Today was round two four visit to Rome. We had intended to get up really early and get in to the city whilst it was still cool and quiet. Needless to say our energy and enthusiasm was waning and we didn't get going until after 09:00.
After a twenty minute tram ride we arrived at the Central Train Terminus. After a short walk we reached the Metro station. It was utter mayhem, the crowds were heaving, so much so they had to stop the downward escalator as it was delivering people as well as the staircase in to a confined area which was the two platforms. There were two Metro staff members down there who just stood talking to each other and doing nothing to aid crowd control. It would have been very easy for the crowd, who as always, have to keep pushing, to have actually pushed people on to the tracks as they stood on the overcrowded platforms.
We did manage to get on to a train after a while, for a ride to the Vatican City area. On arrival, more crowds of course. The first three photographs I attach will demonstrate the scale of the problem of crowds in Rome, the length of the queues and the strength and stamina required of those who join them in the baking sun.
We had to join a long queue to get in to the Vatican City. As always here in Italy, people just push in to the line from both left and right at the last minute totally unchallenged. The reason for that queue was a bag search by to police officials, just a cursory check, nothing too serious, just enough to create a huge queue.
Having got through that hold up I thought we had cracked it and were in, but no, we then had to join another huge queue of tourists about six-wide, which, once we had moved far enough forward I saw was for an airport-style scanning area where everybody had to empty their pockets in to plastic trays, out their bags on a conveyor belt and then walk through a body scanner. NOT for me thank you. The Chef had seen it all before, and I had no intension of enduring the situation any longer and so we left. By now it was getting very hot indeed.
We decided to walk along the river for a bit and then cross to make our way towards Piazza Navona, a rather nice spot where an Aussie traveller was entertaining kids with a multiple bubble maker. Tips would be appreciated to fund his future travels.
Then it was off to find the Pantheon, where, of course, there was another long queue. That queue was our cue to start making our way 'home'. The temperature must have been above 30˚C because we sat in the motorhome at 18:30 recording 28.5˚C.
We had a rather unsuccessful lunch at an eats place at the railway station. I think it was for 'Veggies', as our 'beefburger' ended up being a round-shaped body of paste, ghastly, and with one portion of 'fries' thrown in, came to about twenty pounds. So from now on we're back to buying lunches at supermarkets which has always worked for us, it's far cheaper and edible.
We just flaked out pretty much when we got back the Camperstop, trying to keep cool.
The one thing we have noticed is that Rome has a large number of, I assume to be Indian folk. Most of the small eateries are staffed by them, and all of the street hustlers appear to be Indian, only the umbrella and sunglass sellers look to be North African. I say this only because in what I think must be a park behind us somewhere, for the past two evenings there's been something going on with what sounds like amplified Hindi style music and lots of speeches. A lot of them get on the tram and so I assume there must be a community of them in this area.
When I go online to post the days dithering I take a look at the BBC News webpage, and I have to say it's all very depressing. This Brexit business seems to have bought out the very worst in British politics. We have a government which was weakened when the Prime Minister foolishly called a General Election, and found herself weakened because so many young folk voted for Comrade Corbyn who promised them they wouldn't have to pay University Tuition Fees, even though he had no idea what such a promise would cost the country, the young voted for him because they didn't give a damn where the money was going to come from, just as long as they weren't going to have to pay it. Corbyn wants 'Leave', because whilst we are in the EU he cannot Nationalise businesses. Once out he'll spend money we haven't got to re-nationalise businesses which when they were nationalised before were an utter shambles.
They're a disgrace, the lot of them. And as for that Michel Barnier saying the UK must resolve contradictions on the Northern Ireland border policy, they really are screwing us at every turn. And why not? Because of constant bickering and treachery at Westminster he knows he can get anything he wants out of us, all he has to do is wait.
As for Northern Ireland I'd just tell him straight 'We want open borders and trading - you don't. We want an open border between north and southern Ireland, to continue trading freely between ourselves. If you don't want that - YOU build the border posts'.
My next move would be to take away al voting powers from the House of Lords and make it an advisory body only, with a cap on the number of freeoaders who sit there.
