Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Appian Way: I did it my way!



I’m just back from four glorious days in Rome, and I'm reminded once again why I love the place so much. Poor Raymond
was stuck in a conference the whole time, but I tagged along to play, to explore Rome MY WAY! The introvert’s way, and that meant a very long walk on the Queen of Highways, the Ghost Road, better known as the Appian Way. Living in Britain we know a thing or two about Roman roads, with more than a few of our byways and motorways having been built on top of Roman roads. The Romans did roads real good! Built in 312 BC, the Apian Way connected Rome to Brindisi, in Italy’s boot heel, some 350 miles away. It was originally built for military purposes. Wasn’t everything?

I once spent a fabulous afternoon in High Gate Cemetery in London. The Appian Way reminded me of that outing, only with more warmth and more sunshine. Places of burial and the way a culture deals with its dead are reflections of the culture itself. When High Gate was built churchyards were so overly full that the stench and the spread of disease were serious problems. What to do with the dead is a major issue in urban areas, so cemeteries were built outside the cities to ease overcrowding in churchyards, but the cities grew up around them. Cemeteries are a relative modern solution.

Now, imagine if the burial solution had, instead, been to allow people to bury their dead along the main motorways and freeways. That was the Roman solution in the time of the Caesars, when burial was not allowed inside the city. The Appian Way is a living monument to the dead. The road begins at the gate of San Sebastiano in the old Aurelian walls with a series of catacombs just beyond. They were all closed the day I went, which was fine. I was there for the walk. The first ten miles of the Appian Way have been made into a national park, and those ten miles are chockablock with ancient monuments, mausoleums and ruins of villas. Not only was the Appian Way the place for burying the dead, but it was prime real estate for building your villa. Beyond the first few kilometers there’s no traffic other than the rich and entitled, who now have their own villas along the Appian Way. Those you can’t see because they’re all set well back from the cobbled road out of sight of the hoi poloi. 

I stopped at the Villa and Circus of Maxentius to picnic on the sandwich I'd bought at a cafe near the Appian Way Visitor Center. After spending way too much time exploring the mausoleum and the circus, I realized there was no way I could manage any real walking if I stopped for a detailed look-see at every monument and ruin along the way, and it was the feel of the road I wanted. In a way, it was a road trip ancient Roman style. I’m a huge fan of aqueducts and after studying the map I'd picked up at the visitors center, I made an executive decision to walk all the way to the aqueduct at the seven-mile mark. Of course seven miles out meant a seven miles return to where I could catch a bus back into the city. Never mind that! I'm a pit bull when I decide to do something, and I had my mind set on aqueducts.

My choice was a good one. Both sides of the road are literally lined with monuments, broken statuary, and even the odd remains of stone coffins. Some of the more important monuments were on the map, but most were not. The Appian Way is like the Forum and the Paletine in a straight line, but without the heaving crowds and the city noise. Since most people were more interested in the catacombs and the monuments just beyond, I shared the whole Appian way with only a few other intrepid walkers and runners and the occasional cyclist -- oh, and a goat herder with a large flock of goats, bells tinkling, kids bleating as they crossed the cobbled road in front of me. 

An erotica writer alone with her thoughts on a long walk in the beautiful Italian sunshine would have been enough to
inspire without the bloke who had, perhaps found riding his bike along the rough vibration of the cobbles a bit too stimulating. (I kid you not! What are the chances?) I figured he either thought he was alone or his situation was too urgent for him to notice that he had an audience. I suppose it was possible he was just an exhibitionist. That was all right, since I’m a bit of a voyeur, albeit a shy one. I smiled to myself and pretended not to see. Really, rough cobbled or not, who could blame the man for taking matters into his own hands on such a beautiful day. There’s something very stimulating about a nice long walk in the sunshine. I tucked that little scene away in the back of my mind for future use, and you’re welcome to borrow it if it inspires.

I made it to the aqueduct, and not a step further. Oh I was tempted to see what was along miles eight, nine, and ten. I was tempted to go all the way, but seven miles out meant seven miles back to the
bus, and I was in serious need of espresso. Besides the walk was a stretch for me. It was the longest I’d done since my knee surgery in February. I made it back no worse for the wear, giving myself a mental high-five as I arrived just in time to catch the bus back to Rome with a Danish couple who had been leap-frogging me for the last five miles. Immediately upon my arrival at Piazza della Repubblica where our hotel was, I found a café and had a celebratory espresso. In fact, I made it a double -- being too embarrassed to ask for a triple.

Later, after I had re-caffeinated, drank a gallon of water and lingered beneath the shower massage, I enjoyed wine and spaghetti carbonara in an open air café, while I watched the lights of the Eternal City blink on around the Piazza della Repubblica, with its fountain and it’s spotlights on the ruins of Diocletian’s Bath. It was one of those days that felt, larger than life, as I often find days do when my only job is simply to pick up my feet and put them down one step at a time while I watch and observe and let myself be acted upon by what I see. Those days stand out. Those days are precious because they make me feel up to the task, they make me feel like I can do anything. They open me to possibilities, and there’s nothing more precious to a writer.

3 comments:

  1. Another great travel piece, K.D.! Seven miles after knee surgery is impressive. (Or was it 14? I can't tell exactly where you picked up the bus.)

    And to be treated to a bit of an erotic display, to boot. Sounds like a wonderful afternoon. ;^)

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  2. Thank you, Lisbabet! It was a fantastic day. And yes, it was 14 altogether. I was very happy for the bus back. :-) the erotic display was definitely an added plus. No doubt will be showing up in a story at some point. ;-)

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