The last couple of days have been a real roller coaster of a ride.  We were glad to move on from northern Italy, despite it being such an appealing area, because it was so darned cold at night.  Sestri Levante is definitely somewhere consider going back to, despite the lukewarm write up in the Rough Guide.  I suspect there are loads of places like that out there that are worth a visit, but are overshadowed by the large tourist traps.  I really liked the campsite, even though the facilities were mainly outside and the hot water was, to say the least, tepid.  No showers for me then (OK, I did wash, but nobody wants to get naked at 0 degrees C unless the water is HOT!) (apart from Tim and other tough rugby types).

We managed to leave early on Tuesday and drove down the coast to Rome, a really beautiful route. 

1 Route 1

2 Route 2

3 route 3

The first half of the journey was along the toll motorway and the road was both quiet and impressive, straight smooth and free flowing.  Then the peàge section ran out, the surface became bumpier and the dual carriageway less frequent.  We eventually stopped for a bite to eat at a tatty-looking cafe, where the food was actually pretty good.  In the car park, interestingly, were these matching, British trucks. 

4 Brits on the way to Bond

When we asked them what they were delivering they said they were taking generators to Rome for the filming of the latest Bond movie!  The bloke said he was not, however being taken to Mexico to help with the next part.  I often wonder about script writers and directors of such franchises….is it just an excuse to travel?

We managed to drive into the outer suburbs of Rome with very little trouble and stopped at the Roma campsite, with very low expectations, due to a camping app that lists all of the campsites in Italy.  It said that there was only hot water in the shower.  Actually, this is one of the best places we have camped at in the winter. 

5 Camping Roma

It has large pitches, a bar and restaurant and (best of all) a luxury heated services block with unlimited hot water for all your needs.  I had the best shower….  The sun was out, the temperature was a few degrees higher, so I slept better, Wednesday morning was perfect, with blue skies, sunshine on my back as I ate my breakfast (without gloves!) and then we received two texts.  Our granddaughter had hit her head and had spent the night in hospital and a message from the kind friend that lent us the flat in Thollon asking why had we left the door open.  We were quickly reassured that Granddaughter was fine, just was kept in overnight for observation after hitting her head and being sick a couple of times (obviously no ‘just’ about it for her poor mum and dad) but I was pretty concerned that I didn’t lock the flat properly so it had been burgled.  Eventually we managed to contact the owner and it seems to be OK. I think a neighbour saw the door open when we were taking our stuff downstairs.  Phew all round!

We spent the day mooching around Rome, walking around the main sites (you know what they are!) and comparing the ease of access we had in so many places in Spain to the highly controlled antiquities in Rome. (Of course the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel were shut for the day, Meh!)

6 Vatican queues

7 Caged Rome

We watched the great long queues, fought off the touts and tour guides (one chap three times, for goodness sake) had a nice lunch, watched the poor so and so’s that were trying to sell selfie sticks (good grief, I hate those things…..memories of people facing the wrong way waiting for geysers to blow) flooding away from the police who were chasing them on motor cycles. 

We did see some interesting things, like this structure that was stopping an antiquity from falling down while they were digging a new metro tunnel underneath

8 new metro

We both were in need of a pee by then so we found a bar near by to have a drink and the waiter would not let us sit down until he had set us up with a couple of thrones…. How cool is that?

9 Throne room

Back for a fairly chilly night and then off to Rome again to see the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.  A nice young guide suggested that we should buy our tickets online and we (for once in our lives) listened to him. Wow, what a difference a chance conversation can make!  We went right to the front of the huge queue and straight into the museum.  We went to the ticket office, they scanned Tim’s phone and we were in.  Yeh, got to love the net when it works.

I am not a huge fan of early religious art, one or two other things caught my eye

10 Vatican museum 1

11 Vatican Museum 2

Vatican Donkey

Vatican Donkey

Poor Vintage?

Poor Vintage?

Caged Conserator

Caged Conservator

15 Vatican Museum 3

We spent 2 whole hours in the Vatican, including a break and the Sistine chapel and we were totally ‘museumed out’ by the end of it.  I always start out going ‘Wow!’ and ‘Amazing!’ and then end up going ‘Oh look, another statue, Yeh’ (roughly translated as ‘Get me out of here or give me tea’)

Tim and I were both thrilled, however, to see the Sistine Chapel.  He had seen it about 40 years ago when he ventured around Europe with his good chum Geoff Corke on an Interrail card.  I had only ever seen it in pictures.  It was fabulous and Tim was blown away by its (relatively) recent restoration.  The colours just leap out at you nowadays, as opposed to the previous dingy experience. 

(There is an interesting parallel story to this in that, apparently, someone in West Sussex painted a church as an exact replica of said chapel and not long after they finished the glory of the restoration were revealed….the poor chap had to start all over again)

We did not ‘do’ the whole of the Vatican Museum, because the crowds were really starting to ‘do my head in’ (yep, feel that phobia coming on) and anyway, how can anyone ‘do’ a whole museum in one go?  We headed off, hoping to find a bar to just chill in, but the whole place was heaving in tour groups (got to hate them tourists)(ha ha)

I made Tim take me to the Trevi fountain, because I wanted to throw a coin in and it was closed and dry for restoration. Meh!

18 Trevi 1

19 Trevi 2

On the way back we saw

16 Rome 1

17 cool cop car

Tim was particularly taken with the Disco 4

I preferred these pretty young men!

20 Pretty guards

These probably won the prize for looking silly

21 silly dogs

On our last night, we bumped into this great bunch of young people from Australia and New Zealand, who are doing a whirlwind tour of Europe.  Something like 10 or 11 cities in 30 days.  Good Grief!  The two young men were suited up to celebrate one of their birthdays.

22 Party people

I am very glad that we went to Rome, because I would always have wondered about it (I blame the movies) but I am not in a big hurry to come back.  The place feels frenetic, full of tour groups that you have to step round and it does not feel all that welcoming.  I have tried comparing Rome to London and Madrid and I suspect the problem is that it is really full in FEBRUARY.  Good grief, does the place not have a low season?

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