Saturday, 5 November 2011 – Part I of III
I crawl out of bed and get ready for the day, wondering what it will hold. I go outside for a quick smoke before breakfast – aah, the rain is finally settling in over Rome; at least it waited till I was on my way out. Then, I head in for another glorious start to my day – meats, cheese, sweet croissants – mmmm. My new friends, Richard and JoAnna, are eating as well, and I get to meet their son. Lucky kid – it sends me back to my college years when I would’ve given a limb to study abroad. I worked in the Office of Overseas Study the whole time I was getting my B.A. at Michigan State, hoping the opportunity would arise (that funds would appear like manna from heaven or something), but it never did. One of the many reasons I couldn’t turn down the opportunity for this trip when Chris and Mum Po so generously offered (and persuaded)…
After breakfast, I head back up to my room (I will NOT miss this snail-paced elevator) and do some more schedule and room research online, then head down to check out. Per my reflections yesterday (and considering the rain now veiling the city), I am thinking I will take a cab to Termini. Funny how just weeks ago I would never think of taking a cab. I’d only been in one a handful of times in my life up to this point, and my first solo cab ride was my return to Mum Po’s after my Paris jaunt.
I ask Antony approximately what a cab would cost from the hotel to the station, and he estimates 10 to 15 euro. He also warns me it may take some time to arrive and/or get me to the station both because of the weather and because of some disturbances in parts of the city. The minor uprisings are still rippling across this part of Europe, thanks to the unforgiving economy and general global turmoil. We briefly discuss the state of the world (he clearly does not see the point of such mini-rebellions) and move on with the transaction.
I go through the check-out process and still can’t believe my luck. The total is only 250 euro for three nights (about $112/night). Given the great breakfast that was included, as well as the wi-fi and the accommodating staff, I am counting this a screaming deal. It was a great opportunity to get a well-rounded view of Rome, not solely a tourist one, staying in a mixed-use neighborhood. Not to mention getting to see the Colosseum every time I went anywhere! But now it is time to leave <sign> so I have Antony go ahead and call me a cab. He tells me what the cab will look like, its medallion number, and where to wait, then I reluctantly head out the door into the rain of Rome.
The cab arrives very quickly (I don’t even have time to finish a quick smoke), and off to the station I go. When we arrive, the fare is only 7.10 euro (8 with the tip – yes, tipping is far different here), and I ponder why I have never considered cabs a viable option in the past. It’s really not that complicated, and all you have to do is pay attention not to get ripped off. (Note to Vegas visitors getting long-hauled to the Strip…)
Now, off to the ticket counter to get the answer to the million dollar question: Can I get to Turin (Torino) from here? The line is quite long, and I am momentarily frustrated by the fact my plans went so awry. This is exactly what I was trying to avoid when I purchased a reservation yesterday. But I accept my fate and patiently wait.
As I near the counter, I observe the agents (as always) to determine which one I would most like to deal with and ask the Universe to accommodate my request. (Please, please, please, Spirit, let me get the smokin’ hot Italiano whose demeanor is helpful and friendly, instead of the woman who would be better suited to guarding prisoners.) As so often happens in this situation, it looks almost certain, based on the line’s movement, that I will be ‘assisted’ by Sour Sally. But suddenly, there is a cosmic shift, and I am up when the Signore’s window clears.
Now this is how all transactions and interactions should be! Signore Smokin’ has the Italiano charm spigot wide open. He is probably in his 40’s (I’m a horrible judge of age), big brown eyes, a trim little beard, and a smile that just won’t quit. An incorrigible flirt, I immediately determine (with a wedding band, darn it – just give me a reason to stay in Rome…Someone? Please?) Fortunately, his English is as fine as the rest of him, so I explain, as briefly as possible, my dilemma.
Rest assured, I already have my Eurail pass and Genoa reservation in hand, so as to avoid any further contortions removing them from my belt wallet. He looks at my pass and reservation, checks the screen, and informs me there will be no charge to change my reservations since this is the first change. I express my gratitude in an almost incredulous way, as he murmurs, “…will change for you no charge.” Here we go with the “for you” thing again; these Italian men are charmingly predictable, it seems.
He is, in any case, most sympathetic to my situation, as we briefly chat about the Genoa disaster while he searches through the system for a train that will take me to my desired destination and that has Eurail pass-holder seats still available. I ask about the one on the schedule I’d looked through in my room, and it is sold out (for pass-holders at least). If I want to take that route, I will need to wait several hours. No, I tell him, I don’t want to wait around the station for hours, to which he, predictably, responds, “Why don’t you just stay in Roma?” (Stop teasing me, Signore Smokin’!)
He continues looking and gives me a couple of options going back through Milan to Turin (no extra charge for the last leg of that journey, which I never even thought to check). I experience a brief flash of doubt about this route – not only will I miss out on any of the western Italy countryside, I also will be on the same route (in reverse) as I was for my Angry Ticket Guy encounter. Good Lord! Please don’t let me run into him again.
Signore Smokin’ gives me two options, one leaving very shortly and another an hour or so later – and then corrects himself – the second one is full. So it’s either run for the platform now or hang around for hours. I’m never a fan of rushing or waiting around, so this is a tough choice. I ask him if he really thinks I can make the next train, with all my things in tow. His response is a nod that conveys “No problem.” I am not particularly confident of his conclusion, but I hear myself telling him, “Alright, let’s go for it.” He smiles like a proud parent, clicks some buttons, hands me my ticket, and points me in the right direction, wishing me luck. Fifteen minutes till departure – see me imitate a bat out of hell…