italy seems like a required checklist - too many pictures out there already. Culture, hist. Renaissance, and history before and after. Read an original account of life in the 13th century here:

Here is the famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, with its shops. See; and, for photos and history see Update - New York Times 6/3/07, that fine series of 36 hours somewhere. This time, Florence. Going again, I would take that.

We arrived by train from Venice via Bologna. Our hotel was near the Duomo, 1436. Watch the heat. It was so hot when we were there that we constantly ducked in and out of places to get cool. Crowds and more hot. We did see the rest of Florence, but finally gave up trying to get into the Duomo itself - the wait was 1 1/2 hours each time we went by. Limited people were allowed in at a time. You can climb up to the top of the Duomo for the view, but it was too hot even to do that.

Here is the Duomo. There is a huge dome. For its history, see; and

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Rome - Here, We Could Have Used a Car. Colosseum, Septimius Severus, Jesus Pantera, Phrygian Caps

Rome and glory,
Rome and glory.
Go together,
But some is gory.

Here is a pay-per-photo gladiator at the Colosseum, see And conquered Gauls and other slaves at the Arch of Septimius Severus, see Note the caps on the slaves - the Phrygian caps. They were forbidden to use their own headwear while enslaved. They could redon their caps upon freedom. See Hello, Fodder, Phrygian Caps. See also Joy of Equivocating, Phrygian Cap to Supplant Lapel Pin.

We were distance-walkers here, without a car. It is not hard to find your way somewhere on the bus, or subway. People are helpful. The historic sites are so well known, and well marked. We went to the Catacombs by bus, the Vatican by subway, and did Rome central by foot.

Became interested in a particular Roman archer after we got back. If theories interest you, do a web search for "Jesus Pantera," or read "The Jesus Dynasty," by James Tabor, Simon & Schuster 2006, if you have any interest in expanding your horizons in religious roots. Paternity is always a topic, rich or poor, and this does delve. Let information or possibilities in, then weigh and decide. No point in blocking an idea out before you think about it. That's what brains are for.

Back to gladiators: There is information on gladiators at Gladiators, and many other places on the internet. Try this site: Also movies. If we were to wire the world, and provide a basic computer to each household, and have the schools teach basic repair, kids and adults could go a long way in teaching themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Gates?

There is the Arch of Septimius Severus, 200AD or so. On the arch are captured tribesmen - Gauls - in chains - from somewhere in France? Could be elsewhere, because the Gauls were over a large area.

Gauls appear to be either the same as or connected to the Celts? See more about Gauls and Celts at

Some of the captured were brought back to Rome as slaves, others became gladiators, as in the film, The Gladiator. For accounts of the slavery, see Slavery: even Scots on the Isle of Skye were enslaved and sent to the Virgin Islands - said our guide at Dunvegan Castle, Scotland Road Ways.
He said that is why there are so many Scottish surnames there. Check it out? Slavery in America: different in denying personhood? Another topic.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Amalfi Coast and the Rule of Ears

The Amalfi Peninsula - best by car.
Rule of ears.
Two lanes, but many kinds of vehicles,
All at different speeds,
All changing lanes and passing each other.
Survival tactic:
Focus on whoever
Is in front of your ears.
Let anyone behind take car of themselves.
Once they arrive at your ear-level,
Peripheral vision,
Then pay close attention, not necessarily before
Because then you get too close to the one in front.
Works for Naples, motorcycles, all.
Drivers are nimble.
Just be quick.