19 August, 2014, Fiumincino (Rome)

Charles & Maggie Bevis
Wed 20 Aug 2014 06:55
Well - last Saturday saw a concerted tourist bash on Rome city. But what a disappointment!

The trip into the city from Fiumicino went well. A shuttle bus runs from a hotel stop just 10 mins walk from the boat and that took us, via the airport, to the centre of the city €11 p.p round trip. However, we stayed on too long and ended up at the central station area which is some distance from the sights.

Our first big mistake was to buy a sightseeing bus tour - not cheap at € 20/person. It was uncomfortable and hot and with a poor view of the city. The chief drawback was that it stopped for 15-20 minutes at each major stop. Walking is both quicker and cooler and a lot more interesting.

Our first stop was the Colosseum - fantastic in every way but heaving with tourists and touts. €35 entry p.p. We settled for a walk around the exterior, followed by a snack lunch and a walk around the forum area.

Back on the bus and our second stop was St Peter’s. Mega queues in all directions. €35 p.p. entry for St Peters and then more admission charges and even longer queues for the Sistine Chapel. We deferred our visit of the Basilica.

Next we walked to the Pantheon. Free entry but once again, it was jam packed with people - a bit like the forbidden city in Beijing. Our day was not going well.

There then followed a long walk, primarily because our navigator (Charlie) got confused and held the map the wrong way up, as we looked for the way to the Trevi Fountain - a short queue there and and free admission but the fountain is now encased in scaffolding, plastic sheeting and approached along a plastic walkway and no water! A major maintenance programme is in progress, so for the next few years, definitely not worth the effort or you’ll be as disappointed as we and thousands of others were.

Our conclusion at the end of a long hot day was that Rome is a rip-off. Ann and Maggie have both visited Rome in the past, so were every disappointed at what we found. The whole of the city is very dirty and admission charges have soared. Of course it is August, which probably accounts for the millions of tourists, but the price of everything prohibits many from seeing the glories of Rome.

By contrast today, Tuesday, we visited Ostia Antica. Wow what a fantastic place. A bit similar to Pompeii in that it has been dug out of the ground since excavations started in1911. Transport links are poor unless you are travelling from Rome or (the new) Ostia. There is a metro station on that line, but no bus service and no taxis. Yes you pay to go in (€11 p.p.) but the site itself is nearly deserted (very few tourists) and the buildings and streets of the old town are largely intact (well the ground floors anyway).

Ostia Antica was the original port city for Roma and dates from about 600 BC. Including the remains of Neptune’s tomb, a wonderful amphitheatre and dozens of other buildings, it’s stunning. The port silted, became unusable hence new facilities were built and the town was left to return to nature and virtually disappeared. Amazingly, one can roam at will throughout the vast site walking the original streets and climbing onto and through the buildings if you wish to see more - (a little like Stonehenge was in the 1950’s! I remember being taken there by my grandmother and her mate and having our pic-nic on the fallen stones - today you can only look at them from a distance).

Ostia Antica was well worth the effort to get there, (a 2+ hour walk, followed by two free bus rides, because the drivers didn’t have any change, and finally a train ride). Its a huge developments and not easy on the feet, but we simply had to see it all. We now have many photographs to remind us of this incredible ancient development. Fortunately, our journey back to Fiumicino was much easier as we’d fathomed out a much easier return route. After having walked many miles, our feet are definitely glowing this evening, but hot showers, drinks and a good supper have revived us somewhat, although an early night definitely beckons.