In hindsight, I wish this day could have been the day that we got up early, made the trip down to Naples and went to see Pompeii. It was something I always wanted to see. During Junior School in the UK (I think I was 7 or 8), I wrote a poem about Vesuvius and the people that died. A few years later, I did a project that involved a paper mache spewing volcano and a diary from the point of view of one of the victims. These things stay with you for some strange reason. So why did I not make this happen? I really regret this. I thought it would be too difficult to 'do Pompeii' in a day with a two year old. But I'm usually up for a challenge so I can't understand it.
In any case, you make these rash decisions while travelling. Instead, I had heard about a place called Ostia Antica which lay near the beach about 25 minutes from Rome. The consensus was that it was nearly as good as Pompeii and had decidedly less tourists. Always a bonus! We decided to go there instead. Well, it took us over an hour and a half to get there so again, we should have just bloody gone to Pompeii!!
You go to Termini and catch the Line B Metro to Piramide station. Do not go outside the station for 20 minutes looking for the overland train station. You do not even need to go through the turnstiles, just turn left and down the stairs and bingo! There you are! But hey, getting lost and frustrated is all part of the fun right?
So you swap trains and hop on the train that goes to Ostia, last stop C. Colombus. All of this can be done very cheaply though, I might add. A one way BIT ticket costs one euro each; not bad.
Sitting on the train, checking up on my facebook mates and after a while we pull up at Ostia Antica station. Ghost town, anyone??
We guess at where to go - up over the blue pedestrian bridge and walk down the road until you see the sign, then down a long road till you get to the ticket office. I think we were one of three people there, not including a school group. One of the three people ended up being a lurker that attempted to give us a tour in English. We respectfully declined.
Tip: Do not attempt the old cobblestone road with a pram or stroller. It is not worth a possible divorce. Just kidding, but you get my drift I'm sure. There is a road to the right as you walk in that is far easier. Then just pop in to the ruins that you like.
The ruins are definitely worth a look if you cannot get to Pompeii but if you can spare even a day, don't bother with Ostia Antica. It would have been interesting for me, if I was by myself and could spend 3 hours getting lost around the ruins. With a husband that really was not that enthused and a Charlie who just wanted a juice and a packet of crisps....yeah, just not the same ;)
After spending only an hour, we made our way back into Rome and started trying to find the Pantheon. Pretty sure it took us 2 hours just to find it - remember what I said about maps?? haha I really don't know if I could ever find it again! It is in the middle of a nondescript piazza with no real signs. Maybe it is just me but I'm usually quite good at navigating. Along the way we found museums and walked up a major hill to look down on the Roman Forums.
Luckily though, it was worth the 2 hour struggle. The Pantheon is my absolute fave place in Rome. Just walking in, looking up at the dome and the light pouring in through the hole in the roof...it just takes your breath away. I made an audible gasp :) It was so beautiful.
As you can see from the photograph, it was just my luck to come at a time where an entire half of the facade is completely shrouded in scaffolding! Makes for an interesting pic though I suppose. The fountain caught my eye here too and I love the statues - very cool.
Well, as you can imagine after wandering around Rome and its outskirts for hours, we were starving and exhausted. It was an especially warm day by this stage. We saw old faithful (McDonalds) on a sign that said 50m and an arrow. I swear we followed the arrow. No McDonalds. We were on a mission. The only other possible eatery was an Irish Pub and I decided to be a responsible parent. You walk in an Irish Pub and walk out hammered.
Anyhoo, around and around we went with dogged determination. We would find McDonalds!! I had a craving for a Fillet-o-Fish dammit! By this stage, Charlie was asleep. The kind of sleep that nothing would wake. His head tipped forward and he started snoring since his airway was part-blocked. I grabbed husband's jumper and attempted to create a makeshift pillow that he could lean on. I was semi-successful.
You will be glad to hear that we did find the Pantheon McDonalds - after another HOUR of walking I might add. You will laugh when I tell you where it was. That's right! Directly behind the fountain in the same piazza as the Pantheon. In my defence, it did not look like a regular Maccas okay? It looked like a little Italian café. By this stage, I could barely stand. Stabbing pains were shooting up the back of my legs. That will teach me to wear flat sandals instead of sneakers.
As soon as someone moved from a table, I pounced. I remember saying to husband that even if I had to keep buying food, I would not be moving for a good half an hour. Ah, SO good to sit down.
I knew that our legs wouldn't hold up for too much longer so we decided to take the metro back to Termini and go back to the apartment. Only issue is that there is no metro station anywhere near the Pantheon. There is one at the Colosseum (called Colosseo funnily enough) and one near the Spanish Steps. This was the closest and since we hadn't had a chance to see the steps yet, we decided we would head towards this one. I noticed that Piazza Navona (one of the biggest in Rome) was only round the corner from the Pantheon and on the way to the steps so I decided I wanted to see this as well. I really haven't learnt my lesson yet!
After meandering around for a fair while (I don't know - I have lost all sense of time by this stage), we finally find the Piazza and for some reason it is nothing like what I expected. I swear the travel book said the shopping was great around this area. I was expecting vintage shops, designer shops...you name it. Niente.
There was however, a pretty gorgeous fountain, some horse buggies (a regular occurrence in all the tourist hot spots in Rome) and gelaterias on a major scale ;)
We left Piazza Navona and meandered once again, until we found the most beautiful street. Dior, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Versace, Valentino...you name it! I sighed through a number of windows while husband rolled his eyes and tried to get me out of there before I maxed out our credit card. I potentially could have maxed it out with a single purchase in that street. King St eat your heart out ;)
The Spanish Steps were overrun with tourists and more tourists. If they weren't on the steps, they were taking pictures of the steps. All from the same place of course so you could get a 'straight-on' photo. Charlie was threatening to do a Houdini by this stage and I had no doubt if we stayed much longer, he would escape his pram holds, and run crazily into the crowds. I do realise the irony of the tourist statements by the way. I realise I too am a tourist. I am in denial of this fact.
When we arrived back at Termini, we wasted time trying to figure out the automatic ticket system (we became experts by the end of the trip) so we could arrange our tickets for Pisa in the morning. Eventually I decided to talk to a human being and waited for over half an hour in the queue. After about 30 seconds at the counter, I had both tickets in hand for the following day. We would get into Pisa mid afternoon. I was a bit unsure of whether it would be worth going to Pisa. Castiglioncello was 40 minutes south so we would have to backtrack. We could have changed at Livorno and gone straight to the sea, but something was pulling me towards Pisa.
I liked Rome very much and we fitted as much in as we dared. However it had not taken my heart away like many cities/towns had in various parts of the world. Put it this way, when I arrived in Mt Cook village in New Zealand, I nearly cried with happiness and did not want to leave. With Rome, I was very happy to see it but was also happy to move on and see new things, knowing I would probably not go back. I did not throw a coin in the Trevi - I knew I would not be back.
Pompeii on the other hand...well I will get there eventually. It's on the bucket list.