It was just enough of a spark to kindle a continued back and forth that resulted in making the pleasant acquaintances of Pietro and his teenage daughter, Ilaria.
It was an easy one hour ride by highway first eastward along A16 toward the Adriatic into neighboring tomato-rich Puglia, then another hour following the coast south toward Bari. Short of bari, we took the Canosa di Puglia exit and rendezvoused with Pietro at a nearby gas station. We stayed close as we followed him to his home in a high rise apartment building, the modern architecture of today's Italy that materialized on a street, per Margaret, that wasn't supposed to exist. Any doubts had evaporated.
down a ramp, we entered the tomb itself after passing between columns supporting a capital that still exhibited traces of original painted scenes. In addition to the main chamber directly ahead and across a small vestibule, there were additional rooms, one to either side. The tomb today, as you might expect, is empty, but when it was first opened, in addition to the deceased, interestingly often found in a fetal position, it contained a funeral dowry. The dowry to my thinking was on the order of what Egyptians placed in their pyramids, only on a much much smaller scale. The catalog of this tomb’s dowry consisted of decorated pots, glass cups, earrings, statues of worshippers, a bronze breastplate, an embossed Celtic helmet and a gold scepter … all of which, since their reported discovery, have been lost.
programs and humanitarian governance that the Senate declared him optimus princeps (the best ruler) upon his death in 117 AD. Canosa erected this archway in his honor. Travelers to what the Romans referred to as Canusium entered the city passing beneath this monumental archway located along the ancient Via Traian. This triumphal arch, dating from approximately 109 AD, marked the boundary between the so-called city of the living and the dead. Similar to other Trajan arches in Benevento and Ancona, it today is part of a well-manicured garden. The marble veneer and artwork, which once adorned its surface, have long disappeared. What remains are the bare rudiments of Rome’s glorious existence - elongated, rather flattened, fired clay bricks that built an empire.
Baptistery have uncovered evidence of an early Christian church, likely built atop even earlier ruins. In a side chamber, from a suspended walkway, we were shown an open grave. In it skeletal remains were clearly visible. Hard as it was to believe, this skeleton was the original thing, well over a thousand years old. Its skull rested on a stone block, its ribs, along with hips, were worn flat, legs bent and spread wide as though trying to fit the available space. Due to the length of the bones and an analysis of the remains it was learned that this individual was unlikely of local origin. He had been tall, too tall to be of the indigenous Italic-Grecco people of the area. Surprisingly, we learned that he is thought to be of African origin, likely from Carthage in present day Tunisia. To be buried in such a place of honor, he is believed to have been a high ranking soldier from the Punic Wars with Rome, perhaps a general, telling from the items found along with him. And then I remembered Hannibal and the Battle of Cannae that occurred just miles away and it made sense, for many of the survivors of this ancient angst had sought refuge in Canosa di Puglia. It just might be.
helmets and decorated pottery, were breathtaking, almost as though we were first, like Schliemann when he discovered Troy, to move stones aside and enter a tomb.
Intuition and a dollop of trust had come through for both the host and the hosted. Curiosity about America and a desire to speak English, along with my passion to experience everything Italian and understand the world beyond where we lived, had combined to fashion a new friendship. We'd live with our goodbyes until together once again. Until that day, we Skype and our granddaughter and Pietro's daughter, seeing that the cursive days of the pen-pal have been outmoded by digital ones and zeros, converse via email. Hopefully, ours is a burgeoning friendship, spanning the globe and our lifetimes - something inconceivable to the ancients.