Like the Rockaways or Coney Island, Ostia is not considered a part of the city it is connected to, Rome. It is, to most, viewed as its own separate entity. And, for Fulvio Sarzana, it seemed no different than your average isolated beach town. His primary reason for going stemmed from a surfeit of free time while on a business trip to Rome from Milan. Although Rome was much larger and more entertaining than the two-bit size of Milan, Fulvio was conditioned to believe that southern Italy was inferior. Still, the attractive concierge, Marialba, at his hotel, The St. Regis on Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, insisted that Ostia was worth seeing, particularly during the winter when it was uncrowded and uncomplicated.
Fulvio mused to himself that southern Italians didn’t know from winter. It felt like a hot summer day to him compared to the Alp-influenced weather of Milan. He didn’t even bother to put on a coat over his suit jacket as he got on the A line at Barberini to transfer at Termini to the B toward Lido Nord. Marialba was adamant that he disembark from the train at this stop, where he could walk a farther distance to the beach to get the full picture of the town. Fulvio marveled at the notion that Ostia was once a destination for working class Romans in search of a beach retreat. There was a certain combined sadness and nobility in such a fact: the desire to make a better life for oneself in the face of overt rejection from a society that would never truly recognize you as anything other than a plebe–a speck in the colony of worker bees.
Like so many institutions, Fascism capitalized on the potential of Ostia during its heyday, adding buildings and infrastructure that would make the frazione more accessible to the rest of Rome. And yet, it appeared as though the town was something God forgot about in the non-summer months. This didn’t deter Fulvio in his determination to explore, finding among the desolation a peace he had never known elsewhere. First, he walked along the lungomare, or as many Ostians called it, the lungomuro because of the wall that blockaded one from getting to the beach until a certain point. As he passed Miami Beach Gelateria (one of the many unironically named establishments along the way), he thought he might never actually be able to reach the shoreline. But he found a pocket of entry via a relic of a restaurant called Kelly’s Ristorante, called so, for no particular reason, in honor of Gene Kelly. This fact made him smile to himself. There was no logic in the south; he was beginning to embrace this–dangerously close to becoming one of them.
He strolled along the empty beach, gradually forgetting all the worries of the work that had brought him to Rome. He noticed that the only other soul nearby him was a vagabond combing the sand for any treasures of value. His meticulousness in making some sort of discovery prevented him from noticing Fulvio, who might have been–in that moment–feeling generous enough to float him some money. But the vagrant had no use for the earthly frivolities Fulvio could provide him with; he was happy as he was, with no need for the complications of the world Fulvio inhabited. Milan might as well have been a different planet rather than a different city.
This thought made Fulvio briefly melancholy, as he had spent his whole life adhering to the notion of capitalism and the pursuit of its trappings, but here this man was: living proof that it was a system for fools. He shook this notion from his mind as the waves began crashing more viciously to the shore. He knew it was time to leave. Seeking momentary reprieve before taking the train back to proverbial civilization, Fulvio centered upon a bar called White Cafe. A more cynical person (probably an American) might find amusement in such a name, likening it to the racial makeup of Ostia. Yet to do so would be false, as Fulvio encountered a number of Arabs and Africans milling about the streets. They looked to him as the stranger, the infiltrator. Nonetheless, he sat outside at White Cafe and ordered an espresso, listening to the ardent boom of the overly shot speakers play Spanish reggae. Yes, he could get used to a place like Ostia. He could chuck it all, give up everything he had worked for in Milan and settle down here. This was where simplicity thrived.
Hours later, when the check still hadn’t arrived (the waiter had disappeared somewhere into the recesses of the back of the structure) and the sun had long ago set, Fulvio changed his mind. He wasn’t built for the laid-back ways of Ostia. And he suddenly felt hopelessly out of place in his business attire, which was beginning to attract the wrong kind of attention–though somehow not attracting enough for him to get his check.