Monday, April 12, 2010

Santa Severa

On Saturday, I just couldn't bring myself to stay home and mope about. It was a perfect, breezy 20 degree day. My bike called to me.

I'd been meaning to go over to Santa Severa, check out the castle, scope out the beach. So I just put my bike on the train, and five minutes down the tracks...

Oh, my! Did I find what I was looking for?

You can judge.

There is an outer court, with a car park and the inevitable bar. There was a sign there that said you could get wifi, if you just couldn't bring yourself to leave your computer at home.

Entrance portal. Note papal tiara over the door.

The cat tribes were in evidence.

Ye Oldie Giftie Shoppie, with loudspeakers playing Enya, if I recall,

and some of the egregious rubbish they sell in it.

For some reason, the Italians don't think of this as weird.

Inside the guardhouse courtyard. The columns date to the Imperial period, and are an example of the medievals using Ancient Stuff as ready-made building materials.

From our bulging "what have the Romans ever done for us?" files. Papal coats of arms

and carved cardinals' hats were all over the castle, inside and out.

These kinds of stairs are all over central Italy in old buildings. There are lots of them at the Vatican and St. Peter's. They always make me smile. Like a good Canadian, I'm very practical-minded. Every time I see a set of these wide, sloping steps, I think the same thing... "But what use would that be when it ices over?"


The inner courtyard. The big round things were for grinding grain. You put a wooden beam through the square hole in the middle, and hooked it up to a turny-thing in the middle and to a bunch of donkeys at the ends, and they just plodded along all day.

Santa Severa castle is a big museum complex with lots of offices of archaeological people doing important excavations, classes for people to learn all about medieval and Roman things, a museum of ancient maritime stuff, and places where people do all sorts of interesting research. It is a pretty lively place, in fact, so a lot of the inside buildings, while extremely old in some cases, are still in use. This sign attracted my attention. It advertises fresco painting courses. The first Saturday of the month, you can pay 30 Euros and go learn how to make a fresco.

I couldn't resist popping in and taking a look. The lady was very nice and told me, in English, all about the day-long workshop. The bowls behind her are filled with the powdered natural materials that are mixed with water to make the paint.

The very bright blue and yellow are not used, since they are modern synthetics, but are displayed to make comparisons with the real thing.

There was a workshop going on as I went in.

This one was the instructor's. I was sent away with much encouragement to come back, a pamphlet and a little chocolate. Just when you think you can't stand living in this weird parallel universe any more, the Italians all of a sudden are incredibly nice to you, and you feel all bad for thinking they're really alien pod people.

When you leave the inner courts, you go outside and follow a wide avenue to the beach,

which used to be lined with waving palm trees. The Red Palm Weevil seems to have killed between a third to half the palm trees in this area.

The keep. Right on the waterfront.

The beach that had no end. I walked and walked, must have been at least two miles before getting to anything that looked like the end. And then it wasn't. There was more.

When I was a kid, I used to go to Parksville and Qualicum beaches with my parents and grandparents, quite a lot. In my experience, there just aren't any better beaches than those in the whole wide world. But Santa Severa comes pretty close, and Qualicum doesn't have a 13th century castle on it, now does it?

I walked and walked, and got to the place I thought must be the end, but it wasn't. There was more.

The next bit, which went on for another mile or so, was this, where they have built big rocky breakwaters with little gaps between them to let the sea in so people can sit on the sand or in their deck chairs and roast themselves, and take little splashy dips in the knee deep water. The water gets up to about chest height right at the rocks, and I'll bet there are lots of interesting sea creatures there. I'm going to be buying some snorkelling stuff this year and check it out.

Finally, when you're about this far away from the castle (maybe two miles? More?) the beach sort of ends. Mostly.

Then you get these low red-earth bluffs, with rocky, pebbly bits.

With lots of nice little nooks to sit out of the wind and the water coming in over the rocks, so you can explore the tide pools, and splash around.

I climbed up to check out this abandoned old house. It looked quite spooky, actually.

Lots of interesting wildlife in the grassy part over looking the bluffs. I wish I could get my camera, which is highly satisfactory in every other way, to do good close-ups of the insects I keep finding. This was the clearest one I could get of the two beetles...err...doing what beetles do in the spring, on this lovely marigold.

Castle-house up close.

A rustic seat under the spreading fig trees, surrounded by white flag irises.

The prickly pears all seemed to sport these little decorations. Wasps making very tiny nests, big enough only for about twenty eggs. And apparently the adults sleeping behind them. They were not bothered at all by my presence.

I'm thinking of organising a Saturday day trip to Santa Severa. Picnic, beach gear, folding chairs, snorkelling stuff, etc.


Kathleen from Ottawa said...

That's gorgeous! The whole Santa Severa complex looks really neat---and the fresco painting lessons would be totally fun!

I'm amazed that big house is abandoned. It would have a really spectacular view! I wonder it might be for sale? Hey, you did say you were looking for a new place, eh?

PCM said...

Is the inscription about Pope Innocent XII somewhat amusing or am I reading this wrong? The monument was put up because he stopped and ate lunch there on the way to Civitavecchia (Centumcellae)? (The Wikipedia page for the place says it became a free port in the same year.) Sort of like a "George Washington slept here" thing in the US, I guess.

Great pictures, indeed. Many thanks.

Andrew Cusack said...

I dislike endless beaches. I prefer smaller ones with more curvature. There are some EXCELLENT beaches around Cape Town.

Anonymous said...

What train did you ride to get to Santa Severa beach? It looks wonderful, I am going to Rome in a month and would love to visit this place!