ROME, ITALY – SEPT. 24
Well…I may have sort of slept in a little today. My alarm was all set, but my body just was not cooperating. I felt so bad because I had agreed to meet up with Dale and Maria at 7:30 in the cafe area for breakfast, but such is life. At least I didn’t miss our taxi, that would have been really bad.
Normally getting to the airport can be a stressful event, but going with Dale and Maria was a lot of fun. They are one of the sweetest couples, and even though they needed to be at Terminal 2, they walked me over to Terminal 1. When we were both done checking in (including the time it took me to realize I was in the wrong line 😤) we just hung out at a pizza place and talked more about some of the things we were going to be doing. While I was leaving to see my mom in Rome, they were heading off to Russia to meet up with Maria’s family. I can’t remember if I mentioned it, but Dale is from Australia and Maria lives there now, but she is originally from Russia.
Maybe its the anthropology student in me, but I loved listening to Maria’s experiences growing up in Russia. The town she grew up in is apparently hard to live in, so the people who go to work there are paid more for staying in a part of Russia that has essentially no sunlight. Because of this, during the summers the kids would usually visit grandparents or other relatives that had retired to somewhere with sun so that they could take in some vitamin D. Her descriptions of the train ride to reach the town just sounded like something out of a movie. It is so cold outside, that while in the train people store their fresh produce under the floorboards in sort of a trap box contraption.
What I liked the best about hearing where she grew up was that she made it sound like such a strong community. Because everyone is dealing with the climate together, they all do their best to look after one another. Once we had said our goodbyes (it can be surprising how hard it is when you think that technically it was only two weeks) I got on my flight for Rome.
Wow, the Chiampino Airport was an…interesting experience. It is the only airport that I have ever been to that did not have a cash exchange or an ATM within the departures area. Only after asking a security guard, who was vaping by the way (honestly this was probably one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen), was I able to find a cash exchange that required me to leave the building only to re-enter in the separate building next door.
Next up, my lovely taxi adventure. I know 100% that I was scammed on this ride, but I was so damn tired and I just wanted to see my mom and get to our wine tasting that I couldn’t bring myself to care. I realize how privileged that makes me sound, so I do feel like I should clarify that getting a taxi in Rome is an adventure in and of itself. Unlike at an airport in the states where there is a constant stream of taxis, getting one here could take forever. It was around 40 minutes of me just standing there waiting at the taxi stand, and there was only one group in front of me. So when I finally got a taxi I just jumped at it even though I knew the price was off.
I also think that normally I would have been more aggressive about this, but I had already dealt with one scammer. Within my first 10 minutes of waiting in line I was able to catch a taxi, but when he immediately quoted me a price that was nearly double what I was told this ride should cost, I tried arguing about it with him but he played the I don’t speak English card. I don’t know, maybe I’m being too cynical, but it seemed like he understood me just fine and rather wanted to try and use this as a reason to force me into paying his price.
Another reason I felt more timid was that the taxi I did finally get into was manned by a father-son team. It was really weird. The son supposedly was there to give directions, but he was just watching videos on YouTube. That, and they kept arguing with each other; it was a bit of a surreal experience. Now I know that Italy is known for having some interesting driving, but I have never seen something like what this guy was doing, and for the record I have been to Italy before, so this isn’t just a scared American (who isn’t from New York or LA) worrying about how they drive. This guy didn’t just weave in and out of tight spaces at highway level speeds on side streets, he also ignored all red lights and utilized the sidewalk as part of the road. I think the biggest thing was the speed, on just regular roads with rush hour traffic he was going up to 80 mph just to cut in front of another car. Again, I get how this could sound like I’m just a worrisome person who is uncomfortable with Italian driving, but you are just going to have to trust me that this was above the normal level of crazy.
Finding the hotel took a little extra effort since there was no obvious signage, and imagine my confusion when I walked into the hotel room to find that not only had my mother not arrived, but there was also no other luggage in the room. After finally getting her to answer her phone I found out that not only was she lost, but her phone battery was next to zero. Luckily she found a nice Polish man who had recently moved to Rome and he helped her find our hotel.
At this point both of us were exhausted (her more so than me since she had only just arrived this morning) but we still had our Frascati Wine tour to get to. Even though I’m pretty sure my mom was close to passing out, she put on a brave face and we had a blast. The Frascati region is known more for their white wines rather than their reds, with was a bit of an upset, but it was a very interesting tour. Our guide was incredibly knowledgable and clearly passionate about her job. She was actually from the Frascati region, so she was very proud that she got to show it off to us.
The only real downside to today was our dinner. When our tour was finished we had the hardest time getting back to our hotel. My mom left her phone plugged into my portable charger not knowing I meant for her to bring it with us, and my own phone was down to only 20%–which on my older phone is next to nothing. I tried getting an Uber, but that failed rather epically, so we were stuck wandering around trying to find a taxi stand. Once we finally got back to the hotel my mom was tired and I was starving so rather than look up where to go eat we just settled for this place down the street. Hardly the Italian cuisine I was looking forward to, but it was still an a pretty damn good day!
*Sorry for the lack of photos but a large part of my day was at the airport, so not photogenic but still fun