Feeling pasty and white, like a big blob of mozzarella cheese? Tired of peeling off the clothes plastered to your body? Does the idea of the beach sound great but a million kilometres away? Well, consider your problems solved with this everything-you-need-to-know guide to getting to the beach near Rome, so you can bronze and stay cool during the summer months.

Ostia a word that means many things to different people. In Spanish, the word ostia happens to be a vulgar explanation of profanity or disgust which is the look you get from Italians when they are asked their opinion of the beaches in and around Ostia. But for others, Ostia means a quick escape from the smog-infested, hectic life in the city. Those without a car may dismiss the idea of getting to the beach, assuming its too difficult and not worth the time spent on a bus. But in fact, public transport isnt as bad as everyone thinks. Ignore the snarls, grunts and comments and check out Ostia for yourself. Formulate your own definition of the Roman Riviera and what it can offer you might be pleasantly surprised.

The traffic in Rome is horrendous and at the beach in the summertime it is even worse. After arriving by car, calculate at least another 40 minutes just to find parking. The answer is simple, ditch the car and take the train and bus to the sea.

For the bargain price of 1 for one ticket, you get 75 minutes of travel with unlimited transfers between buses, trams and metro. In other words, for 2 (roundtrip) you can enjoy sunbathing bliss for the entire day.

How to get there:

The Piramide metro stop, named after the large out-of-place pyramid in the middle of the Piazzale Ostiense, is the most direct point of departure for your journey. A traffic and transportation hub, the station is easy to get to by metro and bus.

From Stazione Termini take the metro B line (direction Laurentina) and get off at Piramide. Alternatively, if claustrophobia and the general fear of bad smells dont thrill you, take bus 23 from Piazza Pia near St Peters (or along the Lungotevere, Gianicolense / Farnesina) or the 30 express bus from Largo Argentina.

Once at Piramide, look for the small train station located just next to the metro stop and the street vendors, not to be confused with the metro stop itself. Its called Ostia-Lido Stazione. All trains are clearly marked and easy to spot, all going in the same direction the beach, with the last stop being Cristoforo Colombo. Trains leave every 10 minutes and take about 30-40 minutes depending on which beach you choose.

There are several beaches along this line; the first option is Ostia Centro (Ostia city centre), followed by Stella Polare, Castel Fusano and lastly Cristoforo Colombo.

Ostia Centro is the portion of the beach with the most stabilimenti. These are private stretches of beach which you pay to be on. Theoretically, because you are paying, the area should be well kept and clean. However, the water is not as clean as at the other beaches slightly further away.

The stabilimenti do have their advantages a duty lifeguard, changing rooms and relatively clean bathrooms, showers, umbrellas and chairs. But this all comes at a cost. The average daily rate for a stabilimento in Ostia Centro is between 10 and 25. Also worth noting is that the Ostia Centro beach area is popular for its bars, restaurants, clubs and shops, which are especially lively in the summer evenings. (For more information on the stabilimenti in Ostia see www.ostialido.it).

The next two possibilities are Stella Polare and Castel Fusano. The advantage of these beaches is that it is only a short walk from the train station to the sand. However they are quite crowded and loaded with people waiting to hassle you because you are foreign. The cleanliness of the sea is about the same as at Ostia Centro, and the beaches here are also full of stabilimenti. If its a budget yet aesthetically-pleasing trip youre looking for, wait a few more stops before getting off the train.

Worthy of the wait is the last stop, Cristoforo Colombo. After 40 minutes on a train the first thing you want to do is take a dip and then probably a nap. But hold out just a bit longer. Dont go to the beach directly in front of the train station again full of stabilimenti. Take bus 07, which is usually ready and waiting for the train passengers, and go to the so-called cancelli or gates to the beach.

This bus with mare written on the front travels up and down the Ostia coastline and eventually takes you to Torvaianica, near Pomezia. In total there are eight cancelli, the eighth being a nudist beach, and the bus stops in front of all of them. They are numbered appropriately with big bold signs on the gates and are difficult to miss. As the number on the cancelli increases, so does the quality and amount of space on the beaches try and hold out for number five or six. The number of stabilimenti seems to dwindle the further the bus goes, leaving beachgoers with a sense of tranquillity in a wilderness-like setting. The beaches are spiagge libere, or free beaches, but offer the possibility of renting lounge chairs and umbrellas. There are restaurants, snack bars, clean bathrooms and also cold showers. It is worth noting that the cancelli are also recommended by Romans, as well as by foreigners who want to blend in and hope one day not to be treated as stranieri.

Once you get to cancelli five or six you have officially earned your right to sunbathe, relax and chuckle at the people circling in their cars for that non-existent parking space. Theres no place like the beach!

Note: If you have already been to Ostia and the cancelli you might consider venturing out a bit further to Sabaudia, Terracina or Sperlonga all three beautiful beaches south of Rome, in the direction of Naples.

l For Sabaudia (the closest of the three) take metro B to Eur-Fermi or Laurentina. Once there, hop on the Co.tral bus, destination Sabaudia. The trip takes about 70 minutes and costs 5.

l For Terracina, take the regional train from Stazione Termini (direction Naples) and get off at Monte S. Biagio. Trains leave every hour and the journey takes around 60 min. Cost 5.60. From there, take the bus (1) for about 30 min to Terracina.

l For Sperlonga, take the same train as for Terracina and get off at Fondi-Sperlonga. Journey takes around 70 min. Cost 5.60. Once there, take the Co.tral or Piazzoli bus (1) for 15 min to Sperlonga centre.