Carmen’s Corner: Outdoors in Rome

Since Italy is a long, svelte peninsula, it’s easy for residents to head directly east or west until they hit the Mediterranean, then get out of the car and lie on the sand, with or without clothing, until it’s time to go home. For short-termers like American tourists, however, who want a little salt air mixed into their sightseeing, the shore holiday is not usually an option because Americans don’t have all August; we need to get home to work to make money.

Hence, Ostia. It is next to ancient Rome’s port city (now known as Ostia Antica), and has a beach that can be accessed easily and cheaply from Rome by commuter train near the Pyramid in the south of Rome, just beyond the city walls. At the station, look for signs for “Lido.” Tickets are ridiculously cheap (buy from a machine; they are the same ones used on the metro system); the trip takes under an hour. Once in Ostia you can walk to the beach or take a bus or cab, but since you’re going to be lying on the sand for a couple of hours, the walk will do you good. Just don’t stay out too late, because you’re coming back on a commuter train that stops running around midnight. A few other warnings: 1) You’re going to Ostia Lido, not Ostia Antica! 2) Usual European beach rules apply: some are free and crowded, others have fees and are less crowded; there are additional charges for various equipment that may be optional, so stand your ground; as an American, unless you are a professional nudist, you will be as or more covered than the person under the next umbrella. 3) This is not a beach experience like the ones in travel brochures; the train will be packed with teenagers and the beaches will be packed with everyone; if you want less cacophony, go early, on a weekday, and spring for a private beach.

If you find the commuter train too daunting but still need a touch of boardwalk, head towards the open stretch of sky in Rome that hangs over the Tiber, then look down. Every year in the height of summer the city hosts a little boardwalk experience, with fried food, music, games, lights, shows, and bars. If you look towards the opposite bank, you will see some water, so it must be a beach!