Destination Sperlonga: – Part 1
My trip began with a flight from Newcastle in the UK to Rome Campiano airport, a family of four with two teenage girls. Arriving at Campiano was painless and easy, hiring the car from Avis, previously paid for through the Internet was simple though a bit of a surprise when the asked if we wanted to pay an addition 23 Euros a day for Super CDW on top what we had already paid. The excess we had to endure was 850 Euros for damage and 1,700 for theft. Car hire is very close to the terminal.
Getting out of Campiano in the car was easy enough but the direction signs bore little resemblance to the mapquest information. Thankfully after two attempts and returning to the airport the local police were very helpful and advised us exactly how to find the start of our route. (Returning was very easy, just following road signs).
The drive to Sperlonga took over two hours. Speed limits are somewhat slower than in the UK. The car speedo did not have mph, only km so comparisons hade to be calculated. Took a few wrong turnings but found people very helpful putting us right, even when we had language communication difficulty they still helped.
Our accommodation at “Costa Di Kair Ed In” was about a mile outside the main tourist part of Sperlonga, and a hilly walk. The distance to the old part of the town was bout 3/4 mile. The road was not fun to drive and walking was risky with traffic. A beach bus ran from 9.00am till 13.00 and then 16.00 till 19.00.
For beach lovers Sperlonga is perfect – hot, clean beaches. Food is cheap and as long as you like fish you will love the food. Meat lovers will be disappointed.
Staying in the heart of the town might have been easier for travelling out by train, but you need to go to Fondi (nearest train station). There is limited parking at Fondi station, free for a short period (one hour), and there is a longer stay car park, which looks private but it shuts early, so a long day trip driving to Fondi is out. The bus from Sperlonga leaves at 9.00am, and costs 1,00 Euro. The last bus back is about 19.00, no good for a day out else where. A taxi between Fondi station and Sperlonga is 25 Euro. The easiest way to travel to the likes of Rome, Naples, Pompeii etc. is drive to Formia, about 25 minute drive. There is a big car park about a 10 minute walk from the station which costs 8 Euro for the day. A BIRG for Lazio costs 10.50 Euro for the day and allows all local trains in Lazio (not intercity) plus metro and buses in Rome.
Destination Sperlonga: – Part 2 – (Rome)
The first few days we spent acclimatising after leaving home at 2.00am in day time temperatures in the range of 10-15 to temperatures rising to over 30 every day. The young man in the reception of our accommodation complex was very helpful and got us train times for trips. He advised that driving to Rome and Pompeii was possible but we would have parking difficulties, so we got the train.
First trip to Rome, arriving at the station was like arriving at any other large railway station, loads of people. First port of call toilets, which were down stairs in the shopping centre. Our intention was first to do a bus tour to see the sites, so back up to the station, with the bus station directly outside.
We were approached by a man with an official looking “Tourist Information” badge. We were conned. This man was basically a travel agent out to make as much money as he could, and he made 72 Euros out of us (18€ each) for the worst bus tour I have ever been on, and I’ve been on a lot. The tour was by Ciao. They have two buses, hop on hop off and they are about 50 minutes apart. If they are full then the wait could be 1 hr 40min if you hop off. Additionally they stop for lunch making the waiting at that period even longer. On the tour some American ladies got on the bus complaining that the previous bus had not turned up, and they had been waiting for over an hour. The information given on the tour, in my opinion, had little depth and was difficult to follow. We had to change buses during the tour, and the bus we had to change to was smaller, hence some people never got on the second bus.
Our day in Rome was shortened somewhat by missing the bus from Sperlonga, hence getting a later train, so places to see were restricted. It was very, very hot. We decided to eat at the Hard Rock Café, which was wonderful, good service, good atmosphere, good food and good value. Following our late lunch and being out of the heat for a couple of hours we walked to the Spanish Steps, and down to the bottom.
