HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN ROMAN BATHHOUSE?
by Gerard Huissen
A few years ago I described my first visit to Ostia in 1967 (read the article "Alberino Vicari"). I had traveled to Rome with my current wife to become engaged. We stayed on the "Monte Antenne", an international camping site in the heart of Rome that unfortunately has disappeared.
As a child I was already obsessed by the ancient Romans and enjoyed the eternal city to the fullest and once I discovered Ostia, the ancient port city of Rome, I decided that this might be the region where I would often be found in the coming years. What struck me both in Rome and in Ostia were the many bathhouses and because our holiday fell in the middle of the summer I understood all too well why there were so many. After spending a few days in Rome, we fled in a hurry to the coast for the highly necessary cooling.
A few years later I decided to make my first photo reportage in Ostia. Together with an artist friend I went to Rome again. My friend had been on vacation with his parents in Italy since childhood and suggested before traveling to Rome that we could visit some old friends in Bolsena and so it happened. Bolsena lay on a large lake about 100 km north of Rome, the so called Lago di Bolsena. I thought immediately this would be ideal as a base to visit Rome. A few hours to Rome and then back for a cooling dip in the lake.
The next year my wife agreed to spend our holidays with our two kids at a camping site in Bolsena. From there it was easy to visit Rome and Ostia, without bothering my wife and children, who were already finished with Rome and Ostia after one visit. They could entertain themselves on and around the camping site if desired. However, the 100 km turned out to be a bigger obstacle than expected. To get to the autostrada (the highway) you first had to make a long drive through the hills to Orvieto and then the 100 km to Rome. A second possibility was 100 km on the old Roman road, Via Cassia, a journey that lasted almost 3 hours. I therefore decided that year to focus on the local culture, the Etruscans. It soon became apparent that my theory worked in principle. Occasionally, with or without family, breathing culture and after a few hours back to the lake, into the water. But Rome and Ostia were only sporadically visited. Reason enough to consult the map after two years in Bolsena and to look for, in my opinion, a better solution.
I found that solution in another lake, about 30 km north of Rome. A lot smaller but, after it turned out, also a lot more picturesque than Bolsena. It was called Lago di Bracciano, only half an hour's drive from Rome and 45 minutes from Ostia.
Around the lake, just like Lago di Bolsena a volcanic lake, lay three small villages, Anquillara Sabazia, Trevignano Romano and Bracciano. In the summer of 1980 we drove to Lago di Bracciano and landed at a camping site between Anquillara and Trevignano, called Parco del Lago. Although we were not the only foreigners, most of the guests turned out to be families who lived the rest of the year in and around Rome but fled from the city during the summer season to cool down by the lake. (Apart from the invigorating water, the ambient temperature is on average about 4 degrees lower than in Rome).
The camping site turned out to be a hit. At the family camping, with a friendly but tight hand led by Anna Maria and Placido (for intimates Nino) Rosi, there was a typical Italian rhythm of life including the siesta during the hottest hours. The children soon found friends and so the parents also had a vacation.
In addition to Rome and Ostia, which I loved so much, the camping site also turned out to be a wonderful base for a wide range of sights. But especially for people like me, with a passion for history and culture, this was the ultimate way to respond to this without burdening the family and knowing that the cooling water is always in the vicinity. An idea that, as it turned out, had already been discovered by more cultural enthusiasts.
A nice extra is that if you are open to it, you will be included in the Italian community and you can experience yourself what "la Dolce Vita" means. We have been coming there for almost 40 years and my children and their children are still finding there a "home". And as a good Italian friend recently told me: "Whoever celebrates his holidays and passion in this way on this spot certainly lives 10 years longer". Let's just keep it there.