Rome, Transport and Euros
I am typing this on the train from Rome to Pisa, where I change trains to get to Monterosso Al Mare on the Cinque Terre.
Underneath this façade of cool organisation, the past 12 hours have been a challenge to say the least.
Being an over thinker, I decided that if my flight got into Rome at 8pm, Sunday night and I could get an express train to the terminal only 600m from my booked accommodation, it still left me vulnerable in a strange city that speaks a different language. The answer? Book and pay for a car from the airport (through Emirate’s site), so as soon as I get through customs, a driver will be there with my name on a card and he will deliver me to the door of the Hotel Corallo. Simple, yes?
Well, no, not at all.
Flight arrived 20 minutes early. All good. John (nice man who sat next to me on both flights) was getting picked up by his cousin who lives in the shadow of the Coliseum and offered me a lift. I told him what I had already booked and we said Ciao.
The confirmation email said that the driver was booked for 10.05pm but was monitoring the arrival time. No one when I arrived at the meeting point…. I waited (getting more and more frustrated having been up for close to 30 hours by that stage)… and waited. All the time being hassled by a taxi driver circling the arrivals area like a vulture.
When 10.05 came and went I asked at the information desk at the airport what I could do, she directed me to a public phone…. I pulled out my phone and credit card to call the car company, I looked at what seemed to be the confirmation email I had been looking at earlier only to see it was an email saying I wasn’t at the meeting point so the driver left.
I was far from enchanted at this time.
I was aware that if you use a taxi in Rome, you should be careful you should be careful that you travel in an accredited taxi. I asked the lovely lady at the information desk where I could find an accredited taxi and she directed me to the taxi rank. A man from the airport guided me to the ‘good’ taxi rank where all cars had the appropriate registration on their doors for easy recognition. The only problem was to get to the front of the ‘good’ taxis, you had to walk the gauntlet of all the rogue drivers trying to entice you to choose their car.
I finally get to the front of the taxis and I see this strapping young man talking great English and I relaxed somewhat. Someone walked out of another door of the terminal and cut in front of me and got the Adonis driver…… Next driver got out of the car and I swear, he was the shortest taxi driver I have ever seen….. No English at all….. AT ALL! He went to put my case in the back as I wondered if I could be blamed if he had a heart attack when attempting to lift my case. About to leave the rank and I realise I have no Euros. (Planned driver had been prepaid). It was then that I did a rather sterling impersonation of Colin Firth in Love Actually. Any Italian that I had learnt in the last year shot out of my head and it got down to a game of Charades. He ended up pulling in front of an ATM, and I very much appreciated that he chose one that was wide open in a busy area and there were police nearby.
He then put in a damn fine effort of pointing out places of interest on the way to the hotel (including his own charage of describing a cosmetic company). Accredited taxis have a fixed price fare from the airport to Rome centre, so I know he wasn’t adding to the fare.
So I finally get to Hotel Corallo. It is quite a modest hotel, but impeccably clean, great location, and as it turned out and awesome free breakfast on it’s seventh floor terrace.
I go to pay (one of the few hotels I haven’t prepaid. He tells me the price and says about the €3 tourism tax (all good, the local tourism places use the money to market their area). The tax, though needs to be paid cash. Still no Euros, paid my entire withdrawal to the taxi driver…. I have Dubai money though. Man at reception finally agrees to let me pay in the morning. He takes me up to my room on the 6th floor via the world’s smallest lift.
I had a really good sleep of about 7 ½ hours, got dressed went up to the terrace and had the best custard filled croissant (EVER!) with cappuccino….. When in Rome….
Then it was off to find somewhere to get the Euros….. After about 30 minutes of searching for an ATM, I find a small supermarket, get a sandwich and some sort of sweet thing like a tub of pureed fruit, get to check out and ask for cash out… They don’t do cash out. I ask where the nearest ATM is and she waves in a general direction. I search for quite a while, I give up, go back to the hotel, and he directs me to one two doors away. I go there, get Euros…. More than enough, hand reception man €20, he tells me he has no change. Forty five minutes before my train leaves and I am starting to wonder what I was thinking, planning this trip.
Reception man suggest I go to the bar next door to buy something and get change, yep, ten past nine and the bar was open. I instead went a couple of doors further up and bought a 50 cent postcard. Gave reception man €4 and told him to keep the change. Went to get smallest lift (which also appears to be the slowest lift in the world) gave up waiting and climbed the six flights of stairs, rushed to my room, finished my bags and bolted for the lift. My Jedi powers seem to kick in and as I got to the lift a button announced it’s arrival…. A couple of folk were heading for the breakfast terrace.
Then it’s time to find the train terminal. I get there with 20 minutes to spare. Crikey, it’s not really that easy to work out where to go once there. There are wall after wall of self-serve ticket machines for all different train companies. My tickets are prepaid (of course) and have an allotted seat. I must have had ‘the Bunnings look’ about me, as this man came up to me and asked if I needed help. He looked sort of semi-official, with a leather crossbody bag that looked like it may have had tourist information in it, although I thought he should’ve had some sort of uniform or something. I showed him my phone with the ticket reference numbers and he took me to where I needed to go, which quite frankly, I would not have found in a hurry.
I thank guide man very much and he puts his hand out…… I get it now. He says €5 is good. I explain that I have no Euros, but hand him the smallest denomination of Dubai money. I think I gave him the equivalent of $1.30. He looked disappointed.
So I get to the platform as directed by unofficial man, ask at the gate and blow me down, I am at the correct place. Four minutes to go….. Now to find seat 71 in carriage 8. There’s no carriage 8. That’s what you get for tipping folk in Dubai money. I find official man, this one is in a uniform with the train brand on. (I seem to be learning). Ah yes, no carriage otto (8), go to carriage cinque (5). Of course folk are sitting in the seats in and surrounding 71 and do not speak English. (My conversational Italian didn’t cover train carriages). A nice lady asked everyone if they spoke English and found a Mother, Grandmother and kids who were really nice.
Everyone decided that I should sit where I want…. It’s the Italian way.
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