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What kind of winter has Velia, my friend Vala, what’s the climate at Salernum, what sort of people live there, what’s the road like (for Antonius Musa makes Baiae surplus to my needs, and yet he puts me in bad odour there, since I am soaking myself in cold water in the depths of winter. Of course the town complains that its myrtle groves are avoided and its sulphur baths despised, despite their reputation for driving the chronic ailment out of the muscles, and it takes a dim view of patients who presume to plunge head and stomach under the showers from Clusium’s springs or head for the chilly countryside of Gabii. I have to change my resort and steer my horse past the familiar places to stop. ‘Where are you heading for? My journey doesn’t take me to Cumae or Baiae,’ the rider will say, pulling on the left rein in his anger; but a horse hears through its bridled mouth); which townsfolk are fed by a greater supply of corn, whether they drink rainwater gathered in tanks or have constant spring water in wells the year round (for I have no time for the wines of that region; at my place in the country I can put up with and tolerate anything; whenever I come to the seaside, I look for something mellow and of noble spirit, to banish troubled thoughts, to flow with rich hope into my veins and heart, to supply words, to lend me the grace of youth in the eyes of a Lucanian mistress); which stretch of country rears more hares and which more boars; which part of the sea gives greater hiding to fish and urchins, so that I can return home from there fat and Phaeacian: all this you must write to me and I must believe your every word.

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