Happy 4th of July! I arrived home safely last night. Now to unpack and work on my photos. Hopefully I can get a few ready to post soon. First I need to organize them. Half are burned on CDs and half are still on the memory cards and I am running out of space on my computer.
Monday, July 2nd
My departure from Rome:
Monday morning, I finished packing, making sure my liquids were all in their proper locations. A driver came to pick me up and about 40 minutes later I was at the airport. The Fiumicino (Rome) airport is a little more confusing than the Malpensa (Milan) airport. It is not as well marked with signs. I saw a long line and headed that way to see if that was where I needed to be. It was indeed the first step in order to check in - the first passport check line.
I have flown out of Milan the past few years and so I was used to finding my airline first, standing in that passport check line, and then checking in my bag & getting my boarding pass. Here in Rome, if you are flying one of about 10 airlines, you stand in one long line, which covers all the listed airlines to have your passport checked. It seemed pretty trivial to me as in Milan, at least they check to see if your name is on a specific list (some sort of watch list?), but in Rome there is a woman who looks quickly at your passport and then lets you through. You then have to show your passport again about 3 or 4 more times so I don’t really see the point to this initial line.
The line took about 20 minutes to get through. It would have been faster if everyone knew how to wait nicely in line. I arrived at the airport 2 1/2 hours before my flight left. I was not in a rush and so the difficulty for everyone to wait orderly in line, which seems very common in Italy, was not a big deal.
Once I was through that line, there were very long lines ahead. Luckily for me, they were for Delta and Alitalia. When I reached the Continental check in, there were only 4 or 5 people waiting with 2 agents available. Once again, no lines, no wait; one of the things I love about Continental. My bag weighed 16.3 kg, which is about 36 pounds – 3 more pounds than when I left. I was given a “brava” and thumbs up by the ticket agent.
Next stop was passport control. This one was the “official” passport checkpoint where you have to stand behind the official yellow line. I got my stamp and a friendly smile. The security area was pretty routine. Everything in the bins although shoes did not need to be removed. They had to put my small carry-on through three times and then had a short conversation about my bag. I finally suggested that they open it so that everyone would not have to wait any longer for my bag to clear. The guy looked in my bag, which was pretty packed. He moved a couple of things around and then said it was fine. Now, if there was something suspicious in the bag, that quick inspection surely would not have answered the question of what was in my bag.
There are quite a few shops in the Rome airport, including a place to grab a bite to eat. I went to the bar inside this place which sold different foods to order my last coffee. I was told that I had to pay first. Since I also planned to grab a quick bit to eat for lunch, I checked out the food before going to pay for my coffee. I saw something called a sfiziaforno filled with spinach and cheese that looked delicious. I was not sure how to pronounce it. The man at the cash register had a good laugh and then helped me pronounce the word.
Having to go to the cashier first to pay for what you want to order is one situation which can be stressful for those that do not speak any italian as you can’t just point to what you want to order since the cash register is not near all the food items. While I was in line waiting to order, a lady asked me to help her order, which I was happy to do.
My last coffee and meal in Italy. I must say the sfiziaforno was indeed delicious.
The plane ride from Rome to Newark was pretty routine. I sat next to a high school boy who was traveling with his family. I was able to sleep part of the way and watched movies the rest of the time.
When we landed, we went to the passport control area. There we encountered this guy who seemed to think he was “king” of keeping people in orderly lines. He almost started a little revolt. He decided that the line would bunch up too much if we all just stood in one line and so, starting with me, he made us all go through this little rat maze, you know the silly bank zigzag lines which are pointless when there are not enough people to fill up all of the lines. We must have had to go up and down those ridiculous lines about 12 times and in the end came out in the same place in one big line.
Then we encountered the “queen” of keeping people in orderly lines. There were about 9 passport control agents stamping tickets. We had to wait to be told where to stand. Everyone was very orderly while getting to this point and we could have easily figured out this on our own much more easily and more efficiently than the "queen". When my turn came, I was told to go down to the end, when there was a line right in front of me with only 2 people waiting. Instead I ended up getting behind this family, which must have had something suspicious with their passports, as it took forever. I ended up being one of the last people out of there.
Next stop, baggage. It was the usual, everyone standing around watching the bags go round and round. I am always so happy to see my bag after previous times when my bag did not show up.
