Posted by: mdmusingsie | July 25, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

There was a fairly lazy day for folks as we rested after the big bash the night before. Although I wasn’t the one to make the suggestion, I thought it fitting that we chose to dine at St. Patrick’s Pub (and B&B) in Barletta for dinner, which would be my last night in Italy. It looks like an Irish pub on the inside, with plenty of dark wood and Guinness posters, but the waiter spoke only very broken English and the food was mainly Italian. They did have steak (which several people tried), hamburgers, and hotdogs (aka wurst), but the majority of the menu was assorted varieties of pizza. Like most of the others in our group, I stuck with Italian fare – large salad followed by pizza. The icing on the cake, so to speak, came at the gelato shop we stopped at on the walk back. Bailey’s gelato! Truly a fitting Irish/Italian mixture.

It was up early to catch the train back to Rome. Since three of my companions were on the same train, one in our group ordered a cab for 7:15 am for our 7:42 train departure. Having experienced “Italy time” more than a few times on this trip, I suggested we make it 7:00 am. I’d rather be a few minutes early than miss the train (however, as you will see below, it may not have been the smartest move).

I had to change trains at the Stazione Termini in Rome, and finding the airport train was somewhat of a challenge. Of course you don’t buy tickets at the normal kiosk, you to go the tobacco shop – shouldn’t that have been obvious?! A throng of people waited to board this train, and a gentleman stood at the top of the entrance to the car nearest me, assisting passengers haul their luggage up as they boarded. Naively, I just thought he was a kind hearted individual, or train employee, trying to facilitate boarding. However, prior to departure he came through the cabin requesting “donations” or reparation for his efforts. As he had been very helpful, I had no problem providing a tip, nor did most people. Not a bad way to make some ready money if you have a strong back and arms.
Though I knew I would be in Rome well before my flight, I hadn’t counted on not being able to check in more than 2 hrs beforehand. The Rome airport isn’t the most interesting place to hang out. (Note to self, should this ever occur again, take the ~6 hr train instead of the ~4 hr train – roughly two extra hours in first class on a train beats 2 hours on a hard wooden chair in a noisy cafeteria in the Rome airport.)

Whether it’s the ghosts of the Palatino or ghosts in the greater vicinity of Rome, it will be one of the few European cities I won’t be sad to leave.

Italian odds and ends:
• Service/cover charges when dining
• Graffiti – tons of it – it doesn’t appear that anyone wants to expend the effort to clean it up
• Ice – nearly nonexistent (as well as Pepsi)
• Very reasonably priced gold jewelry
• Shoes galore (though I must say I found Ireland to have a better selection – maybe because I’m not a big sandal wearer)
• Pizza and gelato galore
• Air conditioning – sparsely used (except by tourists in hotel rooms)
• Rome: Charges for water even if it came from a tap, and bread (whether you ate it or not – best to refuse it right off the bat if you know you won’t be eating it)
• Surprising lack of convenience-type stores, at least in the areas we visited
• No facial tissue in the bathrooms (though they did have bidets)

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