I am combining my Italian stops into one post as I spent only an hour in Ancona, 8 hours in Florence and just two days in Rome. When I left off on the Split story, I was taking the overnight ferry from Split to Ancona. Being the bargain hunter that I am (some things) I opted for a seat instead of a shared cabin which would have been twice the price and a 100% more comfortable. The trip was 12 hours and I spent it reading in the nearly empty lounge of airline like seats. I managed to nap a little by propping my bag up to rest my legs and reclining as far as I could in the seat. It was other than restful and I was happy to get off the ferry, so happy that I was one of the first in line and the first walking passenger to pass through Italian customs. After that, I checked in at the taxi stand to see how much it would cost to get a ride to the train station. They said 15 Euros and I started walking. The guy I met in Split told me it took about 20 minutes to walk and I had used Google maps to look for diections earlier. So loaded with the backpack, I headed off, hoping to arrive in time for the 8:35 train to Rome. I made it with 4 minutes to spare and zero cost to me. It turned out to be a thirty minute hike for me, in the fresh morning air and I felt great.
It was a nice trainride and I enjoyed seeing the Italian countryside,very green and clean. Arriving in Rome was another matter. I first stopped at the ticket office to arrange my next train ride as I had read the trains were full in Italy and you need to reserve in advance. The guy at the Eurail info desk was rude and short with everyone and directed me to one of the long lines at the ticket windows. It took about an hour and a half to get to the front of the line and everyone there was starting to frazzle. I had a very nice lady that got me a reservation to Florence and then a couchette to Munich. I then set off to find my room for the next two nights. When looking online, I found few options and the cheapest was a camping site on the outskirts of town. It was a metro ride and then train ride to a suburb and then the camping site had a shuttle to take you the last bit. The metro was torn up and under construction and the regional train was covered in graffitti. The graffitti covered the windows so muchthat it was hard to see the station name signs, those that weren’t covered in graffitti themselves. Luckily, I had downloaded a Rome metro app to my iPhone before I left Split.
The campground was tucked into a valley among some apartment blocks and was kind of cute. I had a little wooden hut on a trailer base. They had a cluster of these huts, rustic wood cabins with just enough room for two single beds. The bathrooms were in a common area and looked like a campground. The room was only $12 for the night. They had a little store, restaurant, pizzaria and a pool area. In order to buy anything at the store, you had to buy one of the camp cards for 30 euros cash. I had neglected to pick up some cash while I was in Rome and had neglected to pick up any food or water. So I am stuck in the boonies with just 10 euros, no food and it has been nearly 24 hours since I last ate. I am fed up and near tears so the recptionist gives the store guy permission to take cash from me so I can buy a bottle of water and some snack cakes. I sit down in the only area where there is wifi and look for a new hostel. I couldn’t find anything for that night, but I do find a bed for the next night back in the center of Rome.
The next morning I get up early and I am on the first shuttle back to town. The regional train is packed, standing room only. The metro is almost empty at quarter to nine. My new location is easy to find and I go there just to drop my backpack off. There I meet the manager and she is very helpful, assigns me a locker to store my bag, explains how the hostel works, gives me a map and directions for a walking tour of the highlights. I perk up and start to think this is going to be good.
It was walking distance from the Coleseum and so I head there first and run into a group watching a marathon, some runners/walkers are in “Race for the Cure” tee shirts and part of the street is blocked off for a girls volleyball tournament.that was fun to watch.
I then walked over to the entrance to the coleseum where individuals are standing in a long line for tickets. Instead of waiting for an hour for a ticket, I joined a group which cut through the line. The tour leader was an Italian lady and her middle name must have been Tedious. She repeated everything three times, drawing everything out. It was nice to walk through the ruins. I am a fan of all this ancient and I expect to love it. There were just so many people that it was difficult to move around. I walked back up to the central train station and bought a ticket on one of the hop-on, hop-off buses. First I stopped for some lunch….which was a mistake. Half way through the bus tour, I realize I needed a bathroom and fast! At the stop for the Vatican, I hopped off and started looking. I found some kind of bus garage that had what I needed…relief.
I still felt miserable so I just hopped back on the bus, now it was raining and rode to the stop closest to my hostel. When it rains in Rome, the umbrella salesmen bloom and I picked my third umbrella of the trip, a purple one. I stopped at grocery and picked up some bread rolls and water and snacks for the evening and then scuttled back to the hostel for the evening. There I was in the city of Rome and I am holed up in a dark hostel room feeling sorry for myself and ready to leave.
I really wanted to love Rome. I studied ancient Rome so much and was looking forward to seeing all the historical sights. Whether it was the weather or the pervasive graffitti or just travel burn out, I was eager to leave. My love affair in Rome will just have to wait for another trip.
I took an early train out the next morning to Florence. I only had 8-9 hours to spend there before my night train to Munich. And what a difference a day makes. I loved Florence, or Firenze as they call it in Italy. I stashed my backback at the station and bought the hop-on, hop off bus ticket. They had two circuits and for the price of 16 euros, I could ride both circuits all day long. They gave you earphones and you can plug into the audio guide and select your language. I first did the blue circuit which takes an hour and I was enchanted by all the streets and sights. At the end of that circuit it was starting to sprinkle a bit and I wandered off to find lunch. I found a picture perfect trattoria a few blocks from the train station and decided to treat myself. This place has been in business since the year I was born (I am not telling, don’t ask) there were breadsticks on the table and I had spaghetti bolonese, Osso Bucco and Fagioli (white beans) Tuscan style. Best meal ever and the waitress was great. I will remember that meal for years to come.
I then went back to the bus and hopped back on for the Red line which was a two hour circuit that went up into the hills on both sides of the town and up to the village of Fiesole. I sat on the upper open desk and the air was brilliant. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining. The hills were so green and the bus drove through tree shaded lanes, the wind from the bus blowing the branches up out of our way. About 30 minutes before the end of the circuit, the rain started again and all of us on the upper deck scrambled down to crowd into the lower deck. I had loved it, so I stayed on and went again for another 2 hours.
I want to live in Florence for at least 2 months sometime. I want to come here and study Italian and learn to cook Spaghetti Bolonese.
After I got off the bus, I wandered around town in the rain some more. I was wet and happy. My camera battery had died,and I was using my iPhone to take a few,”got to have”shots as I made my way back to the train station.
For my next train stage, I had a couchette, which is a compartment with 4-6 bunks. They give you a sheet, blanket and pillow and you sleep in your clothes. I shared the compartment with 3 others and had the top bunk. I could almost sit up in bed if I hunched over. Needless to say it was a long night and I only got a little sleep. My feet and pants were damp from walking in the rain and were still damp by morning which was kind of icky to put my shoes back on. Still it was more comfortable than stting up all night.
So that brings me up to Munich and arriving with no idea of where to stay….
Stay tuned to find out if I find a room…..