The best thing about Ponza was returning to Terracina. We’d had a wonderful time but even pre-breakfast strolling by the sun cleaned sea and through the waking town couldn’t compare with sitting on deck watching the declining sun glowing and Terracina growing into view with its temple proudly perfectly poised above on a headland which had long been holy before the Romans came.
I didn’t voice my thoughts. I pushed my chair back and listened lazily. For the final time we had gathered in one of the two cafes which made an Italian Piazza of the old Forum. What had we enjoyed most? There seemed to be more ideas than people. For me it was clear. It was this town.
The old town of Terracina sits on a hill. Hidden beneath its twisting medieval alleyways were the remains of a prosperous Roman town, some are hidden still.
The scale of the destruction wrought by allied bombing during the war is truly terrifying. When the rubble was cleared much of the Roman city was revealed. The contrasts of Medieval and Roman, Closed and Open now make it a fascinating place to explore. We’d seen many of the highlights on our first afternoon after a morning climbing to and picnicking at the temple high above. Yet there’d still been plenty more to fill our last morning, indeed I’d also spent my entire free day around the town without exhausting its delights.
There are people living in a terrace which was built over two thousand years ago. Worship is still centred around the forum temple which is a church now. We’d walked on a tiny street built at a popes behest high upon the Roman walls. A lucky few of us sat late one evening at a bar, our feet upon the original forum pavement, watching a “Festa Romana” performed on the Appian Way and then tiny hot air balloons released to slowly rise like souls to the heavens before drifting out to the sea.
If I close my eyes I can see, hear and taste the Romans. If I close my eyes I can see, hear and taste the medieval world. If I close my eyes perhaps I can wake ten days ago and live this all again.