Our fieldtrip this week was to Sperlonga, where the Emperor Tiberius, who succeeded Augustus, had a villa. It’s on the coast and is home to a huge cave where Tiberius apparently had a banquet hall…according to Tacitus and other sources, there was an incident during a dinner banquet wherein part of the cave collapsed, killing a few servants and almost killing Tiberius, who was saved by a loyal friend.
What is cool about the villa and the cave isn’t necessarily how amazing it once was, because it’s hard to picture with the few ruins that are left of the actual villa (although it’s a great example of the type of ‘opus reticulatum’ masonry they used to fortify and build walls) but the statuary groups that were in the cave.
In the middle of the pool that’s in the cave was a statuary group depicting Scylla attacking Odysseus’ ship. According to legend, the Scylla lived not far from the ancient Sperlonga. In the back of the cave was another one showing Odysseus and his men blinding the Cyclops Polyphemus, which occurred, according to legend, in Polyphemus’ cave. Other statues included the rape of Ganymede that was placed at the top of the entrance of the cave, and the abduction of the Palladine sculpture from Athens. All of the sculptures show stuff from the Odyssey (Cool) and the museum at the villa has a lot of the originals preserved (cooler) and the two main groups—Scylla and Polyphemus—are strategically placed in locations in the cave that resemble where they would have been in the stories themselves (coolest).
After exploring the cave and villa, we hit the beach for a couple hours. The waves were high and it was windy but I was content to lie on the beach and take a walk and generally revel in the fact that I was in Italy, at the beach, in late September.
In other news, we’ve made friends with more of the locals. Some of the guys who are students at the engineering school where our classes are housed (there are only 3 girls) and our wine lady, whose name is Anna, and she got married last Saturday and even saved some candied almonds for us. We’ve also befriended a bunch of the guys who cook and bus and serve at a really good restaurant in town. We ate at their restaurant last night, it was kind of expensive but totally worth it for fresh tagliatelle with broccoli sauce, salmon with mushrooms, and tiramisu. They cut us 24 euro off the bill but we paid the whole thing, seeing as they had given us a free plate of tiramisu and potatoes.
I’m having a wonderful time but exams are next week and I’m making study guides and memorizing slides, etc. I’d love to hear how you all are doing. Baci grossi!
Oh yeah, and it took us about 4 hours to get there by bus, that’s why the ride was “longa…”