Buongiorno Roma

Easy Jet is a cheap airline for inter-European travel and it is sort of like a flying Greyhound bus. Still, it is a great deal quicker (and actually cheaper) than the train, so I found myself leaving a rainy Geneva and arriving quite soon thereafter in a blistering hot Rome. Was it after sunset? Why, yes. Yes, it was. Did sweat nevertheless pour off me in rivulets as soon as I left the air conditioned airport and made my way to the train? Funny you should ask.

However, that would be getting ahead of ourselves. It took a long, long time for me to get to that train platform. First, I got off the plane and, as you do, followed the signs to baggage claim. When I got there, I went to one of the electronic signs that indicates which carousel your flight's baggage will appear on. Except that my flight did not appear anywhere on the sign. At first, I assumed I had just gotten there a bit ahead of the notification, but as time went on, it started to feel suspicious. I wandered around aimlessly, checked some other flight from Geneva in the unlikely event someone had put my suitcase on it just for fun, and finally recognized a couple of guys from my flight. I have no idea where these guys were from, but we didn't seem to have a language in common. Still, we had each other. And three people without luggage in a city you've never been to is less lonely and sad than--um--fewer than three people without luggage, etc.

I asked an airport employee and he told us that Easy Jet bags did not come there and that we needed to exit and go to Terminal 3. While I did understand everything he said, it just seemed so completely implausible that we still wandered around a bit more, afraid to exit for fear of never being allowed back in. I approached an Alitalia agent who repeated in perfectly clear English that we must exit and go to Terminal 3. She then said something about a green door and the staff entrance, which I mostly ignored. I gathered up my silent friends and we walked out.

It is a considerable distance to Terminal 3 and my confidence did falter a few times. When we got there, of course, we found ourselves on the "let's wait here for our friends to arrive from a foreign country" side of the door, rather than the "let's get our bags from our foreign flight and then walk out into Rome" side of the door. We just sort of stood there staring at it. There was an information booth right in front of us, but the lady staffing it looked so blatantly exasperated and hostile that I was afraid to even begin to explain our situation. Still, I got in line in a noncommittal sort of way, so that, if necessary, I might be able to say "What? Oh is this a line? I had no idea. I was just idly passing the time in this general area." When I glanced around, I saw a family from our flight standing right next to us. They spoke French, so we were able to share our complete frustration/confusion, which made me feel better. Better still, I was able to assign the dad the task of talking to the scary lady. Which he did. Merci. Sure enough, just as the Alitalia lady had said, we had to go to the staff entrance and rescan our carry-on bags to be let into the Terminal 3 baggage claim. Huh. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. How is it even possible to end up in a different terminal than your suitcase? And what's more...how did only seven people from a full flight have this experience? We found our bags by seeing our fellow passengers (all of whom may have been psychic?) gathered round the carousel. Really? Easy Jet, I have a few things to discuss with you.

Reunited with my stalwart suitcase, I made my way toward the station. There were additional delays in finding an ATM that wanted to deal with my card and then in finding a ticket machine that actually felt ready and able to dispense tickets, but eventually, I made it into town to the Termini Station. From there, it was only two metro stops to my hotel, which I assumed would take about 15 minutes. This is before I discovered that you have to walk about three miles underground before you even get to the right train (of which, incidentally, there are only two options). Truly, I walked such a distance that it began to be almost comical, and no doubt would have been, had I been sweating slightly less.

I wouldn't want this ramble to be devoid of public service, so let me give you this hot tip. When you are buying a metro ticket, you need to rest your coin in the slightly indented round spot on the ticket machine. You'll be pretty sure that it will fall on the floor, but it won't. And then, you put your thumb under the little lever and push it up, dumping your coin head over heels into the machine. If this seems too efficient for you, you can spend several minutes pushing things (your coin, the lever, the general area around your coin and the lever), or you can try pulling the lever down for quite a while. I mean, that's what I did, until the guy behind me intervened, but you might be in a hurry or something and want to skip all that. You're welcome.

I finally boarded the appropriate train and arrived at my station, at which point I wandered up and down the street trying to make sense of the English directions I had printed from their website. "Walk and follow, about 100 m, long Via Emanuele Filiberto up to No. 130 (in front of the No. 259)." Hmmm. What does it mean if 130 is in front of 259? Some kind of courtyard, perhaps? I got to 259, but the only thing in front of it was me, so I wandered back down the road feeling rather helpless. Some kind people at a little hotel next to the metro stop looked it up online for me and sent me back on my way. It turns out I had been looking on the wrong side of the street. Later I looked at the Italian version of the directions which state that you should "fino al n°130 (di fronte al n° 259)." I'm sorry to be the one to tell them this, but guess what "di fronte" translates to? "Across from." Ah. That would have been helpful.

I did at last find 130, which turns out to be a huge building which houses all manner of things. I was standing there [sweating] trying to make sense of the many signs outside the door, when a young man approached from further up the street and said pretty much the last thing I expected to hear: "Kari?"

It seemed like something out of a fairy tale. "Yes, magical creature? I am Kari. Have you come to rescue me?" But it was not so very odd, after all. The young man was Gianluca, the proprietor of Coliseum Rooms, and, as far as I could tell, the nicest person in Italy. Poor Gianluca had been waiting for me to arrive all that time that I had been wandering around the Rome airport, the Rome train station, the Rome metro, the immediate Rome neighborhood. He must have despaired that I would ever arrive (by that point, it was around 11pm). I felt terrible that I hadn't called to explain my delay, but I had no idea that he would be there just for me. He showed me to my spotless room, provided me with a towel, gave me a great many glasses of water, and pointed out many useful things on a map. Almost everything he mentioned, he described as "beautiful"-- everything from famous sites to having a profession where one meets people from all over the world-- beautiful. He asked me if I was visiting anyone in Rome and I told him that he was at that point officially the only person I knew in Italy. He said he was honored.(He probably also said that it was beautiful, but I don't remember.) I was so grateful for his kindness and hospitality that I wanted to hug him, but that seemed a trifle inappropriate, so I just said "thank you" a lot instead. He gave me my key, and went home. He let me keep the key for several hours past check-out the next day, and let me store my luggage there until the afternoon. When I was ready to head to the apartment I'd rented, he called a taxi for me, carried my bag down to the street and waited with me until the car arrived. He also gave me his card and told me that if I needed help with anything, I should call him. Mind you, I had stayed there for a total of one night.

All this to say, if you want an inexpensive, basic, spotless place to rest your head in Rome and you would like to have access to the nicest man in town: Coliseum Rooms. It's at 130 Via Emanuele Filiberto ACROSS THE STREET FROM #259.