Monday, June 24, 2013

Italy - A Day in Sperlonga

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Beachside wandering in Sperlonga.
Tuesday, October 18th
This morning we strolled through a pleasant kilometer of shallow waves along the shoreline to reach Sperlonga. The village itself is enchanting. Narrow alleys and stairways form a maze past multilevel homes. I can't help but wonder if elder Italians find the stairs difficult to navigate. We thread our way, finding an outdoor market. We load our backpack with fresh tomatoes, garlic, fruit, enough necessities to get us through another day.
We've stuck upon an incredible food duo: Asiago cheese and flat bread, much like focaccia - dense with olive oil slathered on top. The loaf is an incredible 18" x 10", but with our simple hand gestures and smiles, vendors move the knife along the loaf and will cut to desired size.
I tried calling home with an Italian phone card. I desperately wanted to speak with my parents. It had been two months, since arriving in Paris, when we last talked. Unfortunately, yet again I had to leave a message. The farther eastward we travel, the more expensive it is to call the United States. That, and the time difference, of which I've lost track, makes it harder to understand the best time for contact. Is it now 6,7, or 8 hours difference? I worry, especially, about my aging grandparents.
Grande Cappuccino--the only way to get a mugful sized cup of coffee with milk, steamed milk!
A drawing from our journal.
After errands, we stop and order a "grande cappuccino" - the only way to get a mugful size cup of coffee with milk, and the milk is always steamed. Wonderful!

Today was a day of firsts: the first day I wore my bathing suit and first swim in the Mediterranean. We relaxed on the beach, using the grey Gore Tex tarp, normally reserved to cover the bikes, in place of a towel. I buried a lemon soda in the sand. We kept a food bag handy for munching. Unfortunately, our hunger didn't understand it was a rest day.  
The cliffside village of Sperlonga. A drawing from our journal.
October warmth stifles our desire to move south into the Naples region. We stall for a day. The metronome of surf is relaxing. Wind diffuses the low rumble of aircraft. The sea glistens. Three young blond-haired naked boys chase each other up and down the beach. Andy tries to teach me how to body surf, except the waves are a trifle small.
We discuss advancing eastward as far as Turkey before returning to London, where we'll need to acquire visas in preparation for the Asian leg. However, with only another month before European departure, Italy and Greece's empty beaches, not to mention ancient ruins, could easily satisfy our wanderlust.
Grotto of Tiberius. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Later, we meander to a nearby museum, housing a collection of Roman antiquities, the pieces extracted from a seaside grotto. The statues once surrounded an oval pool along with rectangular fish ponds. Spring fed and saltwater seepage combined to fill the tanks. Andy and I walked among oversized curly-haired Roman heads, limbs on tables, a foot twice life-size. The collection was a reconstruction; predecessors had broken the statues to use as fill. Afterward, we walked over the grounds and observed 2-foot-high stone walls, also the remains of a palace, a guard station for wartime, and the water-filled oval and rectangular grotto pools. How odd, I thought, to unearth a single foot, a hand, or a head. I marveled at a big toenail. So thick and life-like, even 2000 years ago.
Replica of Oddyseus blinding the cyclops. Sperlonga Archaeological Museum.  Photo credit: Virtual Tourist

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