From there we decided it was just too hot a day so we headed to some air conditioned shops. Here we encountered an unfortunate incident where some youngsters, probably between 10 and 13 tried to rob my wife. In a very busy metro station a female approached my wife and stared at here and followed her every move as the train approached. Others got between us to stop me seeing what was going on. The young female used her bag to cover my wife’s bag but it was false and she was in the process of unzipping my wife’s bag. Most likely to steel from it. Fortunately a street wise Italian saw what was going on and intervened. Message – Beware in the Metro! We got the 20.35 back to Fondi, then the €25 taxi back to Sperlonga, (not unreasonable for the journey).
Destination Sperlonga: – Part 3 – (Sperlonga – Fondi)
There do not seem to be any supermarkets that resemble the big UK supermarkets but there were two of reasonable size in Fondi. Maxi Sidis was very good and provided all the necessary requirements. Looking for somewhere to eat in Fondi was a challenge, while there were pizza places we could not find a Restaurant so ended up travelling back to Sperlonga to eat. There must be restaurants, but we could not find them.
Sunday in Fondi is market day. There are some good products to buy at good prices. The only problem is parking. A main car parking area is taken over by the market, and surrounding streets are restricted to one hour parking. It may well be worth parking a bit further away and walking in.
Visiting the “old” part of Sperlonga was fun. Perched high above everything else it is a warren of small streets, built in, no vehicle access, and lots of nice small shops. There are a few restaurants, pizza places and cafes too. For a photographer it is a fun place to shoot with lots of options.
Away to the south side of Sperlonga, maybe a kilometre from the old town along the beach to the south is a museum and series of caves, displaying discoveries made in the 1970’s during road construction. At only €2.00 it is good value to go and see, though they get upset if you take photographs inside the museum.
Destination Sperlonga: – Part 4 – (Pompeii)
We drove to Formia, about 25 minutes, parked in a barrier controlled car park from about 7.30am till about 17.30 for only €8.00, then walked about 10 minutes, uphill including steps, to the railway station. We got the train to Naples, changed, and got another train to Pompeii, unfortunately missing a connection in the process. Arriving in Pompeii a map in the station very roughly shows where the old Pompeii is situated, but the locals are more than happy to advise. Unfortunately we went in what seemed to be the back gate and were not issued with the proper itinerary. We had to buy a guide book with map from an adjacent local trader, after not being issued or offered such facilities by the entrance ticket sellers. Again this was a very hot day and there is little shade in Pompeii. However the place is amazing and can only be appreciated by visiting. The lesson here is get a guided tour to learn about the place. Also do it in the spring, autumn or winter when it’s a bit cooler.
Destination Sperlonga: – Part 5 – (Rome – again)
Visiting Rome a second time was far better. For only €13.00 we did the 110 bus tour, but we were a bit disappointed. Many of the head phone connections either did not work or only half worked. Although much better that the previous €18.00 tour it was still somewhat lacking compared to similar facilities in other countries (e.g. UK and Canada). There was long, in terms of time, queue for the bus at the station, so we got the metro to the Colleseum (stop 3) did the tour of the Collesem. It was excellent €8,00 for the guided tour and €10,00 to get in. The tour lasted about two hours. We then got on the tour bus, next stop the Vatican. It was afternoon by now, thankfully not as hot as previous days, but we missed seeing the Sistine Chapel. It seems you have to go early for this. However it is an amazing place with extraordinary wealth.
Destination Sperlonga: – Part 6 – (Gaeta)
We visited Gaeta a few times, once driving around for 40 minutes trying to find a parking place to go to a recommended restaurant. We gave up and went back the next day, and it was well worth the wait. Antico Vico, situated in the old part of the town was a place with ambience, atmosphere and good food. Sitting inside the restaurant is worth the experience with the massive mural on the wall. It was the most expensive meal we had at €122,00 for the four of us, inclusive of drinks. Gaeta is blessed with some really nice small shops in narrow streets, no cars!
Well that is a brief report of two weeks. Happy to answer and questions nay one has. Thanks.