As Passenger Seat Photographer I was quite snap-happy during this road trip. Looking through the albums, there are plenty of photos of blurred buildings and scenery which we drove by too quickly to get a decent shot. That said, the fact that there is a noticeable gap (and by ‘gap’ I mean none at all) between the last photo taken in Pompeii and the first photo taken a day and a half later is pretty telling.
Given Naples’ reputation, our aim was to get past it as quickly as possible and then find ourselves a bed for the night so that we could be up bright and early the next day to make our way to Rome. Up until this point I had found it relatively simple to navigate Atty out of towns and on to the bigger roads but for some reason, Pompei really had it in for us. After driving round and round and ending up on the motorway headed in the wrong direction, we eventually managed to join the correct road. Thinking the worst was behind us, we perked up a little … until somehow we suddenly had no choice but to take an exit leading right into the heart of Notorious Napoli
. As I look back, Naples is a rush of shouting women, roads paved in cobblestones, dingy side streets with sagging clothes lines zig-zagged between the tops of buildings and men hell-bent on forcing themselves in front of our car to wash the windscreen. And the rubbish!
Ugh. I can’t even begin to describe the stench of the bags of it lining the streets and strewn across the roads in the sweltering sun.
Eventually, the town spat us out back onto the motorway but try as we might we could not seem to get away from that damn volcano
and kept getting sucked back into the town and its surrounding area. All in all, we were lost for about five hours. Five, long hours. Driving through Naples is possibly the one and only time I have seen Atty get angry and the tension between us in the car was palpable but unfortunately our day wasn’t going to get easier just yet. By the time we were at a comfortable distance from, well, hell, it was already very late in the day and we needed to find somewhere to sleep. We drove and we drove and we drove but there were no signs indicating a B&B or hotel to be seen. Nightfall had come and gone at this point and we managed to find our way into a small village in the middle of nowhere. I tried my best Italian to ask for somewhere to sleep but all I got back was, “Niente.” No one could speak English but a lady mimed directions to somewhere where, hopefully, we would find a bed. Atty and I were seriously contemplating pulling up and sleeping in the car at this point but we figured we’d come this far, we would give it one last shot.
At around 11pm, after many wrong turns and some final directions from a cute carabiniere, we saw some lights blinking in the distance and drove into a seaside resort. Perhaps it was just the fact that I was absolutely wrecked after the terrible day we had had, but ‘dilapidated’ is how I would describe the place. Some of the kiosks looked like they had been closed for years, the fair ground was mostly empty with light bulbs missing and a sign that was in dire need of re-painting at the entrance, and all in all there was an air of weariness to the place. The receptionist of the first hotel we came across told me the place was full (the universe had one last punch in the chest left for me and Atty. Thanks!). We drove on a little further and came to a second hotel. We paid an extortionate amount to stay in this place but by then we were beyond caring. What we ended up with was a room with peeling wallpaper, a window which would not open, broken air-conditioning, a leaky shower with no hot water and a toilet which wouldn’t flush properly.
Moral of the story? Sometimes there is no immediate happy ending!
The next day we were a lot chirpier after a good few hours’ sleep and escaped from what is probably the grottiest hotel I have ever been to as quickly as possible. Next stop: Rome! Most of the day was spent driving and this time we started to look for a spot to sleep just outside Rome quite early in the evening. Once again, we had trouble finding anywhere but after popping into an estate agents’ to ask for help, a lovely man told me to follow him, hopped onto his moped and led Atty and I to a few different B&Bs. The first few were full but finally he got us a room in a lovely guesthouse in Rocca di Papa
And here I feel the need to stop and hammer home just how wonderful the guesthouse we stayed at was, as well as Rocca di Papa itself. The town is built along a very steep hill and the guesthouse is at the top where it is noticeably colder. A man named Salvatore and his family run the place and made us feel immediately at home. The bedroom was immaculate (and comfy!) and the next-door Trattoria, run by the same family, was where I ate some of the best food from the entire trip cooked in an old-school open oven.
We loved the place so much that we ended up staying for two nights. Salvatore was incredibly kind and insisted on driving us down to the coach stop to get into Rome in the morning and then picked us up from there again in the evening. Despite the fact that he didn’t speak any English, he managed to somehow tell us a little of the history of Rocca di Papa and pointed out a few hidden gems for us to take a look at.
Rocca di Papa is full of winding alleys …
… breathtaking views …
… and Italian charm
I would definitely recommend staying here if you are looking for somewhere to go for a week. The guesthouse is fantastic and the town is close enough to Rome to get there on a short coach trip. Aside from that, it’s a lovely place to explore in itself. Since 2009 I have actually kept the business card just in case I am able to go back there:
Revisiting Rome as an adult was great. The place is steeped in culture and history and I would love to go back and spend a longer time there to get a better feel for the place.
You’ve got to love a man in uniform, wherever you are 🙂
Nothing beats the gelato in Rome
After a few beautiful days spent in Rocca di Papa and Rome, it was time for us to get back on the road. In a couple of days we would have to be in Lyon, France so that I could make my flight home. The rest of the trip went by smoothly enough. Driving through the Alps was probably the highlight of the last few days.
At some point we crossed over into France and stayed at a few B&Bs, most of which were over-crowded due to the Tour de France passing through that area at the time. We didn’t really have enough time in France to do much sight-seeing but I won’t forget this little fella I befriended:
And there you have it. A day after that shot was taken I was on a plane back to Malta. That would be the last of my road trips for a while … up until this year anyway. I have what will probably be the road trip of a lifetime planned to start later this year. More details will be up about this as soon as I can divulge a little more information 🙂