Postcard from the Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

I love a castle.

I love the history, the sense of thousands of people who’ve walked the same corridors you’re now walking. I love exploring winding staircases and narrow battlements and cramped cellars. I’m less interested in learning the actual facts of what happened there, in what century, involving which people, and would rather just run around, pretending to be in Game of Thrones or a Philippa Gregory novel; treating the whole place like an acceptable grown-up version of a playground.

But it’s not just any castle that makes it to third on my list of all time favourite castles (yes I really have a list of all time favourite castles. I swear I’m perfectly normal). The Castel Sant’Angelo makes the cut because it is a sprawling maze of interconnected rooms and passageways and you never come out quite where you expect to – perfect for losing yourself from modern life for a day. It feels like nowhere is off limits, which is never usually the case. And there’s nothing that crushes my daydreams about being Cersei Lannister quicker than a cordoned off staircase marked ‘do not enter.’

It’s not on the typical tourist agenda for a trip to Rome because, I suppose, comparatively it’s not really that old. What’s a castle built in the 14th Century AD compared to a Colosseum built in the 1st Century AD? But it just had that bit of magic to it that won me over completely.

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Postcard from Ostia Antica, Italy

I’m in two minds about this postcard because although on one hand this is perhaps my favourite tourist destination of all time, it also feels like my own little undiscovered secret. Somewhere absolutely incredible and yet flying under the radar, still keeping its hipster credentials.

But I do write a blog so I really need to get over things like that.

Ostia Antica is the Pompeii no one’s heard of. Mostly, I guess, because its demise wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic. No erupting volcano, no clouds of ash, no thousands of dead bodies; people simply abandoned it with the fall of the Roman Empire.

Only a fifty minute train journey from Rome and €8 later and you can wander the rooms of Roman houses, climb up Roman staircases, walk on Roman mosaics. We even found ourselves underground at one point until I got creeped out and insisted we go back to daylight. I love places you can freely explore and really immerse yourself in the history, spending the day pretending to be Roman nobility, and nowhere has been better for that than Ostia Antica.