After a boring morning's ride, I continued east from Pietraperzia this afternoon, towards the town of Piazza Armerina. The weather continued to be fine, and the terrain remained largely unchallenging; but otherwise, the afternoon ride was in stark contrast with the rest of the day's trip. Gorgeous scenery this afternoon: the whole way, the countryside was peppered with green, fertile farms, that blanketed the gently rolling hills of the area. And just short of Piazza Armerina, I reached the big attraction of this part of Sicily (and one of the biggest attractions in all of Sicily), and the reason for my taking the longer inland route through this region in the first place: Villa Romana, the ruined Roman mansion of two thousand years' antiquity, and home of one of Europe's largest and finest works of tiled mosaic art.
After going to the pub for some reunion beers, my friends Tom and Fede took me to the heart of Rome, for a very unique (although not 100% legal) tour of the city's ancient ruins. They showed me how the ruins of central Rome seem to have almost no security at night: all they have is fences; and these proved to be ridiculously easy to climb over. Apparently, Italy simply has so many ancient ruins and archaeological parks, that they can't be bothered to provide proper guards or patrols for any of them. This was fine with me: it allowed my friends to show me ancient Rome in a much more cool way than most tourists see it; and seeing the ruins at night has a certain beauty and eerieness to it that you just don't get during the sunlit, tourist-infested daytime.
The Rome metro is a great underground railway system. It's cheap, simple, fast, and frequent. Only problem: there are a mere two lines in the whole city — so there are very few places to which the metro actually goes. So the metro is really handy, but only on the rare occasion that it can actually get you where you want to go. This — combined with the city's haphazard and hard-to-decipher bus system — inevitably means that for the tourist, Rome is inevitably a city where you do a lot of walking. And for the locals, a city where you do a lot of driving. Public transport in Rome could use some expansion.
I wasn't planning to do any sightseeing today — as the weather was lousy here in Rome, and as I had other things that needed doing — but on my way back from Porto Portese this afternoon, I ended up wandering by the Roman forum and senate. this is the north-western part of the "Palatino", the archaeological site in central Rome, that's actually the preserved remains of what was the main street of the ancient city. I never before realised that the absolute key, central area of ancient Rome is actually still here (albeit in crumbling form), and not all built-over, 2,000 years on. Quite a cool introduction to this most historic of all cities in the world.