About South-East of Rome: the Pontine Way
In the last reel of La Dolce Vita the sweet lifers end a night of dégringolade by going down to Rome’s lido to watch the sun rise over the sea (apparently unaware they are facing west). A strange dead creature has been washed ashore, a behemoth of the deep. It symbolizes decadence and corruption. It could also symbolize the desperate ugliness which has come upon parts of the Roman shore. We no longer have to contend with the evil-smelling Pontine marshes which once barred the traveller’s way between Rome and Naples: that land is now under cultivation. But you must traverse miles of bungalows, cheap shacks, tents, caravans, grey sea, grey sand and groynes and concrete walls many times patched. Nonetheless, this area has its moments, and this guide would be incomplete without it. Nowhere in Italy, not even in Rome, has history sunk its roots so deep as on this littoral of tombs, temples and place names (Lavinio, Enea, Latina, Cincinnati) carried forward from nearly 3,000 years ago when the first arrivals on the Tiber struggled to gain a foothold. Forget the vacationlands, concentrate on a timeless landscape, the renowned and unmistakable Roman countryside of open valleys and hunting woodland, crumbling towers and aqueducts, green hills and quiet lakes. If the beaches are skimpy and artificial, the towns have a stubborn unchanging character. For all the influence Rome has had, they might be in another region altogether.
One of the best places to visit is Ostia Antica, one-time port of Rome, a superb example of a prosperous city of the imperial era, today a little-publicized peaceful place where you can wander for hours, or just sit dreaming, and feel all the better for it. If you come down from Rome at dawn, like the Dolce Vita crowd, you find Via Ostiense and Via del Mare only moderately busy. Later you encounter congestion, delays and always an accident up ahead. From central Rome head south and keep to the east (left) bank of the Tiber; cross it and you end up at the airport (Ostia Antica and Fiumicino village are however equally accessible from that road). Avoid these busy roads altogether by finding Via Cristoforo Colombo, near Caracalla baths, and following it through the EUR zone (the big sports complex) to the sea 4 km east of Lido di Ostia.
From junctions on the main line from Rome (Termini) to Naples (Centrale) lines branch off the the coast at Anzio, Nettuno and Terracina. A metropolitan suburban line goes from Termini station to Ostia Antica; another to Lido di Ostia, which you can also reach from Rome’s Ostiense station, off Piazza Porta San Paolo, on a local train. The COTRAL motor-coach services (www.cotralspa.it) to Anzio, Lavinio and Nettuno leave from the EUR Fermi metropolitan station (Linea B) and Subaugusta (Linea A). Buses also run from Piazza Fermi to Sabaudia and San Felice Circeo, for the Circeo National Park.