March 30, 2007

Sharing a hot tub with Trajan

Last Saturday I had a history lesson -- not that you have to go far for one in Italy.

My husband and I dropped off our son at the Fiumicino airport at 7:45 and headed north to the hot thermal waters of “La Ficoncella” outside of Civitavecchia, named for the large fig tree that stands at its center. We were worried that it wouldn’t be open yet but there were already quite a few people “taking of the waters”, a mixture of locals and overnight campers. While the nearby Terme di Saturnia are elegant and expensive, this little spot costs .52 euro a car and .52 euro a person (the old 1,000 lire). In terms of creature comforts you get what you pay for (like the hospital), but the water is the same (like the surgeons).

While soaking away ski injuries and cellulite with our fellow bathers -- many of whom could have stepped out of Fellini / Sordi films -- we learned that the Roman emperor, Trajan, sent his soldiers here to cure their battle wounds while the upper class soaked in the marble lined baths nearby (now the archeological site of the Terme di Taurine.) In the place of battle wounds, we met a 30-something Italian soaking his numerous motocross injuries (including a recent head trauma and coma) -- driving about four hours from Cretara with his camper for a weekend. Even the orthopedic surgeon for the Rome soccer team sends players here to recover -- must be pretty special water indeed.

The grounds had been privately owned before WWII but were subsequently bequeathed to the people (cittadini) NOT the city (comune) of Civitavecchia. It had been run by volunteers for some time (lots of discussion about how many years) before being taken over by a cooperativa that still runs the bar, parking lot and takes care of cleaning the tubs, one each day. A homemade rustic affair -- no massages, facials, mud baths and such, just the curative effects of timeless water.

In Italy, history runs along just below the surface, bubbling up into every aspect of life. The motocross driver, Trajan’s soldiers back from battle and I all enjoyed the same ancient stream. The past and the present. The future can wait.

A domani,

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