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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rome and Lazio

Rome was a fascinating mix of ancient, mediaeval and modern. My main interests in the city were the Vatican and the Forum, but we also spent a lot of time just wandering, or sitting in cafes, or getting on public transport to see where it went. Sometimes we didn't know where we were - but you can't be lost if you don't have a destination - so we'd get on the next bus back.

We decided to stay outside Rome for a couple of reasons – not the least being the traffic. In one of my previous lives I was a cab-driver in Melbourne, mainly on the night shift. Melbourne is a large city with a population of about 4 million and all of the normal traffic problems that cab drivers face anywhere in a big city. After 17 years and about 1.5 million km as a cabbie I thought I could drive most places without getting too stressed.

But nothing had prepared me for Rome.

I had an inkling when I crossed the border from Menton and noticed that the motorscooter lane was the left one on a one lane each way road; the one that opposing drivers thought was theirs. And the motorscooters attacked in swarms, like hive insects. Whenever you stopped at the lights the clear (opposite) lane beside the front car would gradually fill with those motorscooter riders who chose to stop at the light until it was thick with a putt-putt of motorscooters in a blue haze; then when the light changed they’d hare off, somehow miraculously avoiding the oncoming traffic. I got the impression that the thrill of the drag-race start may have been their reason for stopping – because many didn’t. Like cyclists at home.

The difference in Rome was that the cars behaved like motorscooters. We did drive through a couple of times en-route to other places in Lazio, but not often. The best way I could describe it was like one of those video games my sons played, where cars would seem to appear from nowhere and zoom past you on either side – then ram their brakes on as soon as they were in front. We survived. We didn’t park in the city – it didn’t bother the locals to double- or triple-park, but we felt our bright red "I’m a tourist" Eurodrive numberplate was a tad too inviting for the local parking cops.

Of course, a week later we discovered that not even Rome had prepared us for Naples drivers.

Thus we decided to stay in a pleasant little mobilhome in a Caravan Park at Anguillara Sabazia, on Lake Bracciano. The accommodation was basic – but we loved the spot. This was the view from the window – I thought I had made friends with this swan but just after this it decided I hadn’t bribed it enough and it attacked me – those birds are big!

It also allowed us to relax a little, catch our breath, do the laundry, and do some local wandering by car and by train. We explored Anguillara, Bracciano and Trevignano on foot (and by mouth - lots of nice little restaurants), and went on day drives to places like the weird black sand beach (somewhere west of Cervetari from memory), the Tivoli, and the surrounds of Rome.

One day we drove East of Rome, just taking back roads to look at the little villages and old buildings. We stopped for a mid-afternoon snack in a village square under the shadow of the Castella D’Orsini which had four little restaurants side by side. We spent a little time walking around and also choosing one of the cafes for coffee, wine and a snack. They were all quite different in d├ęcor, menus and style. Eventually we chose one and ordered. It wasn’t until I decided to use the toilets that we found they were all interconnected at the rear – one kitchen, one toilet, one family, four cafes.

Lorraine wasn’t impressed at the walking involved in seeing Ancient Rome, so while she relaxed at "home" I took the train to Rome. I knew from the trip to the Vatican which ticket I needed to buy at Anguillara, so I waited patiently behind an ancient character at the ticket window for my turn. He was doing something that involved much gesturing and filling out of forms very carefully. And very slowly. I started to worry that I would miss the train. Then the train came into the station, I finally got to the window, thrust the correct change in the ticket-sellers hand, grabbed my ticket and ran to just catch the train as it left the station – in the wrong direction.

It’s an interesting and scenic train trip to Viterbo – but a long way round to get to the Colosseum; yep, a funny thing to happen on the way to the Forum.

I eventually got there – but more about that in the next post.

Cheers. Alan

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