This year for our wedding anniversary Suzanne and I thought it’d be fun to spend a few weeks in Italy. At first, we had considered a usual suspects tour: Rome, Tuscany, Venice, but as we started investigating the map we changed to a driving tour across the country. (When I say ‘we’ I really mean Suzanne because she put everything together, leaving me with the simple job of asking my phone, “Hey, Siri, why am I terrible at navigating?” - my fear, of course, is that I would eagerly divine from the map a convenient shortcut, ending with the both of us accidentally enjoying some North Korean hospitality.)
We left Monday morning, taking American Airlines, the Iron Maiden of international travel, to Rome. I knew we were going to make all sorts of life-long friends on the flight because of this quick conversation I overheard from directly behind us as we were settling into our seats:
Man in Aisle Seat (to College Student in Window Seat): “Why are you going to Italy?”
College Student: “I’m studying abroad.”
Man: Oh? Does this broad have a name?”
Yes. Seriously. Comedy material straight from 1967. And this is why I am now going to blame unidentified Man in Aisle Seat for the gastrointestinal weapon of mass destruction he fired off three times during Pretend Night when the airplane goes into dark blue lighting mode everyone is supposed to be sleeping instead of gagging.
The seats on the plane had a good distance between me and the seat in front of me. I bet you could fit one whole elementary school tiny six-inch ruler in that space. Each seat also had a little TV with a good selection of movies to keep you from thinking of the words “sardines” and “aluminum tube” while flying over a very mean and blustery ocean. Unfortunately, none of the movies actually worked. Choosing one was easy, but then the screen mocked you with a little animation as if the movie was about to play. Then nothing.
One of the flight attendants announced there were problems with the movie server, which I took to be an underpowered Linux box hidden someplace in luggage down below. I say this because the user interface was a mishmash of 1993 frustration design that just screamed, “We hired a consultant. He was cool and wore tennis shoes to our meeting. Now we have no idea what’s going on.”
So most people merely watched the screen of the flight status represented by an oversized cartoon plan fly from Dallas, over Canada, and then over the Atlantic. Take that, Flat Earthers.
I played Tetris. At least that still worked. I got the seventh highest score and typed in “The Big Farter” as my name. I hoped people would blame the Man in Aisle Seat behind me.
Once we landed in Rome and endured the sweltering immigration control, we were finally ready to get to the action. This meant figuring out how to leave the Fiumicino Airport and find our house in Rome. We had a few options, but we settled on taking the train into the city. Since we were staying in the Trastevere area (more on this later), we could take either the Leonardo Express or the local train. The Leonardo Express sounded quite good. It was a 30 minute ride to the center of Rome, ending at Roma Termini station. From there, we’d have to catch bus 8 to Trastevere. Or we could take the local bus from the airport, which had several times, and then transfer to tram H. We chose the local bus route because it was much more direct.
Now a note about transportion: bus schedules are notoriously difficult to understand, but once you have a grasp, hopping on and off buses is a great way of getting around. We used the Moovit app to understand things, and it was amazing (well, when the buses decided to show up, but that’s another story). The very important thing is to watch out for pickpockets. They’re everwhere in the touristy areas, particularly the airport where people are trying to figure out how to buy bus tickets. People warn about this all the time in Rome (conversations with local people have quite a bit of crime subtext to them). I bought one of those travel belts, and that’s one of the best things I’ve purchased. The one I have is the RFID Travel Money Belt by Peak Gear. I haven’t seen anyone coming up and trying to scan me for RFID information, but hey, you never know. I like this travel belt. It has little sleeves for credit cards, a good sized area for my goofily giant phone, and a place for cash. I just need to find some cash to put in it. Still, it makes me feel pickpocket impervious. We’ll see if that lasts.
Next: Day 2 and The Cure for Jet Lag.