Traveling to Rome, Italy Day 1
Austin and I left Atlanta Wednesday afternoon to fly up to Chicago, where we had to wait 6 hours for a connecting flight to Munich, Germany, and from there we had another connecting flight to Rome, Italy. The flights were uneventful, just very long. The airport in Munich was large and had nap rooms where you could pay a machine and get into a little room with a bed to take a nap in between flights.
We arrived in Rome Thursday evening to find out that a large section of the airport had been burned down, and just the previous week that had canceled our flight for a few days and we did not even realize it! Luckily though they were able to get enough of the airport back up and running and shuttle us from the plane to the working area of the airport.
From there we meandered through the airport until we found our way outside and over to the train station as our plan was to take the train into downtown Rome. When we went to the counter to buy our tickets however, they convinced us to get a ticket for the same price but ride in the van shuttle that went into town as they would leave sooner. We waited about 30 minutes because they had to wait for enough people to fill up the van, and we ended up missing a train that came and went sooner than we left with the van. What followed was our first and most interesting shuttle ride we have ever been on into downtown Rome. We packed up into the van with 10 other visitors to the city and our Italian driver, and got onto the freeway. As we got closer to the city we hit traffic, which we would of avoided with taking the train, but got a very unique experience of Roman driving. In Rome there are no lanes of traffic except for the two basic different directions. Everyone just drives where they want to, cutting each other off and riding as close as they can to the person in front of them, with a lot of pushing hard on the gas and slamming on the brakes. Surprisingly we did not see one car wreck the whole time we were there, which I believe is largely attributed to the fact that Italians do not use cell phones or text like Americans do when they drive, they are purely in the moment and focused on driving aggressively. The ride was definitely an eye opening experience, and we had good company talking with a couple who was visiting from London.
Eventually we made it to the central train station in Rome safe and sound. This was Austin and my first trip abroad (besides his military deployments) so we were both a little confused on what to do and how to find our way once we arrived there. We found a little shop by the train station and got ourselves a little cheap Italian phone and card with minutes for use while we were there since we had shut our phones off to avoid long distance roaming charges. After that we bought bus tickets from a street cart and found our bus across the street where the rest of the buses were to make our way to where we were staying for the night, which was a small private room in an Italian house that had been recommended. Jumping on the bus we were not sure what to do and just jumped on like everyone else, not realizing we were supposed to validate our tickets but we hardly saw anyone do that in Rome any of the times that we rode the bus. That bus that we took the first night had at the front of the bus the stops listed in words that would flash up on a screen as we were approaching our stop, which made getting off at the correct stop easy. We experienced how crowded the bus got in Rome for the first time, which was very packed pushed up against everyone else, which was not very comfortable with carrying a few big bags since we had all of our luggage. We were being weary of pickpocketers too since we had heard Rome is really bad about that, but luckily did not experience that, and in fact a young Roman about our age gave us advice on watching out for pickpocketers, especially on crowded buses like that.
After that we followed the written directions to the house, passing the Roman aqueducts and past a little park, but then we could not find the house number and kept walking in circles. We ended up calling the lady whose number we had, but it turned out she did not speak very much English and our Italian isn't too great so it took about 10 minutes of going back and forth to finally decide and communicate where to meet her so she could walk us back to the house.
We learned this first night that most places (at least no where that we stayed) had air conditioning or window screens, so we could open the windows but then moskitos would come in and bite us during the night. Luckily, the first few nights we were in Rome it was fairly cool at night and we didn't get any moskitos. The room was small but had a desk and chair, and we had our own private bathroom with a shower. We got our own key so we could come and go when we want to and leave our stuff there. After arriving and dropping our stuff off, we were exhausted but still had not eaten dinner yet, as we had spent the last 3 hours or so trying to find our way to that house, so we went out in search of a grocery store. Most grocery stores weren't open that late (about 9PM) but we found one open all night and bought some water bottles, basic snacks and foods for the next few days, then we went back to where we were staying and crashed for the night.