With the cultural and ruin overload of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Naples - not to mention the dirt and grime of these places - some peace, quiet and space was called for and so we headed to a seaside spot by the name of Sabaudia.
A dull town by Lonely Planets’s description but its point of merit was the Parque Nazionale del Circeo - 85 kilometres of sand dunes, rocky coastline, forest and wetlands with beautiful beaches to boot. The ‘demi-aire’ we stayed on here was rural and simply lovely with large pitches, clean facilities with lovely hot water and a great restaurant just to help it along. We cycled on the Monday - a reasonable 30K given that we hadn’t been on our bikes for some time - and stopped for refreshment of varying kinds according to the time of day. Dinner was in the motorhome and when in Rome (nearly) do as the Romans do –so spag bol for dinner!
Tuesday, and so we left our peaceful spot and headed on in to the wonder of Rome. Would it be a wonder or would it leave us ‘short’ as so much of Italy has? It was my turn to make the drive but fortunately the site was slightly out of the main city, but still it was ‘he who dares wins’ as we made it to Camping Flaminio.
Two sites had been recommended to us for Rome, but we made the choice for this one on the basis of the ‘bathroom’ review. We have to say that even beyond those excellent facilities with underfloor heating no less the whole site was excellent – well maintained with a lovely setting and just 5 stops/15 mins into the old town of Rome.
To make the most of the city and given that we had arrived early afternoon, we ventured straight in just get a feel of Rome before starting the full on cultural fest. Within moments we were upon the Spanish steps and throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain along with the many other tourists here. We wandered some more and took in a couple of churches, before heading back to base camp hoping to find a bar along the way for an evening Aperol Spritz (my new Italian drink of choice!)
For some reason we seem to struggle finding bars in Italy. They are much more restaurant-like and the evening weather was against us that day, otherwise an outside spot would have worked. But base camp does have a bar and so the Aperol Spritz was had there, along with some nibbles to help fill a gap. The last of the Bisto bit the dust that evening on our sausage, mash and onions ... it could be a long 3 months without any, but the mint sauce will save the day!
So Rome, what to say, what to do and how to do it all?! We brought a 72 hours Roma pass from the camp reception which covers most of the sites and also public transport for 72 hours or 3 days but of course it doesn’t cover the Vatican or St Peters Basilica. After checking the weather we decided to do these first on the Wednesday, walking there after our early commute to beat the transport strike! David dressed in his best clothes for the occasion, but unfortunately the Pope was not at home that day so no audience was to be had.
The Vatican apart from being the head of the Catholic church is also a museum and a very big one at that - with probably the Sistine chapel being the main event. We entered at 9.30am and finished in the café at about 2 pm so 4.5 hours, a long time taking or trying to take in lots of history and information. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, I think it should somehow be broken down in to smaller bite size pieces and prices as it really was too much and at that stage we hadn’t even been to St Peters.
Some 2-3 hours later and after a very scary climb to the top, we exited this great basilica again in much need of refreshment and this time an ice cream was the order of the day, with an LP top ten gelaterie in walking distance. Our feet, heads and bodies were in a complete state of exhaustion as we made the very slow walk back towards the station. Our aches and pains were saved by the Ducatti (yes, motorbikes!) café with a lovely Aperol and aperitivo which also saved the day cooking-wise, as for the price of €4 you could eat small titbits of food with your drink and could load-up as many times as you liked. (Aperitivo is sort of like the Spanish tapa but served generally between 5 and 8pm and with a small cost).
The Spanish Steps from the bottom
Coins in the fountain
St Peters early morning and on transport strike day - hence the lack of crowds
Vatican Museum or part of and this is out of season
Ceiling of the map room
The Sistine chapel a true wonder
A dome to behold in St Peters
With so many astounding sights overhead, don't forget to look down, too!
St Peters - the climb to the top (but some of us have no idea what they have let themselves in for!)
A stripey David at the top of St Peters ... Karen long disappeared to the bottom!
Ice cream challenge!
Roman Forum - somewhat confusing but still amazing!
So much old stuff ... nothing a good bulldozer wouldn't solve!
3 old things!
So with the 72 hour museum pass purchased and clock ticking the next day saw the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatino done and literally dusted. Again a full-on day and two very weary Grey Gappers done for. The Forum, Palatino and the Colosseum awesome in the flesh, so to speak. Another top ten ice cream later and the journey home was made with both of us so grateful to see NiKi and just put our feet up, especially having run for a train that didn’t stop at our station! Thankfully it did just two more stops up, but we really could have done without the hassle. As ever, we did give amusement to our fellow passengers when we stood to get off and it sailed through the station.
The last 24 hours and to get full value for our pass, we had do one more museum which for us was the Capitoline – the world’s oldest museum apparently. We had a lovely lunch beforehand at a small family run restaurant and a jug of red wine helping the pasta and main courses down. By the end of that day we were both at the point of overload on the culture and history front, so we have to ask the question can you see and do everything justice in such a short space of time? And therefore, is the 72 hour pass good value? We could have wandered and seen so many Roman sites including the Colosseum from the outside for nothing and indeed some parts of the Roman Forum from the outside again for nothing. But whichever way and how you decide Rome is absolutely worth it and the great old dame offers up so much history that it really is ‘What this olde thing?!’ at every turn.
D’s first Italian haircut
Mozzarella and more Mozzarella - serious stuff!
We left Rome on the Saturday with the Italian rugby fans amassing by the campsite and off we headed further north and into Tuscany. The lovely little town of Pitigliano had been recommended to us by fellow motorhomers Lesley and Geoff and their adorable son Jackson, whom we had meet back in the summer in Spain.
Arriving at about 4pm, the town still delighted us and we had a good couple of hours wandering and taking in the amazing houses made from the volcanic porous rock tufa. The houses on this hilltop town all cram together in a delightful higgledy-piggledy manner along with a more upmarket selection of tourist tat, plus the ubiquitous selection of fridge magnets which seem to nearly overrun Italy.
The drive up once out of Rome had been through lovely countryside dotted with small stone farmhouses and small villages all looking very enticing and the next day the scenery was the same as we made our way to the close by thermal springs in Saturnia. Another wash and scrub up for me in lovely natural hot mineral waters hopefully taking years of my skin!
Nothing like a nice clean bath!
Health and Safety??
Nooks and crannies, stairs and more stairs!
Tuscany, stone villages and very bendy roads but joy at last for us
And so on to the place famed for me for its part in the magical book 'The Count of Monte Cristo' - one of my favourite reads and also holding its part in history as being the island that Napoleon was held prisoner on in 1814.
With a fairly expensive ferry crossing, we both have high hopes for this island but this is, again, just one of the delights that motorhoming can give to you - the freedom to go!
Does Elba hold us captive?... Follow us again next week.
The Route this week: