with Melissa Brown
April 19, 2009
Melissa Brown and I left early Sunday morning for a trip down the Tiber River. We brought sleeping bags to stay out overnight in case we couldn’t find a place to keep the boat.
We pushed off with the help of Mathew Montieth and Jeff Williams,
and the current took us quickly under Ponte Sublicio.
Italians walking over the bridge shouted ‘Buona Passeggiata’ as we floated away.
Mathew and Jeff took pictures as we passed (all the pictures from the bank are theirs). They followed us for miles, running ahead and stopping to shoot.
When we looked up at each bridge going South, Giovanni would appear – shooting video.
He was driving down in the truck, seeing us along. I had to wonder if he was worried about us, after what happened last time he took me and the boat to the water.
It was nice to look up at the banks and see our friends keeping track,
and I was worried about something that I knew was coming up.
We would have to sneak quietly by a fire rescue boat parked along the shore,
and clear a bank of rapids after Ponte Testaccio,
all under the towering ‘Gasometro’ (one of my favorite structures in Rome).
It is one of the images I carved into the surface of my boat.
We made it through the rough water without a hitch, and just as we breathed a sigh of relief,
the fire boat left its station and came speeding toward us.
Its not the first time I have been stopped by the authorities, but I never had to do it in Italian.
I explained that we were traveling from Rome to Ostia in this boat I made, taking pictures. At least I think that is what I said, and he seemed to understand.
He told us where the rapids were and gave us directions for which side of the river to stay. He said he thought we would be there in about two hours. I didn’t want to say that we thought it would be more like two days.
He told us to call if we needed any help.
Soon after, we floated by an old man sitting by the water close to a raft. “Morta per secura in questa barca!” he shoulted. (You will surley die in that boat!)
Then the sky grew dark,
and it started to rain.
We pulled the boat up to explore a small tributary to the Tiber.
I wanted to look at something I had passed on my bike a few months ago:
an ancient Roman bridge. Here is some of what remains from the Via Salaria, an old salt road connecting Rome and the rest of the world to the salt marshes out by Ostia.
For some reason I found it harder to believe that the river was still there than the bridge.
Has this stream really held its course for almost 2000 years?
The rain started to come down heavily.
We passed a large overflow drain pouring foamy water into the river. It smelled a little like a sewer.
And suddenly we notice something moving in the water.
A large school of fish was swimming with their mouths open just above the water.
Downriver there was a group of docks with people working – unloading or loading something.
We pulled our boat up at the nieboring dock. It looked like a bar.
Actually, it was a nice restaurant.
The placemat told about the history of fishing on the Tiber.
We ordered a fish. Could this be one of those we just saw eating out of the sewer?
Soon we got the answer. We were introduced to the owner of the dock, Cesare – a born and bred Roman fisherman.
He explained how his fishing weirs work to get fish out of the Tiber; a method of extraction that he has developed, different from anywhere in the world.
He talked about the behavior of the fish at the bottom of the river. He seemed to know everything about the bottom of the river.
Melissa had to translate most of it to me, but he told about the old Roman things he has found down there. It seems that the river churns up relics through the ages, and as he spoke we began to think of Rome as a giant landfill, washed through periodically by the Tiber River.
In fact there were some things he has found right here in the fish tank.
The owner of the restaurant reached past the lobster and gave a Roman pottery shard to Melissa as a gift.
We packed up our things and secured the boat.
A woman we met at the restaurant had offered to drive us back to Rome.
“You can keep the boat here and come back when the weather is better.” she said.
Thank you Monica, Annalaura, Cesare, and the Anaconda Restaraunt!
↑ Return to Top of Page ↑