Tomorrow we plan to leave here after the rush hour and head towards Monte Cassino, where we hope to spend a couple of days at a 'luxurious' Camperstop and visit the Abbey there and Commonwealth War Graves Commission's war cemetery there. Then it's off to Herculaneum rather than Pompeii, because it's better preserved, and then to Sorrento to do the Amalfi coastline and Naples.
................................It's been a long two days. We end it listening to dogs barking and loud Indian music and singing.
We intended to go in to Rome later today, sometime in the afternoon, with the intention of staying in to the evening when it was cooler and less crowded.
On top of the €18pn Camperstop fee, we have to pay €2 each per day as a Rome Tourist Tax. So even this overcrowded motorhome car park is going to cost us €22pn. On top of this we have to pay to have a shower, it's usually one Euro, but it all mounts up. We opted to fire the boiler up and use our own facilities. But first we had a bit of a lie-in as there was nothing much to get up for.
After scrubbing up we popped up across the dual carriageway to the supermarket for a few bits and pieces, one again we were charged two cents for the bag the tomatoes were wrapped in. I wonder what would happen if we'd opened the bag, stuffed the tomatoes in our pockets and then told them we didn't need the bag.
On the way back we popped in to Reception and purchased two all-singing-all-dancing-ticket for the Rome transport system which would be valid for 48 hours once we started using them.
After lunch the moment had come, we were to join our Italian cousins in their capital city. The tram was quite straightforward, what with it stopping 200 metres down the road from the Camperstop. The journey didn't take too long and we son arrived in Rome city.
Off the tram and on to the Metro which was quite a walk down the road, a few stops down the track and we had arrived at the Colisseum. This is pitched as Rome's greatest amphitheatre, commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in AD72 (he was later to have a brand of motor scooter named after him).
It's at this point I must be honest. The Chef has been here a couple of times before, but this was my first visit, and yet, even in the planning stages there was no feeling of expectation of excitement. It was more a matter of 'If you're in Italy you simply must visit Rome'.
OK so it was impressive in an historical sense, but in my opinion the Coliseum in Pula which we visited on the way back from Istanbul was vastly superior.
When I began taking pictures with the pocket camera (I'd left the SLR behind - too heavy) I realised how life must feel suffering from cataracts. For some reason, and it may have been when I cleaned the lens, was steamed up internally. Grief - my only option was to use the camera on my mobile phone which I seldom carry with me but today it was to aid our navigation if needed thanks to Google Maps.
Thankfully after a few hours being warmed in the sun, the lens cleared and we were back in business.
The streets were absolutely heaving. Not only were there the usual tour groups but the Italians themselves had turned out in force, this being yet another weekend they didn't have to work. We walked around in the heat amidst heaving crowds, making our way between a few 'sights' or 'attractions', however you view them. Rome is a big place, and today we were there to test the water regarding public transport, and take a look at a small specific area.
I did get to take pictured of the Coliseum, bits of the Forum close by, but not the best views, because for that you have to pay to get in, and I'm not mean by any means but I didn't see any point in shelling out money if I had no strong desires to see it.
We reached a few other places, click, click, click, then on to the Spanish Steps, click, click, click. I tried to hold the camera in the air to get over the heads of the crowds, but it was all a bit of a compromise.
The Trevi Fountain is Rome's largest and most famous fountain completed in 17602 took a bit of finding, yet again heaving crowds which made it difficult to get the pictures I wanted. The central figure are Neptune, flanked by two Triton, one trying to master an unruly seahorse, the other leading a quieter beast contrasting the two moods of the sea.
The Chef remarked that she had never seen crowds anything like this before here in Rome, which was of little comfort to me, a virgin tourist to Italy, but one with no real agenda of 'must see and photograph'.
It was very hot and crowded. We bought a couple of bottles of water and sat and drank them not far from Rome's only Irish pub and restaurant.
As it was all on the way back to the Metro station I took a few pictures of earlier sights now that the camera had been cured of its cataracts.
Back on the Metro, and then to the Tram station. Ooops the guy at the barrier said they were closed, despite our paperwork stating that they were supposed to run until about midnight. We were to walk 500 metres to catch bus 105 instead. Lucky for us a bus came along just after we arrived at the bus stop.
