Thursday, October 04, 2007

A postcard from Rome or Why did it have to happen to me?

One Sunday morning in January 2005, I was having a cup of coffee with an aunt and uncle of mine and we were discussing holiday plans. My uncle and I decided Rome would be a good place to visit for a long weekend. We decided to go away for the Easter weekend. When I informed the churchwarden that the organist would not be available to play for Easter Day, a look of horror came over his face. I told him I had played for fifteen Easters on the trot and this next one was not going to be number sixteen. After that he took it remarkably well.

We departed the UK on Good Friday evening and landed at Rome Ciampano airport. Ryanair never take you to main airport, do they? It took almost an hour for our luggage to arrive, so by the time we got out of the airport it was midnight. I wasn’t worried, however, because I had already booked a taxi to the hotel and I had confirmed our booking by e-mail earlier that day. So you can guess what’s coming next! Due to a remarkable piece of serendipity we were transported to the hotel by the original firm I had booked with, not because they came to pick us up – they didn’t seem to know about the reservation – but because the couple they had come to meet didn’t turn up! All’s well that ends well? No, because the fun really started when we arrived at the hotel.

I was told by the night porter that Rome was very popular this time of year with the English. I could have been forgiven for thinking it was Christmas rather than Easter as there was no room in the inn. Oh dear! It’s now gone 1.00am. I was told not to worry as there was room at a better hotel; a four star hotel, and what is more we wouldn’t have to pay for the taxi. He told me that about five times, as if this was going to make me feel better. Arriving at the next hotel, two things struck me. Firstly, there are not too many four star hotels located down a dark alley way. Secondly, I have never seen a four star hotel that hides its light under a bushel and only displays one star outside its front door. I wasn’t in the mood to argue and the taxi had already gone. The night porter in this hotel was friendly, although he didn’t seem to be expecting us. His English was virtually non-existent and my Italian isn’t that much better. It was either charades or shout louder in English. I opted for charades. He did, however, have a room and he was very generous with his whisky measures. I can’t remember what time we eventually went to bed; obvious reasons.

The next day – after sleeping in – we enjoyed the Coliseum and a general potter around the eternal city; pretty uneventful and very pleasing for that. After dinner we went to the taxi rank and got a taxi back to the hotel. Now, I can’t recall the name of the taxi driver; Ferrari perhaps? It was the taxi ride from hell. Cutting everyone up, not stopping at a roundabout and driving down a tramline to take some form of shortcut; and of course he wasn’t doing this strictly within the speed limits. The fare cost 8 euros and I gave him 10 saying, ‘Keep the change. I’m just glad to alive.’

On the Sunday morning I was pick pocketed by an Albanian woman on a metro station. Thankfully – due to my quick thinking and raising the alarm – I managed to retrieve my wallet without anything being taken out. A close shave! I was wondering after that incident if anything more could go wrong and thankfully it didn’t. St Peter’s and the Vatican looked as wonderful as ever and I had to laugh as sunglasses salesmen instantly became umbrella salesman as soon as it rained.

Rome is a beautiful city. Go throw a coin in the Trevi fountain and make a wish. See where the Christians were fed to the lions. See the Roman Catholic HQ, and have coffee in endless cafes in what seem like endless piazzas. I just hope your hotel isn’t full when you get there!


jmb said...

Sounds like a typical Italian story.The Italians don't run things very well but they are so friendly that we forgive them.
Wish I was close enough to go back for a long weekend to one of my favourite cities, well except for the traffic and the dirt.

marymaryquitecontrary said...

It happened to me too. We arrived at a hotel in Reims late at night with two young children; they were not expecting us. Every hotel was full as there was a festival on. The four of us spent the night in a single room.

I was pick pocketed in Spain;they got away with my purse.

However Rome was wonderful; I threw two coins into the Trevi Fountain (hedging my bets). I have yet to return but hope to one day.

Lee said...

The seven hills of Rome and so much more...I'd love to see it all! :)

Wolfie said...

Standard Italian problems. I have the advantage of a Spanish wife who speaks Italian so she sweet-talks the manager to ensure we get the best room and our booking is solid.

The thieving is a real problem, I just walk about in a flattering t-shirt with "Hells Angel" on the front to ward them off.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You've made me laugh, Andrew, though I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time! Well done for retrieving your wallet from the pickpocket. That's a real problem in big cities in Italy. The taxi ride sounds terrifying and I've been with drivers like that - some of them are friends! Love the bit about the sunglasses salesman getting out the brollies! Glad you managed to enjoy the sightseeing despite it all.


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