Finally, customs. I was asked if I had any food. Now why do they have us list what we are bringing in if they do not read it? I mentioned that I had sun dried tomatoes. “Dried tomatoes?” Big star on my paper and no passing go. Instead I was diverted to the customs area. There, the custom agent asked again what foods I brought in. I mentioned that it was all listed on the back. I was asked again. I said “sun dried tomatoes”. He at least realized that they were not a threat but since I was there, I had to have my bags go through the x-ray machine anyways, but at least they did not need to search them or confiscate my tomatoes.
What really ticked me off was what the next agent at the other end of the x-ray machine did. He threw my bags down on the floor onto this metal plate. The first bag he threw down was one of my carry-ons. I can’t remember what I said, but I was not happy. He realized that I was not happy and replied that it was a good thing for the bags to go down on the ground (meaning that they did not need to be searched). I did not care if they needed to be searched. I did care that he was throwing may bags down onto a metal plate. Just as I started to ask if I could please pick up the bags off the shelf because I had some things that were fragile inside, down went my second bag. At least that one was my check in bags which was probably already thrown around. He did allow me to pick up my second carry on but I don't think he understood the concept that throwing bags down on a metal plate on the floor was not actually a good thing. I ended up being the last one out of there from my flight.
Next challenge, find my hotel. I was staying at the Mariott Airport Hotel and had no idea how to get there. Again, no signs, but there was a person helping anyone who seemed lost. She told me to go up the escalator and take the air train to P4. That did not make much sense to me, but I followed a few others also needing to find P4. It was pretty easy in the end. When you arrive at P4, there is a board with a phone and a bunch of phone codes to push to reach your hotel. The shuttle came right away and the driver was very nice. The check in procedure was quick and easy.
My treat for Monday night was to meet Kim from Slow Travel. I really enjoyed our time together. We ended up eating at a pizza/sub place after we found out that the restaurant we planned to go to was closed for the holiday. The sub was delicious and the company was wonderful. Thanks again Kim!!
My bed was soooo comfy! I ate some cherries, trying out the jet lag remedy once again.
Tuesday, July 3rd
I felt very refreshed, or so I thought the next morning. I had the buffet breakfast, checked out, and headed to the airport.
No line at the Continental check in. I was curious to see the weight of my bag but it was not even weighed. There were only a few people ahead of me at the security x-ray line. Again, my smaller carry-on had to be screened 3 times. I offered to open it for them but they said it was ok. I still can’t figure out what the big mystery was in my bag.
I then had to pee, story of my life, so first stop was the bathroom. I walked in and couldn’t figure out why one of the male pilots was in the ladies room. I then realized that there were 4 or 5 other men standing there washing their hands. I was in the men’s bathroom!! Thank goodness the toilets were not right out in the open!
After using the ladies room, I checked the board and saw that my 1:30 flight said it was taking off at 3pm. Since I had plenty of time, I went into a couple of stores and then found my gate. When I got there, it did indeed said 3pm. I went back into a few more stores and then headed back to my gate. It now said 1:30!
After being in a fog, standing in the men’s bathroom, I was a little concerned I was losing it! I had to go ask if it really did say 3pm at one time. It did indeed. I asked what time the flight would start boarding and he said probably not till 1:30, which obvious meant it was not really leaving at 1:30.
We ended up boarding from 1:30 to 2pm and then spent the next half hour playing musical chairs to accommodate all of these families who did not have seats together. I was one of the people asked to move. It didn’t really matter much to me as I was sitting near kids either way and the move seemed to be next to a few less kids. Little did I realize there was a girl who threw lots of tantrums sitting right behind the seat that I moved to. I sat next to a 3rd grade teacher and her mother who was an educational assistant in a special ed class. None of us were thrilled with the constant tantrums from either the boy in front of us or the girl behind us. Other than that, and the fact that we left 90 minutes late, my flight was fine. They did not have my special meal listed but instead offered me the Kosher meal. Wow, that was the best airline meal I have ever eaten. From now on, it will be Kosher meals for me!
*As you may have noticed, I finally figured out how to shorten my entries with a link to each full entry. I also moved a few of my Bologna, Cortona, and Rome entries around a little so they were in the correct order. Still to come, Coccaglio & the rest of Venice.