On The Road Again

“O Tiber! Father Tiber!
  To whom the Romans pray,
A Roman’s life, a Roman’s arms,
  Take thou in charge this day!”  
So he spake, and, speaking, sheathed
  The good sword by his side,
And, with his harness on his back,
  Plunged headlong in the tide.
This Horatius at the Bridge by Lord Macauly and it is here because I stayed at the Tiber Hotel on Wednesday night. i am now in Hong kong and feeling very jet lagged as I write this post.

I am aslo having a load of trouble with this new WordPress format and will change it tomorrow when i am more awake !

The drive from Martina Franca to Rome was  shall we say exciting as always. The A16 from Bari to Naples is two lane on either side so makes for some fun antics on the drive. It is more complicated at the moment with every viaduct in Campania having one lane closed for strengthening. Many of you will remember the horrific coach crash on July 28th when 38 people died. The coach plunged over a bridge and dropped 30 metres ( 98 feet ) into a ravine. A few days after the coach owners were arrested as were the road construction company that had apparently not carried out strengthening works in 2005 that they had charged Campania for. I read in August that the coach driver was not over the drink drive limit but hear no more about the construction company. However given that every viaduct is now undergoing work I guess we can assume it wasn’t done before.

The A1 from Naples to Rome goes the way the Allied armies hoped to go in 1943 straight up the west side of the Apennines . There are few exits and is boring motoring. Ours was enlivened somewhat by the fuel low gauge suddenly coming on when the tank gauge showed a quarter full. Quite soon the needle started to race down towards empty and the next services and exit was 57 kms away. So i went from racing past everything ( almost) in sight to crawling along on the inside lane while everything roared back past us. At 70 kph in 5th gear we made the fuel stop. However the delay put us on the southern around Rome  beltway after dark and at the height of the rush hour. Not for the faint hearted let me say and leave it at that.

The Hotel Tiber is a brand new hotel almost on the beach at Fiumincino and is functional. We thene managed to commit the cardinal sin of tourist abroad when we went out for dinner and wandered into a fish restaurant alongside a harbour. The sin was compounded when they said that there were no menus and hence no prices. “I make you something and you enjoy” said the chef. Wine I enquired vino della casa. No he said and took me to a cellar. Now this is when the wise man thanks him and says sorry we made a mistake and heads for the door. Did i ? Not a chance. Luckily my choice of wine at least quickly convinced him this might not be someone for fleecing as i insisted on a cheap ( kind of) Sicilian wine. I then insisted that we were happy with Spaghetti Vongole and luckily he gave up on us a crowds of Rome politicians arrived to order seafood like it was going out of fashion .

I have never seen such a demonstration of conspicuous consumption and it was all paid for by the Italian tax payer. Plate after plate of oysters, prawns, lobsters and fish was carried out of the kitchen with bottle after bottle of Prosecco . A few clams were €16 so you can imagine the bills later that evening. Outside drivers ( there are 670,000 on the Italian State payroll ) sat in cars ( over 900,000 on the payroll ) waiting to whisk them back to their houses in Rome. As a contrast we had coffee and grappa that night in a small fisherman’s bar full of Arab and Sri Lankan migrants as well as a few local Italians . They were playing fruit machines and buying lottery tickets

To add insult to injury I was up all night as one of the vongule got it’s own back on me. I won’t tell you what I wished for for those politicians many of whom ate them too.

I therefore spent a quiet day on Thursday waiting for the flight feeling sorry for myself and receiving scant sympathy from Geraldine. There is little to do in Fiumicino and The Tiber tossed us out at this new hoteliers time of 1100 hrs just like it tossed young Horatius back out all those years ago.

Click here to read the whole poem. I read it at primary school and like so many of those poems we had to learn can still quote lots of it. Lars Porsena  who started the war with Rome in the poem came from Clusium as I learnt by heart years ago. However I stopped a few years ago in Chiusi near Florence for a night and was delighted to find that Chiusi was in fact Clusium. the poem came alive for me again. But then I fell asleep with jet lag zzzzzzz

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