Last week, I talked about the good times I had on spring break: eating pizza and gelato daily, making new friends, learning how to make a moving keg, etc. But, in light of this next topic, I figured I’d explain a little about the logistics of our crazy and wild ten day excursion.
Yes, I did type that correctly: ten days. And, for those of you who recall my posting last week, you’ll remember that I said we went to six cities. Six cities in ten days.
We clearly didn’t realize what exactly we were getting ourselves into.
Our trajectory went something like this: we took a plane from London to Milan, a train from Milan to Venice, a train from Venice to Florence, a train from Florence to Rome, a plane from Rome to Athens and then back to Rome again, and then finally a plane from Rome back to London. Our schedule was so tightly packed that the slightest delay could have ruined our entire break- and don’t get me started on the constant anxiety we had about (god forbid) missing one of our bookings.
For the most part, besides that perpetual pit in my stomach fearing the worst, everything went smoothly in our travel itinerary. Somehow or other, by the intervention of some higher power or mystical being I’m sure, not only did we make each train and plane on time, but all of our hotels/Airbnbs were easy to find and close by.
Well, that is, all except for one.
Let me paint the picture for you- after a relaxing three day stay in Florence, we had just gotten off the train in Rome and began to head to our hotel: the Hotel Laura. (Note: we were only staying in Rome for the night in order to catch a cheap plane to Athens at 6am, then fly back to Rome a few days later to really enjoy the city.) According to our smartphone maps, the Hotel Laura is only a ten minute walk away, which is fantastic because we are all tired and have heavy bags and want to get a good night’s sleep before our early flight. We make the trek to the hotel, climb the stairs, and go to the check-in desk, only to have the receptionist look at our confirmation sheet and tell us that we’re not booked there. Turns out, there are two Hotel Lauras: this one near the train station and the one we booked in Ciampino. Our Hotel Laura, though close to the airport, is actually over an hour away from this other Hotel Laura. And, if that wasn’t already enough, we had to take a subway and then transfer to a regional railway train before walking another ten minutes to get there. So, after some grumbling and general noises of frustration, we end up finding the right subway station and getting off at the main train station in Rome: Termini Station.
For those of you who don’t know, Termini Station is perhaps the most terrifying place for a tourist to be in Rome, as it’s where pickpockets and scam artists run amok. At any moment, a person could come and slip your wallet out of your bag (or, in some cases, cut your bag off your body and then run like hell) as you’re trying to weave in and out of the crowded platforms. And, there are men stationed at each ticketing machine to “help” you figure out how to get where you need to go, only to then demand money or pinch your stuff. It’s such an issue that there’s a warning that pops on the ticketing machine screen before you purchase your tickets alerting you to only ask for help from uniformed station employees.
Needless to say, the hour or so that we spent navigating Termini Station, purchasing our tickets, and then waiting for the train was completely nerve-wracking. Besides the blatantly obvious language barrier, we stuck out as lost tourists, so we attracted many of these ticket booth hounds while we were deciphering the train schedules. They hovered around us and kept pestering us to ask them for help, some even trying to work the machine for us and then expecting us to pay them for their “services”. We pushed them away and made a beeline for the track once we had our tickets in hand. After another fifteen minutes of guarding our stuff on the track, we finally made it on the right train, and, forty-five minutes later, we found our way to the hidden entrance of the correct Hotel Laura.
It was an evening of utter stress and confusion and fear that ultimately led to us getting to bed at 9pm with pizza in our bellies before waking up and beginning the travel mayhem all over again.