Sunday, April 22, 2012


The bubble lady at the Campo de Fiori has perfected the art of creating enormous bubbles with two sticks and three pieces of string and, of course, bubble solution (which she assures me is no secret concoction, "I just buy it"). I can't wait to get home and try it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Formia Hospitality

The Cistern of Formia, darkly pictured here, is the third largest in the world, a 7,000 cubic meter marvel of Roman engineering lost for well over a thousand years and then again from the mid-1800's to 1974 ("We Italians are very good at forgetting," our guide says). It gathered spring water from the mountain above town and distributed it throughout the area through lead pipes that are still usable (but happily for the health of the locals, not actually used).
The cistern was part of our tour of the city, which was followed by greetings from the deputy mayor (pictured with our very cool guide) and then by a sensational dinner prepared by a local cooking institute to reconstruct what the real medieval pilgrims ate.
So why is this the last blog post? I loved the local hospitality everywhere, but this is not a pilgrage walk or any sort of walk whatever (as opposed to a variety of made-up activities to while away the hours between pilgrim-on-parade activities), and the organizers can't be bothered to say what's happening or even what time breakfast is, even under cross-examination.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hail to the Pilgrims

The best that can be said for a downpour thunderstorm with wind and hail while you're walking is that it feels so good when it goes away. Of course, since we're pilgrims, everyone was upbeat and positive no matter how squishy our boots. Or something like that. But the morning cappuccino tasted awfully good after the sun came out.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mozzarella making

We went to a mozzarella factory or caseficio before breakfast. The promise of free cheese got me up that early, but the education about cheesemaking was even better (for example, you can use cow's milk to make an imitation of true mozzarella made from water buffalo milk, but milk from sheep or goats won't work at all). And yes, fresh unpasteurized mozzarella really does taste better.
By noon we had visited two elementary schools where the students welcomed us as prilgrims walking through their towns on our way to Rome. But they were much more interested in Brio, who is the most patient and good-natured donkey in the world.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Once again, the River Rapido

It took the American Army three tries to cross the River Rapido in WW II, because of the strong currents and poor plans badly executed. Our band of pilgrims was given the same assignment today because of someone's improbable belief that medieval pilgrims crossed the river on flatboats pulled along ropes. We got across on the first try with no casualties, despite planning that couldn't have been any better than the last crossing. It was pretty chaotic.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our solar-powered donkey

The 2012 pilgrimage of the Via Francigenia lungo Via Appia began this morning in Teano. Our group of 6 Norwegians, 4 Italians, 3 Danish, 3 Americans, 2 Germans, 2 Australians, and a Belgian living in England was joined by Rafael and his solar powered donkey Brio. Actually, I think the solar panel on Brio's back is to charge Rafael's tablet, not to power Brio. But solar power or not, Brio was a big hit with all of us and with the young girl at the pizzeria where we had lunch.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Developing tourism in South Lazio

Our effort to re-energize the Via Francigena lungo Via Appia kicked off this morning in Minturno with dancing by a local group, pictured with us pilgrims, and speeches by a number of local politicians, pictured below that. The dancers were very good. Tomorrow we walk, I hope.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mickey D's

Stopped off for a nightcap cappuccino on the way home from dinner A much more happening scene than the town's most popular restaurant where I had dinner (most popular based on the crowd at what we'd call lunch, which the Italians call dinner). Interesting how the core traditions stay the same (the Sunday night paseo) while the surface texture morphs with the times (Let's have a Big Mac). Even the McCafes seem to be making serious inroads (check out the old guy -- I.e., my contemporary -- on the left, enjoying his evening espresso at Mickey D's).

Sunday Nite in a Mediterranean Town

I'd forgotten the Sunday evening rituals. Stroll the main square, have a gelato. But sit down for dinner at a restaurant? Life is too short (and Italy's 23% unemployment doesn't help). So here I am, enjoying an absurdly cheap pizza and half liter of the house red in solitary splendor. But tomorrow the Via Appia! Actually, I'm on it now, or at least the contemporary Via Appia (in this area, the seaside main drag). Which seems to resonate with the locals about as much as as I ever notice the iconic Federal architecture outside my office window in Washington.

Auto spell checkers are a curse

Make that "Trainspotting at Termini," not "Transporting." Spell checkers ruin more messages than they rescue.

Transporting at Termini

Nothing interesting or elevating about flying the Atlantic on United, but a few hours to kill at Rome's Termini Rail Station is always entertaining. After breakfast at a fast food joint -- even rail station quick stops have good cappuccino in Italy -- I switched to an earlier train to Formia. The Palermo Regional seemed to be the longest haul train stopping in Formia. But they must assign equipment according to the destination and not the distance. Instead of the red bullet train, I got the ancient wheezer in the second picture (the train, not the guy, but they seemed to be something of a pair). Oh, well, I'll be in Formia in 45 minutes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

On The Via Appia

Birds chirp, frogs burp, spring hits, and I quit.  Quit pretending to be a productive member of society, at least. I'm off to Rome and then to Minturno do Marina on the coast near Naples.  From there I'll walk north on the old Via Appia back to Rome.  Apart from having to leave my flowering dogwood tree and about-to-flower lilies of the valley, what could be finer?