Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Headed out of Rome today to see the Villa d’Este at Tivoli. We felt we needed a rest and some chill time.

First off we were mis-sold our BIG ticket, and given one that only covers inner Rome. So when we arrived at Ponte Mammolo where we had to change from Metro to bus, we had to buy another ticket, and it wasn’t obvious where to go to do this. We returned to the bus station, tickets in hand, to find the bus packed full. We chose to let it go rather than stand all the way to Tivoli.

So now we were first in the queue. The bus arrived ten minutes later. It’s the first stop on the route so at this point there’s nobody on it. Only half a dozen people are waiting in the queue – but then from nowhere there are hoards, barging and elbowing and pushing, and within seconds the bus was damn-near full again. And we were still outside on the pavement. We need to get the hang of the Italian school of queue-jumping.

We did get on this bus and (only because of a bit of late seat swapping) managed to get the last two seats.

The bus ride to Tivoli is about one hour. It’s not one of the world’s great public transport experiences. Neither was the trip on the Metro for that matter. Derelict factories and graffiti daubed roller-shutters – it’s pretty depressing.

Anyway, after fifty minutes or so the bus leaves the industrial wasteland and winds up into the mountains through groves of olive trees, and all is forgiven. The Villa d’Este itself is tranquil and restful and full of water: fountains, waterfalls, cascades. Really magical. Smaller than I had expected and twice the price printed in the guide book, but worth the visit. The main fountain (pictured) is worth the trip alone.
The bus journey back home, though, was an ever-present demon waiting in the wings. This time when the bus arrived we tried using elbows and rudeness, but we are English and we just don’t have the technique mastered yet, and again we were lucky to get a seat.

The journey back involved going downhill. There were hairpin bends. A UK bus needs considerable work to pass its annual inspection - just a single missing length of seat-trim is enough to fail it. The downhill slalom from Tivoli is the point when you realise you are in a vehicle that would fail even to get into a scrap-yard back home, there being so few serviceable and salvageable parts on it, not the least of them being the brakes. We went hurtling down that hill, and on every bend the seats – apparently not anchored to the bus floor – were tilting and swaying and rocking and always threatening to cast us into the minging, greasy darkness of the bus aisle. It was almost a relief to get back to the mobile graffiti hoarding that passes for the city Metro.

It was good to get back into Rome. Most cities tend to be noisy and threatening, especially at night. Rome is the opposite. Even quite late after dark it is friendly and feels quite safe (unless you are crossing the road.) It seems it is outside the city where you feel vulnerable and at risk.

Tomorrow is our last day. There’s a lot in the city of Rome that we haven’t yet seen. We’ll stick to the places our feet will take us.

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