Day 15 – Grumentum

More of the same aimless driving today. The map has sites of archaeological interest highlighted in red with three little dots arranged like a triangle and I drove towards the nearest of these to some place called Grumentum – I was by now well off the tourist circuit and when I arrived at the little museum I was treated very cordially by the director after I again mentioned that I was a writer doing research. He gave me a personal tour of the museum, brought out some literature for me to take and showed me the coins they’d found in the area. Nothing to write home about insofar as they were concerned but it gave me a great feeling that I got another round of VIP treatment.

I then went to see the ruins and there was hardly anyone there. I walked in peace among the remnants of the 1,500 year old town. Because there was no one around I started walking very slowly and hunched over to look at the ground and it absolutely made my day when I found a small bronze wire-like piece sitting on the ground surface. It stood out because the weathering had turned the copper green like the Statue of Liberty. I recognized it right away as a dual use hygiene pick with one end meant to serve to clean under the nails and the other with a small scoop for cleaning out your earwax. I contemplated for a while what to do with it. Do I leave it there? Do I go hand it in back at the museum? Do I keep it?

I walked some more and was really REALLY rewarded when I found another green item on the floor. This time there was no mistaking it for anything else. I had found my very first ancient coin and I sure as hell wasn’t going to turn this one in. Even though it was too dirty to make anything out of I recognized by the size of it that it was a mid-4th century coin of the Constantinian era… the most common type of Roman coin.

Very happily, I went back to the car and drove off with both finds.

I meandered through what would be the “foot” of Italy and tried to check out a couple more historical sites, one named Eraclea and the other Metapontum but could find neither due to poor signage and the fact that the GPS is weak on its internal catalogue of historical attractions. It was more than a little disconcerting to find the towns nearly deserted.

I was also hungry. It was now about 3 PM and I hadn’t yet had breakfast and had eaten next to nothing the day before but every town I passed what few shops there were were shuttered up. Eventually I found a bar that had an ice cream section and with my broken Italian ordered two chocolate milkshakes and from a junk food rack picked off a bag of potato chips. That would be all I ate that day.

I drove some more and was by now heading back north. I went through some desolate areas and because the sun was dipping low in the sky I pulled off on a gravel road and decided to make that my rest spot for the night.

The wind was howling outside and the temperature was dropping. This was a valley near a town called Irsina which was dotted with abandoned farmhouses. A little spooky really but not so spooky that I didn’t get a good night’s rest. Except, of course, for my hips.

Day 16