The Road To Rome
After a night on a ferry from Greece to Italy I finally touched down on Italian soil, Giulia was home after 51 years. I arrived in the south-eastern town of Bari. I did my usual bits of preparation for arriving in a new country. I had a cup of coffee and organised an Italian sim for my phone. The shopping streets of this town were long and elegant, I was enjoying Italy already. I had a room booked in a small town up the coast, so I didn’t linger in Bari.
I headed up the coast, sticking to the back roads and soon I reached the national park in Monte St Angelo. The road wound away from the sea and up through vineyards and into the mountains. The mountain pass roads were spectacular and the views were the stuff of postcards. Moving inland the scenery changed to wooded country side, on fire in the colours of late autumn. The Italian countryside had what a friends of mine described as “essence of ancient landscape” and I think that’s true, it feels as if it’s always been and always will be this beautiful.
Soon after heading inland I found what I think is one of the best roads anywhere, and I’ve seen my fair share. The road wound into the hills and through a great forest before reaching the sea once again on the other side, at Rodi Garganico, which is as good a place as any for a road to end. In Rodi I stayed the night in a beautiful townhouse that had been turned into a small hotel. I parked my car just off the town square on the stone streets, where the locals admired it. I had dinner in a small pizzeria, my first proper Italian pizza and it was fantastic.
I wish I had stayed on another night in Rodi, it really was quite lovely. The hotel was beautiful and the owner was friendly and I had it all to myself, but I had planned to head to Rome the next day. So in the morning after a wonderful Italian breakfast I got straight on the Autostrada and headed across the spine of Italy, to Rome.
The Alfa seemed happy on the Italian roads, purring along seamlessly on the autostrada. I arrived in Rome in the late afternoon, the lovely autumn sunlight gave the city a warm glow. The formidable Roman traffic was easy to navigate, even in the rush hour traffic. The killer traffic of Tanzania and Egypt has prepared me well for Rome, which seems awfully civilised by comparison.
I drove my little Alfa through the ancient streets, sight-seeing along the way. I drove around the Colosseum a few times, which was quite surreal. Rome is one of those cities that we’ve all seen a dozen times in films and in photographs, the landmarks are easily recognisable, but you still think, is that really the Colosseum, just at the end of this street?
As it got dark I found my way to my hotel, a pretty dingy place in a big old apartment building. It was fine for a night. I dropped my bag in my room, and instantly headed back downstairs, and out into the city, I hadn’t come to Rome to sit around in a hotel after all…