How is your Monday going? I hope it’s well!
Well, so far, my trip has been quite the comedy and adventure!
I took off from Dallas yesterday morning at 10:18 and got to NYC around 3. I finally got to try out in-flight Wifi and was able to use Kakao Talk to live chat with friends and even attempted to use the voice-calling feature…it’s such an awesome app! I wasn’t impressed with JFK airport, AT ALL. My flight landed as Terminal 2 and I looked all around and couldn’t find a train, sky walk, shuttle, or even a map to tell me how to get to Terminal 1. I went to the bathroom and some old lady was all up in my bubble, to the point that I literally had to thrust my body into her to get her to get off of me. I finally got on the Gate Guru app and found a map of the terminals, but it looked like they weren’t connected and I just didn’t believe it. I ended up asking an employee how to get to Terminal 1 and he directed me to it. Needless to say, I had to go outside of the concourse and walk to the other terminal, then stand in an ungodly, long line to get back into the airport. I love people watching though, so it was really interesting! I saw a lot of Hasidic Jews and even saw a group of Jewish kids my age that were on their way to Brussels for a “birthright” religious and historical retreat. I saw a lot of Russians and Koreans and all kinds of other cool people! I had some nasty pizza and spent $20 at the Hudson News buying junk food for the flight. I was happy to see they had charging stations though…I stayed planted at one until they made the final boarding call for my flight. Dirtiest airport I have ever been too…I don’t recommend it.
I finally got on the plane and GUESS WHAT?! I was on a bulkhead row with only one other man! We each sat on opposite ends, which meant we had two seats to ourselves, individual TV screens, extra pillows and blankets, and LEG ROOM! It. Was. Awesome. Everyone told me Alitalia was a crappy airline, but I loved it! They had tons of entertainment to choose from (even subtitled movies…my kryptonite), USB ports for charging your phone, good food, complementary red or white wine (I behaved and only had a glass of white with my dinner), nice blankets, interesting articles in the in-flight magazine, the bathrooms were spacious (considering the circumstances), and the flight attendants were nice! Based on my experience, I’ll definitely fly with them again.
I got zero sleep on Saturday night or on the plane, so by they time I landed in Rome at 8:30 a.m. this morning I was dead. I collected my bag, went to the restroom and freshened up, shifted some of the contents from my carry-on to my backpack and went to the train station across the street to buy a ticket to go to Florence and this is where things took a turn for the “Anna is an illiterate dummy” phase of my day…
SN: When I got off the plane and connected to the Wifi in the airport, nothing on my phone worked, except iMessage. I was kind of panicked since this meant I would have no way to navigate to my hotel or other places, so I messaged my mom and asked her to call AT&T when she woke up (since my phone wouldn’t allow me to call anyone), and went about trying to problem solve on my own…it turns out it was the airport Wifi and all is well now!
At the train station I used an electronic ticket kiosk because thankfully Trenitalia kiosks have an English option and I thought that would be easier than trying to talk to an actual person, since my spoken Italian isn’t exactly great and they seem to have little patience for non-fluent speakers (I’ll get to that in a bit). I purchased a first class ticket for 71 Euros ($97) to Firenze Santa Maria Novella for 10:45 (it was around 8:45) and the computer routed me through Rome Tiburtina station and then on to Florence. I would have purchased a second class ticket, but I was worried about not having any space to store my giant backpack. Well, anyway, there are only 3 rails at the Fiumicino airport station and they are all on the same platform so I saw a board that said “Roma T…” and went to stand there. I noticed it said the train would arrive at 9:20 and my ticket said 9:37, but I didn’t exactly think that was an issue and so I hopped on board.
