Day 61 - Tarquinia

11 February 2022

Sleep in. Wake up in Italy. Blue skies. We decided last night to head north for the first week. Rome on the weekend was expensive. If we meet Ali and Nuria in Modena, we might as well head in that direction. Further north in Bergamo is our good friend Keleigh. Maybe we can head there by train?

Civitavecchia is a working port. There are six huge ferries docked. It looks like an interesting place. I am torn between staying here another night to explore and leaving today.

We are keen to get back on the bikes. Our first ride is only 20 km away. Tarquinia. We are heading toward Orbitello and the National Park it bridges. Too much riding in one day. Tarquinia was an easy first ride. We needed some time. A few weeks ago Shell took a cactus spine to her finger. It is now infected. Badly. She needs a Doctor. 

“Though the doctors treated him, let his blood, and gave him medications to drink, he nevertheless recovered.” ― Leo Tolstoy

It is great to be riding again. I didn’t realise how much I missed it. From the beach to farmland. Horses, donkeys, pigs, and sheep. The dogs seem smaller, the cars a little faster. I like Italy already.

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy” ― Giuseppe Verdi

We hit Tarquinia. It sits on top of a hill. The old town still has a wall surrounding it. I thought Sapin had history. This place is ancient. We drop our bikes and head off to find a Doctor.

We can’t seem to find a GP clinic. There are not many and when we arrive they don’t really exist. The lady who checked us in suggested the hospital. I thought it was a translation issue. Maybe she meant the hospital?

We head to the hospital. After some discussion directed, pronto, to emergency. I must have underestimated the seriousness of the injury. We get buzzed in. I get told to leave. Shell is fortunate enough to have an English doctor finishing her shift on hand. Excellent English. Excellent Italian. She stays with Shell and writes her prescription for antibiotics.

The kindness of strangers. We have been fortunate on this journey to encounter people who want to help. Mean people are few and far between. Often German, based on my one experience with a German person so far. He might not have been German.

“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don't know and trusting them with your life.” ― Paul Theroux

Off to the pharmacy. Which is shut at 4.00 pm on a Friday. We wander the city. It is beautiful. Ancient. There is a necropolis here and an archaeological museum with what was unearthed. We grab some gelato, cliché, and head for the museum.

We see a sign for a COVID clinic. We follow. We are getting close to requiring our third shot. Europe is making noises about it being a requirement for travel. Some urgency. The signs wind us through the old town. We get to the clinic. They are very receptive to the idea.

Bureaucracy wins out in the end. There is no way to register the injection without the European COVID Green Card. There is no way for Australians to get a European Green Card. This brings us to another issue. The Australian International COVID Vaccination Certificate does not work in Europe. Never has. Australia issues its citizens abroad with a document that does not work. Regardless, this third vaccination seems to be problematic.

“Dear Government... I'm going to have a serious talk with you if I ever find anyone to talk to.” ― Stieg Larsson

We head back to the museum. The lady requests our COVID QR for access. We know it does not work, but in Spain and Portugal, the vaccination information is enough. Not in Italy, it seems. The lady cannot scan the codes, she will not let us in. There is a lot being lost in translation. She gets a colleague. It is all explained. They reluctantly let us in.

Will this be an issue in Italy?

There are two large Etruscan cemeteries reflect different types of burial practices from the 9th to the 1st century BC, and bear witness to the achievements of Etruscan culture. One is the necropolis at Tarquinia. Ancient. UNESCO listed.

The whole necropolis of Tarquinia, also known as Monterozzi, contains 6,000 graves cut into the rock. Covering 129.36 ha, it is one of the most extensive complexes known. Tarquinia is famous for its 200 painted tombs, the earliest of which date from the 7th century BCE. These paintings provide the only major testimony of classic artwork of pre-Roman times existing in the Mediterranean basin.

3000 years old. First stop is the National Etruscan Museum. I don’t really have words for the ancient things in this ancient building. Ancient things have always left me speechless.

We missed lunch. We head to La Quadra for dinner. The building is beautiful. It is our first meal in Italy, breakfast excluded. Tagliare La Quandra, a cheese and salumi board. So much more than that. Ravioli Campidanese from Sadinia, ricotta, saffron and lemon. La Nostra Cabonara, sounds cliché but it is a regional dish of Lazio. All superb. Washed down with a Chianti Classico. We are only 40 km from Tuscany. Close enough.

A beautiful evening. We head home. I am exhausted. Not sure why.

We never planned to visit Tarquinia. I had never heard of it. We are only here because we need to break up the trip to Orbetello. The museum, the necropolis, this amazing village would have all been missed if we were in a car. This is the beauty of riding bicycles. You see things you never would have ordinarily.


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