Monday, March 27, 2017

Arrivederci Roma

Our final night in Roma was spent wandering from as yet unseen church to church in and around our neighborhood. There were a few beauties, some modest, some garish, but each interesting in its own way. Dinner was a bit harder to come by, the places we stopped had one problem or another and we ended up in one of the more touristy spots just up our street. Gnocchi ai quattro formaggi for me, Penne al salmone for MLW. And one last stop for gelato before calling it a day.
Our final morning in Roma was spent preparing to leave. Packing, straightening up the apartment to the point that we found it, having a last breakfast. We left a little before 10 and went around the block to look for a taxi. Like Madrid, they congregate at taxi stands so they are easy to find. Before grabbing one, I popped into the first church we’d visited – La Chiesa Nuova – to see the Caravaggio we’d missed on our first visit. It was there, just like the book said it would be.
I’d asked a taxi driver a couple of days ago how long it would take to get to Stazione Termini, Roma’s main station. He said around 10 minutes so we’d given ourselves enough time to have coffee and a croissant before boarding. As it turned out, the cab ride took closer to ½ an hour, because our cabbie, knowing we were babes in the woods, took a very long route involving many concentric circles. I’d like to say he was just managing the traffic delays, but I suspect his intentions were far more nefarious. It was a nice ride, with many opportunities to see the last of the big Roman ruins.
Termini station is a very busy place. About as big as Atocha in Madrid but with a much more chaotic sense. Despite our unplanned tour of Roma, we had time for coffee and croissant as planned. Every time we stopped for this little second breakfast outside of Piazza Navona, we’re reminded of just how much the touristy spots gouge you. Two different restaurants on Navona, 18.5€. At the train station, 7.5€ with a bottle of water. That’s the price of traveling to places like these I guess. Literally.
We finished our snack and gave ourselves ample time to figure out where our train would be. The woman in the restaurant insisted that I keep our receipt when she bussed our table, “per le toilette” was the answer. The purpose of that advice became clear when we went to the restroom – free with receipt, .70€. And the “bathrooms” we such in only the slightest way – one toilet for the gents with no seat, two for the ladies with the same.
Our train appeared on the board leaving from Gate C. Passing through to the departure points, Gate C didn’t seem to exist. There were two signs for Gate K-L that pointed at the same spot, and nothing. Nothing marked, no signs for trains, zero, zip, nada. I hustled back to customer service and asked the location. “Behind us” was the rather opaque answer. Back we went, and in the time, we’d wasted, a platform number also appeared. Time was getting tight and I was getting nervous so I stood and looked and suddenly it sunk in – the only “gates” that were operating today were K and L, and our train was beyond them leaving from Platform 2. We got in the queue, got scanned and found our train right where it was supposed to be.
I know I’ve said it a dozen times, but traveling by high speed rail is the only way to go. No car means you never have to deal with parking, which in every European city is a nightmare. If you’re not planning to do some little inn-hopping excursion out in the countryside, trains are the way to go. Quiet, not terribly expensive, and at 150MPH, really, really fast. We bought tickets in the Business Quiet section which meant no one shouting on their cell phone and fewer people. Blood Orange juice on the drink cart and a freshly made Illy espresso served at your seat, seal the deal.
Now, we’re sitting back and watching Tuscany pass by.






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