When in Rome…go to the beach?
It turns out the first place this particular bunch of travelers visits upon arriving in Rome is not the Colosseum or any of the other thousand and more world renowned attractions, but the beach. And you may think what is the big deal, beaches are fun and we all spend a lot of money getting to them and hours dreaming of getting to them. I accept that. But the reason that most folks have not heard of the beaches that dot the coast a short train ride from Rome is that they receive on average 3.6 minutes of dreaming about annually – worldwide. In other words, they are nothing special.
The fences running around most of the beach at Ostia, preserving sandy goodness for the guests of the clubs that have stolen the usually public space certainly don’t look inviting. But these clubs are an Italian specialty and not endemic to this part of the coast. We had to walk almost a kilometer from the central part of town to find a break in the blockade and reach the sand where people who refuse to pay for access to the beach go to.
Interestingly enough the whole beach reminded us of certain spots in Bali – somewhat shabby, dirty, although without the benefit of encountering chickens and dogs. When the hawkers started coming around, the memories of Asia really flooded in.
A beach is a beach though and there is always space for fun. Some can jump around and enjoy the random garbage left around.
While others can sip good coffee (thank you, Italy) nearby while watching them.
There are other beaches around. If you are smarter and more prepared than us, you will find out that just a short drive South of Lido di Ostia – direction Torviana – will take you to the dunes next to the national park, which I am sure will be a better choice.
But there is more! Just a few minutes inland from Ostia is Ostia Antica, the little-known seaport of ancient Rome. It is surprisingly visited by very few of the drunk with the big city tourists. If you have plenty of time, Pompeii and Herculaneum are probably a better choice, but if you have just a day and don’t want to waste 5 hours just getting there to realize you need about 2-3 days to fully appreciate the areas, then Ostia Antica is a great alternative.
Once you are done with the beach and the cultural enlightenment, you could do like us and watch the always busy airport of Fiumicino – aka Leonardo da Vinci (just like another thousand businesses around Italy). It is the busiest airport in Italy and the sixth in Europe, so there is plenty of action. There is an airplane taking-off or landing every few minutes on each of the strips.
May I suggest grabbing some strawberries and just relaxing to the hum of the mighty engines. During the day at the river end of the airport there is even a panini sandwich truck. Convenient indeed.
Driving along the length of the airport there is a supermarket, where you can get supplies, as you change positions to get different views.
By the way, Italy has some of the most delicious tomatoes amongst the tasteless red fruits that have survived the boom of capitalism. Eat them!
You could – no should – end the day with a serving of gelato, topped with cream, if you want the Roman way.
And this is how one of our favorite days in Italy went. We dreamed about it for awhile afterwords…
Because, the magic of holidays and travel is rarely in the attractions. Most of us don’t daydream of visiting churches and sweating through ruins. We dream of a feeling, of the freedom of it all. And it seems that for us, aimlessly chasing airplanes, jumping in the sand and tasting local delights sometimes fits the bill perfectly.
Rome will be there tomorrow ;)