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Report 679: A Student in Florence

By colleenk from MA, Spring 2004

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Page 15 of 16: The Journey Home

photo by Colleen K.

Florence, Santa Maria Novella

Monday, May 10, 2004

I had gone to the American Express office on Via Dante Alighieri, 22R earlier in the week to purchase my Eurostar ticket to Rome. I am a worrier and a planner, so having my ticket in advance was one less thing to worry about. I also knew that I was probably going to have a wee bit of trouble carrying all my loot home by myself so was looking for advice on the best seat on the train to minimize my luggage worries. The agent at American Express could not have been more helpful. I told her I wanted a seat close to the end of the car where baggage is stored, as I knew I would not be able to lift my rolling duffel on to the overhead racks. She did better than that and reserved seat number 92 for me on car #10 (second class - perfectly comfortable), which is a single seat, closest to the exit and has room on the floor right next to the seat for bags. Perfetto! My bags would be right next to me and I wouldn’t have to drag them far. She also suggested that I purchase the ticket for the Leonardo Express (at a cost of 9.50 E) so that I wouldn’t have to worry about that once I arrived at the train station in Rome. Stupendo! Of course these transactions took place in English so there were no misunderstandings in my less than perfect Italian.

My mobile cell alarm didn’t fail me for a 5:30am wake-up and the taxi that had been ordered the night before arrived promptly at 6:15am. Claudio gallantly helped with my bags and I was at the train station in less than 10 minutes. I took in my last view of the beautiful Santa Maria Novella Church and said my final goodbye to Florence. It was easy to find the 6:40am Eurostar to Florence and I boarded right away. I managed to shove my bags up the few steps without too much trouble. I was able to doze a bit and arrived at the Rome terminal on time an hour and a half later. Next was the hardest part of my trip home. You have to go down many steps to reach the main terminal and the connecting express train to the airport. I slung my carry-on over one shoulder and had to pretty much drag and bump my rolling duffel down the stairs. I was praying that none of my bottles or pottery would shatter all the while swearing at my stupidity and promising myself that I would never again and try to bring back so much by myself!

I did finally manage to get down those seemingly endless stairs and followed signs for track 26 where the American Express agent told me the Leonardo Express was located. Signs for the express train were numerous and clear. Let me explain here that I am only 4'10" and despite some weight training, this was a true struggle for me. Not that I regret one purchase now that I am home and enjoying them all but I did question my sanity at that moment!

The Leonardo Express leaves every 30 minutes at 22 after the hour and 52 before the hour. I made the 8:52 train which meant that I would be at the airport 20 minutes later by 9:30am. This would be more than enough time to check in for an 11:55am British Airways flight. Plenty of time to eat, browse (and I do mean browse as I had not an inch of room to fit anymore stuff) the shops and get my VAT taxes refunded.

A nice Italian young man helped me push my bags up on the Express train and I was able to find a seat in a car closest to the door – Thank God! Because I couldn’t have struggled any further with my luggage. Twenty minutes later I arrived at FCO and asked the information desk where the BA desk was. Happily, it wasn’t too far because I had been looking at the porters longingly. No line at BA as I was so early and I did manage to lift my bag onto the conveyer praying it would make the weight limits. When I asked the agent if she would put a fragile sticker on my bag (she had already put a heavy sticker on it), she asked "why, do you have any bottles in your bag?" In such a manner as to suggest that if I had been crazy enough to do that, I would have to remove them and repack, so I replied meekly "No, just ceramics", despite my Irish Catholic guilt trip thing about lying to authorities. Lesser of two evils in this case I thought. Happily, my bags were checked all the way to Boston because BA is an AA partner. Never was I so happy to check in a bag!

This was the first time I had flown BA and it was a most pleasant experience. Friendly, efficient service I thought. The London airport scene is always a zoo but has lots of great shops to peruse. The AA flight home was uneventful and not full. I found two seats that I could stretch out in and had a fairly restful flight home.

Happily my bags arrived with me and all bottles and ceramics were intact! Bubble wrap - what a great invention! It was wonderful to reunite with my husband after the longest time I had ever spent away from him in 27 years and begin to catch up. I had the time of my life, and can’t wait to go back!

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