York & Borgorose

Alba Fucens
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Field trip! Dario and Monica wanted to show us the nearby deserted Roman city of Alba Fucens yesterday, so we drove over and had a good look at it. Founded in the 4th Century B.C., it used to be home for some 25,000 people and sits astride the main east-west route across the peninsula here. It contains all the usual Roman-city aspects, such as baths, temples, amphitheater, shop-lined roads, forum, etc.

Just to the south, the expansive present-day, farm-filled valley used to contain Italy's third-largest lake. The Romans drained most of it, though, over the course of a decade by exploiting tens of thousands of slaves to dig a tunnel through the surrounding mountains. This created more arable land for the rich landowners of the time, and drastically changed the climate of the area. What the Romans did not completely drain was completed in the mid-19th Century.

Before we reached Alba Fucens, Dario and Monica (and everyone else in the cars) went way out of their way to try to help me find a workable method to get to Pompeii for a day or two. We visited a couple rental car agencies (one had no vehicles, the other turned out to be prohibitively expensive), the train station, the bus station, etc. But none proved feasible given the timing and scheduling necessary to get there and then back to Rome for the appointment at the Capitoline Museum. It may still be possible to work out something later in the week. If not, it will just have to wait another trip.

Last night we drove down to a nearby town having its annual festival. They had a dozen lighted temporary gateways lining the road up to the town square, where an Italian band (led by a has-been female vocalist) had their bass turned up so high that my internal organs jumped around with every beat. Of course (!) the people in our group wanted to go stand in the fourth row, so I didn't hang out at the performance too long, because my insides would have been jellified in short order.

Instead, I wandered through the booths that were selling porcina (roasted pig -- and they all had big roasted pigs in their food trailers cooking up where you could see them), cotton candy, gaudy plastic toys, cheap clothing and jewelry, and the like -- all the same kind of stuff you find at a small fair in the States. And just as unappealing.

The fireworks after midnight, though, were the main attraction. This little town of 600 puts on a show that draws thousands for the night. They had one of the best pyrotechnical displays that I have ever experienced, including some types I've never seen before. Definitely a good one, that.

We got home to star-filled sky not possible to see in LA, with the Milky Way running clear across it. A few fireflys (also not seen in LA) darted about as well. And best of all, the extremely rude and annoyingly loud group of 30-some high-schoolers here for some sort of Church Camp have left! It was finally possible for everyone here to get a decent night's sleep!

Today, on Sunday, the plans are to hike up to a lake in the mountains. Dario and Monica are out picking up Angela, a new American participant for the project. We'll see what happens when they all get back.

The main part of Alba Fucens, as it exists today; the rest of the city occupied three surrounding hilltops.

One of the town's main streets; small shops, including a bar, lined the area to the left.

The amphitheater's still in good shape, despite the passage of 2000 years.

Part of the area of the former lake, drained to make farmland.

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