There was one hour until our 45-dollar flight to Rome. My sister, Olivia, seemed unbothered. I eventually got her out of her flat and we walked 10 minutes to the nearest train station. We sat on the train and we waited. We waited and waited, until I realized it had been 30 minutes and the train had yet to move.
I’m no mathematician, nor did I excel in physics, but I calculated that even if our train left at that instant we’d miss our flight.
They didn’t even let us through security. Our plane had left 20 minutes earlier. We forked out another 300 dollars each for a last-minute flight to Rome - and another 90 dollars each waiting at the bar drinking wine the next four hours.
We were five glasses of wine deep when we realized we had to - again - race for our flight. The gate attendant rolled her eyes at us as we arrived. Once on board, the Spanish security demonstration freaked me out. Wait - weren’t we flying from London to Rome? I studied the logo in front of me: “Vueling.” Later I learned it is on a Top Ten Most Dangerous Airlines list.
We landed - still tipsy - at 2 a.m.. Outside, the train station to the city was closed. Three different men held cardboard signs, “Ride to hotel for 20 euros.” We chose the one with a black curled moustache. He was the nicest dressed, in a ragged leather jacket. The van looked like a getaway car in a drug heist.
We got in. Moustache Man slammed the door behind us, locked it, and left. New risk takers climbed into the van one by one. I counted, as a headline popped into my head: “Six people murdered in van.”
I’d always wanted to visit Rome. I believe this has to do with being exposed to the Disney Channel at an impressionable age. After watching Lizzie McGuire, I would sing Come Clean alone in my room while dreaming I was riding a moped with a sexy Italian man.
When Olivia was presented with a business opportunity that involved travelling and required the presence of an experienced writer, she reached out to me (I’m in my fourth year of journalism.)
The deal included five days in Italy. After much discussion, my sister and I had decided on Rome, Pisa, Florence and Venice.
It was February 27th, and I couldn’t wait to escape the sub-zero temperatures in Canada. I packed six sundresses and eight light camisoles.
On the plane from Fredericton to London, I sat next to a grey-haired woman.
“Did you hear about Rome?”
“No,” I said
“First snowfall in 30 years, it’s unbelievable.”
In Rome, I layered on all of my clothes: my cream linen trench coat, baby blue peplum blazer, black leather jacket, a raincoat and a grey wool coat that goes to my calves. I looked like the Michelin Tire Man.
All these years, I had imagined Rome as a sea of grey with, well, the Colosseum. But the buildings were papaya-sorbet yellow, some with Moroccan ruby shutters, others gumdrop peach and minstrel rose. I was in love and I hadn’t even had my first bite of Italian food.
Our missed flight, left us with only one day in Rome. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the suggested itinerary. We rushed from sight to sight.
At a busy four-lane road, there was no traffic light, only two white lines painted on asphalt.
For 10 minutes we tried to figure out how to cross. Then, as a brunette in business attire strode across without a sideways glance, every single car slammed on their brakes. We tried it - and it worked.
To de-stress, we went to a café and paid eight dollars for a cup of coffee. Thank god, the food was cheaper. We bought two pouches of flaky dough, one filled with burrata, a cloud of creamy cheese inside a sheath of cheese, the other with a roasted chicken mixture that tasted like delicious leftover Thanksgiving turkey soaked for two days in a broth.
I was told students will often be given a discount on food in Italy. I asked my waiter, hoping my expensive coffee purchase would be made less painful. He said no.
Being a student isn’t advantageous, but foregoing a chair is. If you stand at a hightop table to eat, food is practically 50 per cent off. So there are two prices in Italy, and naive tourists like us are how they make money.
We walked out of the café disappointed. My aunts and uncles were assumed to be locals on their trips to Italy. Turns out, Acadian mixed with Boston roots looks a hell of a lot like Italian.
I am brunette, with olive skin, and have been told that I have a “Roman nose.” My sister, is blonde and always has a tan. But her nose is sloped, which is not very european. So I blame my sister, or at least her nose. We might as well of had a flashing neon sign above our heads that said “Tourists.”
Olivia put me on navigation duty. Our next stop was the Colosseum, and I was certain of my chosen route. But 20 minutes into our journey, I was lost. I looked out the window of the city bus we were on, only to realize we were passing the massive structure. I played it cool. When we got off, I simply led Olivia to the bus on the other side of the road, bringing us back in the direction we just came. A thirty minute detour later, she didn’t have a clue.
At the Trevi Fountain, we had to push through the crowd of tourists to get close. We were surrounded by Millennials taking selfies and elders taking pictures with their IPads. No one was looking at this masterpiece that was built at a time when construction wasn’t simplified with cranes and our technology of today. No wonder Italians hate tourists, I thought. So, I sat down next to some pigeon shit and attempted to study all the details in this work of art.
After, I finally had my Lizzie McGuire moment. I and took an Instagram boomerang whilst throwing a coin in the fountain. A girl can only do so much when trying to deny the society she lives in.
After this long day of playing tourist, we went to the nearest place that sold Prosecco, bought two bottles and headed back to our hotel. We were too exhausted to attempt re-entering the city for dinner, so we went to the restaurant downstairs.
Our meal: endless amounts of baguette dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Prosciutto and more burrata with a layer of fresh parmesan grilled in butter on top for our appetizer. We then shared two pastas, a carbonara and a Bolognese rigatoni, washed down with a third bottle of wine.
We made it back to our room. Ready for a good night’s sleep before our early morning train ride to Pisa. This was the moment we realized we had forgotten to see the Spanish Steps. We had walked past them too. Oh, well.