It was 20:00hrs, in May of 2010, when I arrived at Fiumicino Airport in Rome. As we flew in over the ranges and the villages, and I heard that Captain tell the cabin crew to prepare for landing, I looked out the window at Italy for the first time; I was so happy. So happy that there are no words to describe the excitement that was surging through me. I smiled through the entire landing and taxiing. I can still feel that feeling now… and I still smile like that when I land in a new destination.
The first thing I had to do was take a sky-bridge train from the gates to the main terminal. I had no idea I was supposed to do this so I was kind of just staring at it like…what?
Below is where you arrive on an international flight (from outside of Europe), and it is connected to the main terminal by a sky-bridge. You have to first take the sky-bridge to the main terminal and then you can go through immigration and collect your bags.
Luckily the horde of other people disembarking were getting on the Sky Train and I decided I might as well follow them. When I got to immigration, immigration officers opened a special lane for AU/NZ passport holders; YAY! This made the huge line so much smaller! I went straight to baggage claim to collect my bags and before I knew it I was outside of the airport…
I had to take it in for a second before I remembered what I was doing. Because it was my first time ever out of my comfort zone I thought a taxi may have been the safest bet for me to actually get to the train station without getting lost. I found a taxi right outside the terminal and got them to drop me off at Termini Station. It cost me around 50€. Whilst I was in the taxi I decided to call mum to let her know that I arrived, not remembering about the time difference. Apparently in was 04:30hrs when I rang her back in Aus – oops, sorry mum!
This was a really interesting experience and by the time I figured out what counter I needed to go to it was 21:30hrs. I had some instructions from my course coordinator which told me how to find the right train, but I decided it best to just ask the lady at the ticket counter. Thankfully she spoke English and could tell me what I needed to do.
I had to look at the departure board for my train and find the platform number, and then I had to punch my ticket to validate it before hopping on the train. This is done in a yellow box (above) located on all platforms in Italy.
Note: If you don’t do this then you can get hit with a hefty fine.
I was so exhausted by the time we were on our way that I accidentally fell asleep for a little bit on the train. The conductor woke me up to check my ticket, and luckily he did this because the stations were not getting announced so I had to keep a keen eye on where I was.
I remember the sound of the train going through the tunnels (and my ears popping), and I remember the wind blowing on me from one of the open windows in the empty carriage.
I finally made it to Terni Station at around 22:45hrs. I went outside to look for a taxi and there were none. I didn’t have any cash and couldn’t find an ATM. I couldn’t get the phone booth to work, and my phone battery had died ages before. I still had about a 10min drive from Terni to San Gemini and I had no idea if anyone would be awake, or where I would go. This is when the exhaustion, anxiety and hunger which I had built up inside me decided to come flying out… and I did what any 19yo who was alone in a foreign country for the first time ever would do; I went to the toilets, fell to the floor, and cried.
Oh yes.. I cried for what seemed like a very long time but I finally realised that sitting on the floor of an Italian public toilet was not going to get me anywhere. So, I finally pulled myself together, after wallowing in my self pity, and walked back out the front of the train station and much to my surprise a taxi was there! I had never been so excited to see a taxi! He showed me where the ATM was and I got some cash out before heading on my way to San Gemini.
I was dropped off in Piazza San Francesco, where I was told to meet up with the coordinators, but by the time I arrived here it was after 23:00hrs. I was expecting to have to sleep in the square for the night, which I felt okay about because I felt safe. Thankfully, just as the taxi drove off and left me standing in the middle of town, a door to a nearby restaurant opened and a group of foreigners started pouring out; my group.
Seriously the relief that I felt when one of them came running over to ask if I was Ashlee. One of the coordinators got some sandwiches made for me (my first experience with prosciutto), while a few of the girls in my cohort helped me carry my luggage up the windy cobblestone street to my bed.
I was finally there after a 42 hour journey from Townsville. This would be my home for the next 4 weeks, and I could finally sleep!
What I woke up to was even better…
You may also be interested in A Walk Through San Gemini…