Ostia Antica

From Ostia Antica

Fortunately there is hot water this morning. We have breakfast at 7:30; the target destination today is Ostia Antica, Rome's old port city, and we want to get there early.

The first metro to Laurentina is so crammed that we wait for the next. A good tip is to spot a larger group of tourists - a school class for instance - and enter the same wagon. It is very likely that they will get off quickly at e.g. Colosseo and then there will be lots of room. After 15 minutes we get off at Magliana, where we'll change to a regional train.

The train arrives shortly and after 25 more minutes we are in Ostia Antica. We were here two years ago, but did not see much because it was far too hot to walk about.

We seek the shade below the pines and only the jets disturb the peace. The route to the Da Vinci airport is directly above and a new jet prepares for landing every second minute. I guess it is "only" 35° C in the sun and this time we see a lot more of this fascinating place.

It was once a busy seaport with some 100000 inhabitants, but then the Tiber changed its course and the might of Rome faded. Ostia was abandoned, was gradually covered with sand and lay for hundreds of years before it was excavated. If you get there early there aren't many visitors and it is never as crowded as Pompeii.

From Ostia Antica Floor mosaic in Ostia Antica From Ostia Antica
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It is a big area and even though much has been moved to museums it is still possible to imagine how it once looked. The thick walls of red bricks have probably been covered with marble plates in various colours and patterns, and there were colonnades and shady gardens. They had sewers too and you can still see marble covers with four holes shaped like water droplets.

The amphi theatre in Ostia Antica Column capital in Ostia Antica Marble covered walls in Ostia Antica Grinding mills in the bakers' street in Ostia Antica
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At 12:34 we board a train and at 13:15 we are back at Termini. At this time and in this direction the metro isn't crammed and a little boy gets a nap resting his head on mother's thigh.

We walk Via Cavour towards Café Fantini. The sun burns and the springy asphalt sends heat waves upwards. The homeless lady in the heavy coat lies sleeping in the shade. The waiter's tie is full of small badges and he plays Prince Charming and not without success. After a panino it is siesta-time. The air-condition makes the room comfortable, but there is no water - neither hot nor cold. The shower must wait.

At four the cold water is back and at four thirty the hot as well. The weather is nice so how about dining somewhere outdoors in Trastevere? A few grey clouds make me spite the weather forecast and bring an umbrella.

Evening in Trastevere and at La Botticella

La Botticella

We find La Botticella in Vicolo di Leopardo to make a reservation. It begins to rain lightly and there are tables outside the restaurant waiting for diners. I almost enter the kitchen before I meet a signora.

We exchange polite buona sera's and I ask if they have a table for two at eight - and preferably inside because of the rain. "Does it rain?", she exclaims, and when I nod she rushes outside and moves the tables.

The drops are now ominously heavy so we speed for the enoteca in Via della Lungaretta, where they have solid parasols. The staff is getting ready for another day and after 5 minutes we can sit.

And it is just in time because now the sky booms with thunder and armies of heavy drops launch a co-ordinated attack. But who cares? We are safe and dry with a glass of Greco di Tufo, and like Helle says: at least the rain keeps the street musicians away!

We are at La Botticella at eight. The rain has stopped so we chance a table outside. The menu is like a Tolstoy novel and we cannot decide what to order. The cook arrives and serves first courses for the Americans (mother and daughter) at the next table. She turns to us and explains in passable English what specialities she has on offer today.

We do not understand it all, but the Americans' starters (mussels for Mum and salmon for the daughter) look good so we ask for the same and then lamb chops with salad and potatoes as contorni. No pasta to spoil the appetite!

The starters arrive: 2 x salmon and no mussels. Ok, our order was ambigious so we just remind her that we ordered white wine too. The plates are huge and there isn't room for the water bottle on the small table, so I put it behind my chair.

One salmon only had been sufficient. The salmon isn't cooked, but is in a light marinade with delicious vegetables in a lemon dressing. It tastes good, but there is so much of it that in the long run the salmon gets a bit nauseous.

The lamb chops are well done, but not completely dry because they are marinated. The oven-baked potatoes are dry and dull. Helle gives in to temptation and gets a huge slice of strawberry cake while I make do with an espresso. The bill is 103 €.

The place has changed since we were here in 2001 and 2003. Mamma Botticella seems to be gone and the cook is new. Papa has dyed his hair black, the prices have sky-rocketed and no locals drop in for pasta. The restaurant has become fashionable and it is not a change for the better. Food is ok, but far to expensive. A disappointment.

In Via della Lungaretta three street musicians have attracted a huge audience, and no wonder because they sing and play very good indeed. Most street musicians are annoying at best, but these are excellent.

We wait 20 minutes for a tram and on the Argentina square we board the most tightly crammed #64 we have ever experienced. When someone needs to get off, those who stand on the footboard have to exit and get back on.

There is a new bartender at the hotel. Contrary to the old one this guy speaks a bit of English and he is really present and does his job.