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A. Laurentian, Remarks during a Walk from Rome to Ostia

The Gentleman's Magazine 1817, p. 511-513


At eight o'clock on Tuesday, the 2d of April (1816) we left Rome with our Friend - to walk to Ostia. (...)

Approaching Ostia the road is carried through an immense and horrid marsh, peopled by frogs and fowl in the greatest abundance, and the whole country is flat and dismal, dark and melancholy. We were much disappointed with the appearance of our osteria, particularly as we had been informed that it would probably turn out to be one of the best on our route. Every thing about it was filthy and squalid beyond imagination; neither did we meet with civility, or any thing like a desire to make the best of circumstances. After much difficulty, we were told that beds should be provided for us in the barracks: as for our host, he had none. We ordered some macaroni to be prepared, and, in the mean time, strolled out towards the embouchure of the Tiber, through the ruins of ancient Ostia. These are very extensive, and of a most melancholy appearance, because they are left altogether to themselves, and suffer no interference from modern edifices. We could easily trace out the site of the Amphitheatre, and the scattered columns in its neighbourhood were innumerable. We rested to take a sketch of the country, in the course of which employment we suffered something from the cold. Fortunately certain ancient ornaments, which we conjectured might have been the pinnacles of temples, presented themselves, which we sacrilegiously arranged as nine-pins, and were speedily restored to life and animation by this most classical of games. The field forming our gymnasium, was filled with herds of buffaloes, which we were afterwards informed, I know not how truly, were kept entirely for the use of the Jews.

A good appetite at Ostia will scarcely be deemed a blessing, yet we procured some tolerable macaroni, and after resting ourselves for an hour, ascended a high tower in the neighbourhood of our hotel, which commands a view over the whole country.

We were amply rewarded for our trouble. The view was delightful and uninterrupted. Towards the North was the country through which we had marched, the view terminated by the mighty cupola of St. Peter's. In nearly an opposite direction lay expanded the mouth of the Tiber, and the sea. Nearer at hand was the Fiume Morté, now a marsh, but formerly making part of the bed of the river; and near it the Delta Island, formed by the divided streams of the Tiber. (...) The sound of vespers proceeded from the neat church of the village below, while the sun was setting with all his glory in the West.

The scene was touching, and his heart is stone,
That feels not at this sight, and feels at none.

We proceeded to take up our quarters at the Caserne, where we found, for our consolation, that our beds consisted of three filthy and vermin-eaten mattresses, with one equally squalid blanket to each. Sheets there were none, though at Ostia we had expected to find our best beds. At the other osterias on our route we thought it very problematical whether we should get any. I passed a miserable night, suffering intolerably from the unnumerable tenants of my mattress, but much more from the tuneful noses of my two fellow-travellers. Towards morning I got half an hour's repose. We arose early, and the people of the house had the modesty to ask us 15 Pauls for our beds! Such an instance of abominable impudence, as well as rascality, would scarcely be met with in any other country than Italy. We gave them what we thought amply sufficient, rejoicing to escape from beneath their roof.


[jthb - 19-Jan-2007]