About 15 minutes in I looked up at the electronic display in the train and it said that next and final stop was Rome Termini station…NOT Rome Tiburtina. It clicked…when I stopped reading the sign after I saw “Rome T,” it said Rome Tiburtina not Rome Termini (DOH!). Well, I was obviously concerned, but I figured I could just go to the counter at Tiburtina and buy a local metro ticket to Rome Termini and still catch my train to Florence with only an extra 8-10 Euro cost. I got off the train and ran to a display board and saw that now trains leaving that station were going to anywhere in Rome nor to Florence. I thankfully made a split second decision and jumped back on the train I had just gotten off of to go back to the airport. I figured going back to ground-zero was better than taking a chance on this station. Well, I get back on the train and there isn’t a seat to be found, but this German girl is sitting on the steps of one of the cars with her bag so I followed suit (my body was telling me yes, but my mind was sayin’ GROSSSSSSS). Anyway, about halfway through the ride I see a Trenitalia employee starting to check people’s tickets and I am thinking, “Well shit, I have a ticket from Fiumicino to Tiburtina and Tiburtina to Firenze S.M.N., not from Termini to Fiumicino!” I remembered my Italian friend telling me that if you get caught without a ticket you have to pay a fine and sure enough I see her catch a guy in the next car and yell at him. I was getting nervous and I didn’t want to have to tell her I was an idiot and took the wrong train in front of all these people around me, but of course, she asks for my ticket and I fork it over. She immediately says, “This ticket isn’t for this train, you will have to pay the 13 Euro difference!” So, I explained that I got on the wrong train and she starts laughing and tells me what track to go to when I get back to Fiumicino. By this time it was 10:50 and my train to Florence left from Termini at 10:45.
Once I got to the station I jumped over to the third track and headed for Termini. On the way there I came up with a plan to talk the Trenitalia office into changing or refunding my ticket so that I could get another one and started writing this script on the train. See, I’ve taken Italian for two semesters and am super good at reading and writing, but when I have to speak I freeze up (kind of like in English, haha) so I decided to write a script so I wouldn’t be as nervous.
When I got to Termini this nice old man working for Trenitalia told me where the office was and I went up there. I got in line and prepared my speech and went to the counter. First, I asked the lady if she spoke English and when she said no, I started in with my story. I decided to say there had been a delay at the Fiumicino airport (I didn’t tell her that the delay was the result of my own dumbassery) and ask if she could change the ticket. Well, she thinks I’m saying that the train from Fiumicino was delayed and jumps on her computer to check the previous train arrivals and departures from that day (stupid technology had to go and ruin my plan) and obviously sees that there weren’t any delays. I reiterate that it was at the airport and she then says that I have to buy a whole new ticket! So, I went ahead an bought another ticket for 63 Euros and went down to the platform and got on the train. So, because I was too busy worrying about my stupid phone and decided not to take my time and read the signs, what would have cost me $97, ended up costing $185.
Mind you, I am still running on about 3 hours of sleep in the past 72 hours at this point. I arrived in Florence around 1:50. I go outside and start latching in the nested backpack straps so that I can carry my backpack on my back, rather than rolling it like I had been doing. As I’m latching the buckles I realized one of the main ones on the bottom is already CRACKED! I was so pissed. Thankfully, it still works and all was well once I was able to hoist the 50 pounds on to my back (that feels A LOT heavier than it sounds, FYI). I found my hostel quickly and came in and unpacked since I’m here for 7 full nights. After that, I got a Facebook message from a friend in Oklahoma that is a student living in Italy right now and she told me she was in Florence for the afternoon. I freshened up and walked to Piazza della Signoria to meet her for coffee.
We strolled around, talked, had a cappuccino and even took a “selfie” in front of the Duomo.
She had to go back to the town she’s living in so I walked with her back to the train station and then went to get some refreshments to take back to my room. Unfortunately, since I’m traveling alone I don’t feel comfortable being out after dark, so I got some snacks and drinks and walked around.
I was sitting on the steps of this church, trying to get the lay of the land and chill, when this old man came up to me and said “Ciao.” I was a little creeped out, but I said it back and smiled…he started to walk off and then turned around and said, “A gift for you…” and handed me a shiny piece of gold paper, before leaving. I said thank you and after he left I apprehensively opened it and LOOK what was inside:
It was super cool!
After that I went back to the hostel and realized that I didn’t have a bottle opener for the rad 40oz that I picked up at the snack shop…but my brain got to tickin’ and I realized I had a radiator and some keys, so I went all MacGyver and got that bad-boy open!
As of right now, I’ve slept 4 hours in the past three days, and am just sitting here organizing my pictures for the day and writing to you fine folks. For all you FitBit and Sprint to May Challenge folks that are still following me, my step-count today was >16,615!
Tomorrow I plan to go to a few places I’ve never been to in Florence and I’m sure I’ll do some more hairbrained, zany stuff!
Talk to y’all tomorrow!
P.S. For those of you that care about my fashion choices for the trip, the outfit I wore on the plane and tomorrow’s choice are below the break…