Yesterday we took C to Campino airport in Rome. Our daughter and family have just moved into a new home near Brighton and C’s gone to help with the unpacking/school runs/nursery time for a few days. They say moving house is one of the most fraught experiences so C’s gone to see if she can just be on hand to take some of the stress out of it all. We were looking for a flight into Gatwick and Rome was all that we could find at short notice and without being extraordinarily expensive. Whatever happened to the concept of cheap flights?
We found that Easyjet did an evening flight to GW which turned out to be the most convenient and least-cost choice (though even then it was way over £100 one way). Some friends who stayed a couple of years ago, G and M, had done the drive but we hadn’t actually driven to Rome before so I was quite looking forward to it. There’s a coastal m/w section down to just south of Ascoli Piceno then it’s a two-lane m/w all the way across the leg of Italy to Rome.
The cross-country link takes you through the beautiful Gran Sasso mountains and some of Italy’s most scenic driving. They are still snow-capped and look quite beautiful. Big – around 3000m – without being imposing, they are the classic Toblerone-shaped mountains.The area is a natural park, full of high-level lakes and teaming with wildlife apparently including wolves, wild cats and boar. Proper wild animals! There’s a 10km tunnel through the mountains and this empties onto this sweeping valley in which is situated the lovely city of l’Aquila, the regional capital of Abruzzo. It’s quite a thrill to come across a fairly large city surrounded by the soaring Gran Sasso peaks on one side and the Appenines on the other tucked into this mountain valley 2600m above sea-level. But it’s certainly dramatic:-
Anyway we couldn’t stop but fully intend to come back and explore the place a little more. It’s another hour or so through the Appenines which are less phyically impressive but which are dotted with these little hill-top villages clinging impossibly to these craggy outcrops. You get the impression the whole region has barely changed in 2000 years. This must have been a transit route since Roman times (if not longer). There is a timelessness to Italy which is just so wonderful.
I would have loved to have done the journey in a big 4×4 (boy I miss the X5) so we could have gotten an even better view above the traffic. Incidentally it’s amazing how many German 4×4’s there are charging up and down the Italian motorways. Given that they produce such great small cars and super cars, the Italians don’t really produce impressive off-roaders even though their landscape is perfectly suited to them. Odd eh? Anyway it was such a lovely day that maybe an open top Italian sportscar would have been equal fun (but where would we have put daughter R?).
Pretty soon we were dropping down towards Tivoli which is about 30km out of Rome. It’s famous for Villa d’Este and the even more historic Villa Adriana – Emperor Hadrian’s out of town crib. Again we had to shoot on by – we’ll make a detour next time to check them out. It’s amazing that so much of the leg of Italy is mountainous, I had no real idea. All the population and business etc is largely focused in the relatively narrow coastal strips on either side of the country. It only takes about half an hour to get from the mountains onto the Rome ringroad, where I was glad not to have a little sports car. Something big and muscular would definitely have been my first choice here. We hit it at rush hour and it’s like travelling along the old North Circ – before they improved it. And when you get to exit 22 on the GRA ignore the signs for the airport; it takes you around a crappy industrial/commercial area a bit like round the old Wembley (but grimmer) before leading you back onto the GRA in time for j.23 which is the right exit.
Campino is a little old airport and really overcrowded C says. She had a couple of hours to kill and had a real struggle getting a spare seat in the cafe/restaurant. Still it could have been worse; at least it wasn’t T5 (where I see that that two executives of BA have now left the company because of the delays and luggage fiasco. Not before time).
We didn’t stay long, it was 6.30 pm and the journey had taken 3.5 hours and we needed to head off on the return leg. C would be in Brighton not long after we got home. It was a pleasant drive back – I managed to get through the mountains and hit the east coast m/w just as it was getting dark. R was pretty wacked but she stayed awake for my sake, bless her. We listened to the Oasis greatest hits double cd twice (it was that or Westlife) and I don’t want to hear it again soon thanks fellas. We stopped at a pizzeria about 20 minutes from home and bought some belting pizza and calzone. Then two episodes of the Sopranos and some quaffable local wine and I was done for. I never felt the pillow.
R’s first vist to Rome, a bit of a rushed affair and though we spent an eternity on the road I think we’ll be back to the Eternal City soon.