Those poor rats at Ladispoli had seen me and B. go to the sea and sit on the sand for half-an-hour, then go back to the train. And this was enough to rouse their suspicions, I imagine, so they telegraphed to Cività Vecchia. Why are officials always fools? Even when there is no war on? What could they imagine we were doing?
The hotel manager, propitious, said there was a very interesting museum in Cività Vecchia, and wouldn’t we stay the next day and see it. ‘Ah!’ I replied. ‘But all it contains is Roman stuff, and we don’t want to look at that.’ It was malice on my part, because the present regime considers itself purely ancient Roman. The man looked at me scared, and I grinned at him. ‘But what do they mean,’ I said, ‘behaving like this to a simple traveller, in a country where foreigners are invited to travel!’ ‘Ah!’ said the porter softly and soothingly. ‘It is the Roman province. You will have no more of it when you leave the Provincia di Roma.’ And when the Italians give the soft answer to turn away wrath, the wrath somehow turns away.
We walked for an hour in the dull street of Cività Vecchia. There seemed so much suspicion, one would have thought there were several wars on. The hotel manager asked if we were staying. We said we were leaving by the eight-o’clock train in the morning, for Tarquinia.
And, sure enough, we left by the eight-o’clock train. Tarquinia is only one station from Cività Vecchia–about twenty minutes over the fiat Maremma country, with the sea on the left, and the green wheat growing luxuriantly, the asphodel sticking up its spikes.
We soon saw Tarquinia, its towers pricking up like antennae on the side of a low bluff of a hill, some few miles inland from the sea. And this was once the metropolis of Etruria, chief city of the great Etruscan League. But it died like all the other Etruscan cities, and had a more or less medieval rebirth, with a new name. Dante knew it, as it was known for centuries, as Corneto–Corgnetum or Cornetium–and forgotten was its Etruscan past. Then there was a feeble sort of wakening to remembrance a hundred years ago, and the town got Tarquinia tacked on to its Corneto: Corneto-Tarquinia. The Fascist regime, however, glorying in the Italian origins of Italy, has now struck out the Corneto, so the town is once more, simply, Tarquinia. As you come up in the motor-bus from the station you see the great black letters, on a white ground, painted on the wall by the city gateway: Tarquinia. So the wheel of revolution turns. There stands the Etruscan word–Latinized Etruscan–beside the medieval gate, put up by the Fascist power to name and unname.
But the Fascists, who consider themselves in all things Roman, Roman of the Caesars, heirs of Empire and world power, are beside the mark restoring the rags of dignity to Etruscan places. For of all the Italian people that ever lived, the Etruscans were surely the least Roman. Just as, of all the people that ever rose up in Italy, the Romans of ancient Rome were surely the most un-Italian, judging from the natives of today.Share It