We rode through some pretty unremarkable flatlands to reach the hills of the Castelli Romani, the hill villages south of the city known to Italians as the roman Castles. The best known to foreigners is probably Castelgandolfo which is part of the Vatican City State and is the Pope's designated summer home and in fact the three villas and the self sufficient organic farm have more extra territorial land mass than the Vatican City State in Rome! As such it is not terribly accessible but Lake Albano down below makes for quite a view.
We were hot and hungry and after viewing the rather static volcanic lake for a while and I figured the local cops might know where to eat so we popped in to ask.
"The best place to eat? Why, that would be at my house- a casa mia!" said the police station wit. I shrugged and waited while the three of them consulted. They did not send us wrong.
We found the unassuming eatery by the side of the road overlooking the lake, serving delicious roast pork for an appetizer, pasta for our main course,
...and a splendid view. We lingered over the last of the wine and the coffee.
My next destination was actually rather mysterious, a place of inexplicable weirdness. Here's how it came about. In 1981 shortly before I left Italy for the last time in a quarter century some friends took me to a particular piece of road around here and put an empty soda can on a hilly stretch. The can rolled up hill. This memory came back when my wife agreed to visit Castelgandolfo and I was forced to do an Internet search for "magnetic disturbance Castelli Romani" and sure enough Google came up trumps.
Then using Google street view I pinned down the unmarked spot on Highway 218 at the end of the lake and sure enough, when I stopped the scooter and locked the front wheels to check our position the MP3 started rolling backwards up hill! Whoa!!
We saw some other cars slowing and stopping but we found the exact spot perhaps 30 feet long near the of the crown of the hill. Were this America there would be a parking lot, neon signs and and an entrance fee! But this was Italy so no signs of any kind were to be seen. A man walked by and started laughing at us for making so much of what he figured was just no big deal.
We spent a happy fifteen minutes driving forward and the locking the scooter in the upright position and rolling back, engine off, slowly at first and then faster than walking pace as we reached the crown. The scooter, the second from the right in this picture below, taken from our hotel window in Rome is designed to park and stay upright on all three wheels with no feet or stand down which made it ideal for the experiment.
I feel certain you expect an explanation at this point if you even choose to believe me, but there is none. No one knows why this is one of a handful of places around the world where this phenomenon manifests itself. It doesn't seem like magnetism would be the answer but I can assure you it's not psychological, we both felt and saw the scooter roll backwards up hill with the engine off (besides it has no reverse gear). Best guesses are welcome and as always you can post a comment on my blog without any of those annoying word jumbles whose point escapes me. Back in Rome the MP3 was as steady as ever,
....crossing tram tracks or raised lane separators.
Life was back to normal, how boring.
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