It was a bendy bus, probably one of those off-loaded by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. It was heaving inside, absolutely stuffed full of people, which brings me to another point, Up until now I have been quite impressed with Italian folk, they have been very friendly and helpful, and most importantly, smelled good. But here in Rome, starting at the supermarket yesterday we are back to Les sweaty armpit, loads of it, they put the Spanish to shame. So it must be a Regional thing.
Back 'home' we chilled before having a light evening meal . Having had it we are now listening to amplified music coming from who-knows-where featuring what sounds like Muslim or Hindu music, and as a rank outsider I can say that it is utter, out of tune rubbish, and I hope that they don't intend to continue such rubbish until late in to the night. Still we must remember that our beloved politicians keep telling us that they enrich our society.
Tomorrow's cunning plan is to get up early and get in to Rome and visit the Vatican City, my thinking being that as it's a Sunday they should all be at work.
My word, what a day that was. Where do I begin?........At the beginning I suppose.
We awoke in good time in our public car park in Siena. The Camperstop book did say that the location was noisy, but it wasn't the traffic, we didn't hear a thing all night, it was a dog that was kept by an old girl in her garden across the way. It barked continually from the time it woke up.
Never mind, I emailed our tiresome problem regarding the toll fee to the company as a back-up, thanks once again to Google Translate, so that's it we'll just forget about it now.
Then we were off. We had only formulated a cunning plan this morning, which was to visit Cortona, a hilltop town, before making our way to a campsite on the outskirts of Rome.
The journey was demanding, in that the road surface for much of the way was again, dreadful. Potholes and road surface damage everywhere. No so called civilised nation should ever allow its roads to get in to such a terrible condition. No wonder they didn't charge us to use it, and as yesterday, the speed was limited to 90kph.
When we arrived at Cortona after a very steep and hairy climb up to the town we could not find a parking space. There didn't appear to be any available, and certainly not for a vehicle our size. That's the problem we have, if we can squeeze in to a gap between two vehicles, our back sticks out and can cause an obstruction.
The problem was so great that we drove through town, hung a right and parked in the next community along. We then had a walk uphill to a locality which turned out to be the Santuario di Santa Margarita and the parking area for the Cortona tour coaches.
Having had a look around that area, we made our way back to the motorhome, fired it up and headed back to Cortona in the hope that there would by now be a parking space - but no, it was not to be. We decided to do a three point turn in the middle of town, quite hairy I have to say, and then backtracked to a lay-by we had spotted the other side of town. Parked up, I put the rubber wheel chocks in place, such was the angle of the vehicle, had lunch and then walked back towards the town.
It was all very nice I have to say, and the views from up there gave us an appreciation of just how high we had climbed.
Job done we made our way back down the steep hill heading towards the outskirts of Rome where we were to spend a few nights relaxing and finding out 'What the Romans did for them'
The road was rubbish yet again. I am so pleased that I spend good money having the Air Assisted Suspension fitted. With roads like these, without it, we'd having shaken the living hell out of the vehicle.
Once on the Toll road things settled down. Destination Rome then.
We were heading for Flaminio Village Camping, which, with our ACSI discount card would cost us just €19pn including electricity. This would be where we would combine a bit of chill time with full facilities and transport nearby that would take us in to Rome.
On arrival at the campsite having circumnavigated part of the Rome Circular motorway (liked the M25 but with potholes) The Chef did her bit at Reception whilst I stayed with the vehicle. She came back saying that we were out of the ASCI discount period, and the fee would be forty-four Euros plus per night. I couldn't believe it and checked the book. Sure enough, there it was, a short gap in the discount period of a few days, which allowed them to screw visitors over this May Day holiday period. What opportunitists these people are- disgraceful. I told The Chef that at that price we'd stay just one night. She came back again saying that the photocopies that we had made of both our passports were not acceptable (more on that at a later date) and they wanted to see the originals, which were ocked away in the safe and would be a nightmare to bet to. I said that they could shove it up their a***s, we were leaving. I rely on The Chef to translate that in to something more acceptable to the Italian ear.
A 'U' turn then, and I punched in to the Satnav the GPS location of a Camperstop located on the outskirts of Rome.
