The only day of the year when Italian church bells do not ring is Good Friday, which was yesterday. Cities were quiet yesterday. In Rome we visited the smallest church, in Trastevere, rarely open, with the smallest bell tower, and were mesmerized by the Gregorian Chant sung by the Knights of Saint John, who were keeping an all day and all night vigil in this magical 11th century structure.
Just across the river, we explored the splendidly organized new Jewish Museum of Rome and talked about Rome’s river and history with one of our favorite docent guides, whom many travelers have liked so much.
And we stopped to collect Easter Eggs at one of the many interesting family owned stores by the Piazza of the Turtle Fountain, to our children the best fountain of all.
Then, after a visit to Volpetti, at Via Marmorata 47, we returned home to sample “pastiera”. This traditional Easter cake, originally from Naples, infused with the perfumes of spring, is so profoundly associated with southern Italian Easter celebration that to miss it would be unthinkable. Orange water is an essential component, as are ricotta, candied orange and citron, and the unmistakable presoaked grain.
Today is Ostia Antica, and a visit to this remarkable site, half an hour from Rome, is our frequent Saturday-before- Easter tradition. We have visiting family with us, and will take a picnic and use one of our guides here whom will help our family group to understand better the daily life of regular, working class Romans, a concept so well illustrated by Ostia. We’ll spend time in the market area with its wonderful mosaics discussing the economy of the empire and the materials and commodities that made their way through here every day. We will also visit the insulae (apartment houses) that characterize Ostia and visit an ancient bakery, bar and and restaurant. And as family tradition dictates, we will gather poppies and daisies and make spring time crowns for our hair. We always picnic in the same spot, with its marbled walls and in the company of two Roman ladies, and tomorrow’s posting will document it.
Ostia is much closer and easier to visit than Pompei. While it takes up to three hours to get to Pompeii from Rome, Ostia is a quick 25-minute train ride. Many scholars feel that Ostia is a better example of a real, working class town than Pompeii and for that reason too preferable. Visiting Ostia has a lower carbon footprint than visiting Pompeii, and given the crowds at the latter and general “undiscovered” feeling of the former, it’s a more enjoyable, enriching experience.
Our pastiera is in the picnic basket. We’re off ! A very happy pre-Easter day to all !