Jump to content, Jump to navigation.

Amber Paulen

To Lago Albano

27 July 2010


A train for Lago Albano parts Termini Station at six past every hour. The train’s rusty hinges creek as it leans its old metal carriage to one side then upright, clicking and clacking along the tracks. It passes above Porta Maggiore, by Roman suburbs, an aqueduct rises stately and severed, its ochre-yellow bricks still majestic in the fields, more majestic.

Once Rome is gone the train chugs uphill, then lake breaks from fig trees, then it’s our stop: Castel Gandolfo. The crumbling station stands between the pope’s summer retreat and the volcanic lake’s grassy shore. Lucky for us there’s a footpath, there’s fig smell, there’s dust, there’s olive groves, and it’s shaded. Inhale, crisp fluent air. The lake hangs an inverted mountain among peaks in a wooded circle, a liquid sky-filled crater. Divine! Our descent draws us closer then we’re there.

Lay the towels, avoid the caca, strip to swimsuit. One foot in and it’s gulp! Volcanic ash mud consumes foot, ankle, shin. Women pay a fortune to bathe in this. Each step may pull you down to your knee or heel of Achilles; it’s a strange sensation squishing between toes, and it’s difficult, like treading through a ravenous snow storm. Splash! into the water when it’s deep enough. Every sweat drop streaks from me. I swim like a dolphin, or a bear.

To leave the city behind, its heat rocks, its brutal sun, its soaring temperatures, its tourists and thick hanging hazy air, is necessary. Lago Albano cleans my head. To write in the heat of high-noon fries my words near conception; my head sizzles and when I’m finished, it collapses.

When we’ve swam plenty my body feels adequately tested, muscles spring, rejuvination. We return to the towels devoured by the shade of heavy branches, so we move them where the sun pours thick and the sun pours good. In and out of sun and water for three or more hours, I read Gogol, I watch cute chippers.

The uphill walk isn’t strenuous but still refreshing, to wait at the station. It’s an old train line thus a single track snakes from a tunnel in the hill to the right. Overgrown trees and weeds crowd around the black brick opening. Looking there sets me back in time for I expect a freight to emerge with steam billowing.

Funny, for what appears is hyper-modern, silent, doors glide open without a twitch. Inside it’s even air-conditioned. On the return to Rome the city doesn’t seem so bad, the heat has been tempered. The old men are out for their evening passegiata in shirt-sleeves and long pants, regardless. Tonight we’re having pasta.



Commentary for To Lago Albano


1 On Thursday 29 July 2010 Carolyn wrote:

Ooh, this sounds like a lovely afternoon. I love your description of it, draws me right in.

2 On Saturday 31 July 2010 Amber wrote:

Thanks Carolyn! Maybe you were there and didn’t even know it…

3 On Wednesday 02 May 2012 Linda wrote:

My mother took our entire family to Rome four summers ago, and we spent time at Lago Albano. Your description brought me right back to our days in the sun. Thank you!

4 On Friday 04 May 2012 Amber wrote:

Linda, Thanks for the compliment. Summer is coming soon and I can’t wait to again see the lake and smell the fig trees…


Submit a Comment


·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·