Monday, 3 February 2014

Flushed away

It is fine to make plans, but the winter weather is always unpredictable in Italy. It is fine to hire a car, but you may not get where you had planned. You may also get more Indiana Jones experience than you expect from a simple visit to a museum storage in order to check some finds. I was reminded how we humans are on the mercy of the elements, when the winter rains started properly on Friday early morning with a bang. The lightning hit to a tree just metres from where I stayed. High on a hill over the city of Rome.

It was not this bad, but I saw submerged cars (image: NDTV)

The trip to collect my hired vehicle was just a start of an adventure. By the time half six it had been rained heavily for hours and the streets outside the institute looked like pools. Therefore, I phoned a taxi from the local taxi ranked and headed to the main railway station – the best place to collect your car nowadays in central Rome. I had to wait for the collection point to open, since all the trains were late and the man in the office did come with one. The car hire hall had turned to the safe haven of the street sellers, so I was standing there with a large number of immigrants and station security. I realised that it may be tuff to get out of Rome and back.

There was no point of planning too hard anymore. I could see, if I managed to get out of the town and the people I was going to meet could get to work themselves. When driving across the city centre I could see that the bicycle ways along the Tiber were already covered with the flowing waters of the river and I just passed the check point when the road that passes the Olympic stadium was to be closed near the underpass of the Via Cassia.

Most of the time there are no ditches by the main roads, so the Via Flaminia I was following was turning into pools and rapids in places. I could see why the roads around Rome would desperately need resurfacing in places when the potholes littered the rapids. Although I tried to take the utmost care and avoid driving into them, I could not see those underneath the pools or rapids and hit some nasty bumps along the way. The radio was open, so I could hear, which roads were closed around Rome. If only I could have been certain which one is Via Due Ponti, so I could avoid it on the way back.

I did only the most urgent tasks in Civita Castellana. Not the least because the archaeologist there had to lift my boxes from the highest shelves and his breathing was getting heavier and heavier all the time. A colleague I had hoped to see in Nepi has to wait for another visit, since it took such a long time to get out of Rome that there was no hope I could meet him before the afternoon. In addition, I wanted to drive back when it was light and before any rush hour, so that I could see where I was going in the case there was to be any redirections. My friend had already informed me about the landslide on the Via Cassia near Formello that still blocks that road to a degree today I am writing this. Suddenly, it was wiser to face the pools and rapids of the open Via Flaminia than try to approach Rome from the east. I also had to ditch my plans to have a nice lunch in the countryside; just popped to a Spar supermarket to buy some bread, ham and juice and had a quick parking lot munch.

The following day on my field trip to the southern Lazio the sun was shining all day. However, on Sunday the weather forecast was predicting heavy rain for the afternoon, so I had to forget to see some Republican colonies on the coast. Just not worth getting stuck outside Rome on a short visit.

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