Jeeesusss - we were in Rome, it was the start of a Bank Holiday weekend, and it was the rush hour. We had something like seven or eight miles to travel across Rome in the most appalling traffic imaginable.
No, that's selfish of me, I'm feel the need to share the experience with you.
We were to travel those 7-8 miles on roads which had the most appalling road surfaces. We were to face road junctions and slip roads that even the Satnav and ourselves had a problem understanding. Everyone wanted to get home to enjoy yet another National Holiday (do these people ever work?).
We were supposedly two lanes abreast, but no, others had different ideas, they would create a third lane. Coupled with that we had scooters and motorcyclists screaming up both our nearside and offside at the same time, weaving between the cars wherever they had the chance. I asked The Chef to keep an eye out for the beggers coming up our nearside whilst I concentrated on the offside and ahead.
We had to endure individuals pushing in from the right, double parking, others trying to squeeze us from the left, and sorry folks, I don't want to be sexist here, and even The Chef agreed, that the individuals most likely to not give way to us and let us in were young female drivers.
But enough o f this. We did eventually arrive here at Shitsville. A large Camperstop with pitches so close it isn't possible to sit outside.
Tomorrow we plan to go in to Rome later in the day on the tram, which runs right past us here.
It would have been a very peaceful night had we not been sharing our space with mosquitoes. I could hear them buzzing me on and off during the night and this morning my neck and shoulders were covered in bites. I did manage to get one of about half a dozen resting on the roof window blind, but of course when I splatted him it was my blood it had been feasting on that marked the vehicle trimming.
We had a nice hot shower before popping back down to the local supermarket for some fresh crusty bread and a couple of other bits. On arriving back at the car park we noticed the sign displaying the car park fees for coaches - €200 each. Given the number of coaches which come and go during a day that's a nice little earner.
We delayed our departure because the traffic was pretty bad during Pisa's rush hour. Today were heading for Siena via Monteriggioni, a supposed gem of a medieval hilltop town.
Our top priority was to dump the loo (hereafter to be referred to as black water) and grey water as well as pick up half a tank of fresh, which we managed to do for at a filling station on the short stretch of toll road we travelled on. Most of the journey to Monteriggioni was on a cross country 'B' road. It turned out to be a dual carriageway all the way, but with a top speed limit of only 90kph about 55mph. The reason being that the road surface in places was pretty bad and I had to try and weave between the pot holes along the way. I swear the Italian roads are getting as bad as Bulgaria's
The town of Monteriggioni was a huge disappointment. I'm so glad we hadn't made a huge detour to visit. It was really small, only about 300 yards across, and most of that was the town square. It had a church and the usual eats establishments, a couple of gift shops and that was it. We couldn't make the visit last more than about half an hour before making our way back down to the car park, paid €2.50 for our parking then hit the road.
It was getting very hot as the afternoon progressed. On arrival at the Camperstop in Siena we parked up and filled in the confounded form regarding our €55 fee for not have a toll ticket. We posted it off on our long walk towards town. The outskirts where we're parked up are nothing special, but the city itself was a very pleasant surprise. In fact, The Chef said she preferred it to Florence, because it had so many Medieval buildings which were well preserved.
Without the aid of the guide book or a freebie map from Tourist Information, we stumbled upon Piazza Del Campo where once a year they stage a horse race around its edge. This seemed to be the place to be seen, with lots of folk sitting around on the central paved area while others enjoyed drinks and meals at the restaurants surrounding it.
Our final destination was the Cathedral. The architecture at the front was very impressive, but again very difficult to capture it all in the cameras viewfinder. The Chef decided she wanted to go and have a look around inside, and so for five Euros she had her wish. She came out very impressed.
We then started to make our way back 'home'. We had never intended to walk as far as town, only as far as a shop that sold stamps and a post box, so in every way we were unprepared.
Our visit around Siena had been very pleasant indeed, it had a real Italian feel to it, and with it being later in the day, there were no large tour groups, it was much cooler and more comfortable, and our stamina sustained with a nice slice of pizza which we ate on the hoof.
We're now going to take out a couple of planned destinations as we feel the need to spend some time relaxing on a campsite with all mod cons. We will need to get to the proposed campsite at Rome before that can happen, so that's where we're heading now stopping of at a couple of places along the way.