I have been entertaining my nephews for the week (and they, me -- I might add) and along the way they learn things about living in Italy that are essential, like: "Do not expect cars to stop for you just because you're in the crosswalk, like in Switzerland or England," or, "No, it's really not a good idea to try jumping in the Tiber because most people drown...," to less essential things like, "Sulphur smells like rotten eggs and most hot thermal baths smell like that."
So, off we went to try our hand at the Thermal Baths - and this experience, of course, was so typical on many levels. Of course, the scenery to get there was spectacular. The lake, the mercatini...like driving through a postcard.
Naturally, we followed the signs "Terme - 28 km - this way". At a major intersection of course, no more signs were posted. So, we sort of followed our noses until arriving to a major thoroughfare and turnoffs in every direction. So, I did what any red-blooded American would do -- pulled right into the middle of the area where lanes were not -- and got out of the car -- and stood there, looking to the horizon, much like the farmer who throws grass in the wind to see from which direction the storm is coming.
Not finding any further signs toward where we were headed, I surveyed the landscape to see if there were any other signposts for this major tourist attraction on which the local economy probably depends. And there, posted on a sign pointing right back where we had started was, "Terme 24 km - back that way."
Starting to feel like Dorothy talking to the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, I stopped to ask a policeman (after canvassing a variety of tourists and locals who said they'd never heard of the place...). They said it was back the way we had come, but the sign we saw had probably been turned around by some malefactors...
Disappointed and demoralized, we headed instead for home. Later, I went on to check the websites of various Terme around Rome - and, of course, the online directional information was not much better, but at the Terme di Roma I really got the Head to Toe treatment:
Like their penchant for dual-named airports, it's not really known as Terme di Roma (you're more apt to google Diocletian's ruins), but also Le Acque Albule - a tongue twister in any language (provoking the question, does Albule come from the Albume of eggs, explaining the smell of the baths???!).
Under a huge bold heading, Outdoor Pools, we learn they have four, two of which are totally child-friendly. Following, in bold red letters, "We inform our clientele that the pools were closed on 30 September 2009. One line below: "We inform our clientele that the Beach Pool closed on 7 September 2009."
You wonder...is that for the season? forever? for a drought?
While you ponder these and other existential questions, you have time to review their 2009 price list and the opening hours of the pools 9:30 - 17.00.
I tried calling, but after listening to the various automated options four times, I gave up. Although they were selling all kinds of treatments, mum was the word on the pool openings and closings. It was Tuesday. I discovered on the website that no one was in to answer the phones.
But not all is lost. I'm sure the kids enjoyed another lesson in mass communications to boot.