Italy: Before the trip and Day 0.5

*special thanks to Sarah and Andrew for encouraging this inanity of a whim which resulted in one of the happiest weeks of my life*

After the shenanigans of re-purchasing the correct return ticket from Italy (the process spanned over about 36 hours of worrying and some more hours of waiting on international phone calls to Expedia customer service; I contemplated cancelling the whole trip, but thank goodness, thank all things I can thank, that I didn’t actually cancel) and sort of losing around $500 due to general carelessness and lack of keen observational skills, I actually did go to Italy.

Oh that reminds me; I had to go to 4 different bookstores that sold English language books (one of which was permanently closed) to find a copy of Lonely Planet- Italy. Either Italy is way more popular than destinations like France or Spain or Greece (all of which were in stock), or no one is interested in going to Italy and therefore they do not bother stocking up. Anyway, I bought the last copy at the 4th bookstore.

So as one can observe, this whole trip was a series of difficulties and bank-breaking before I even set foot on a plane, let alone Italian soil.

If I am to mention a silver lining in this mess of a cloud, it is that I was lucky enough to snag the last book, I was lucky enough to randomly find a return ticket from a different city (Milan, an unintended destination) at a cheaper price, and I was lucky enough to have friends and parents who were supportive and excited for me all the way through. Honestly, I think it would be very childish of me to want more than that, given that these shenanigans were brought upon my shoulders by myself, mostly.

Also, a cloud like this cannot change the fact that I AM GOING TO ITALY. YAY. It’s like the sun being like, “yeah, you measly cloud, cloud all you want. I’m still the SUN”.

My departure was the morning that my vacation started (which meant a week of work right before the trip). I was exhausted psychologically (from the whole ticket issue) and physically (from vacuuming, packing, doing 3 loads of laundry and cooking and eating everything that would go bad in the next few days). I was very close to saying that I didn’t want to do this trip anymore. I actually said it in my mind a couple of times, but there had been too much time and money and bits and bobs of my heart invested in this trip, so I had to go. I also knew that if I didn’t go, I was going to spend a very miserable 9 days in Beijing.

*****

Anyway, after a fight delay and a fair amount of running around the Moscow airport, I arrived at Rome at around 11:20PM…ish. I was in a hurry to get on the Sitbus to Vatican City (the schedule I saw online said there was a bus at around 11:50ish). There were no proper directions at the airport, so I asked a man who seemed to be in some sort of uniform where I would find this bus. He proceeded to inform me that the last bus had already left, and my only option was to take a taxi, which would cost around 70 Euros. I found this a little odd, because I saw online that the flat rate was 40. He then proceeded to inform me that he would be willing to take me to my destination with his car for a mere 40 Euros. I ignored him and headed directly to the taxi stand.

As the taxi started heading out of the airport, I actually did see the Sitbus shuttle.
fml.
Grumbling inwardly that I ended up spending about 10 times more than I should have, I struggled to not be unhappy or disgruntled 30 minutes after setting foot in Rome. I had invested too much in coming here, and I didn’t come here to be unhappy. But happiness doesn’t work that way, apparently. So I grumbled for a bit. It felt like I had a garden gnome (from Harry Potter, or more specifically, The Burrow) grumbling and fidgeting inside my chest, while I tried to wriggle it out of my body.

Then Uptown Funk came on the radio. I don’t know what it is about this song, but the beat is usually almost always genuinely uplifting for me. When I’m not doing anything in particular, it makes me want to dance, even when I am in public. Disgruntled me could feel the corners of my mouth were curling upwards. The garden gnome had left. This whole “I have to be happy here” was becoming a lot more easier, and 40 Euros did not seem like too much damage all of a sudden. The driver then pointed out the walls of the Vatican and I could actually take in the wall and the cobblestone streets and the streetlights and the tiny tiny cars. I was happy. I was very happy. I felt like I was being driven through a postcard… or an instagram filter.

I repeatedly “grazie”d my cabbie after I got off, and I went up a really cool elevator (which had a manually operated door, was half the size of a standard toilet cubicle (barely fit me and my bag) and looked about 150 years old) to meet my airbnb host.

If all airbnb hosts are like Esmeralda, I would like to recommend airbnb to everyone I like. (I wouldn’t recommend nice things to people I don’t like, because I generally don’t want nice things for them). The building looked old but spacious and very very well kept, and the rooms were really well decorated and clean. Also, I slept little, but I woke up to spectacular blue skies and air I wanted to capture in my lungs, so all was well. The corners of my mouth that curled upward seemed to never want to come back down.

Although I started writing this with the intention of writing about the whole trip today, I now realize after 1000 words that this is too audacious of a goal at 11pm. I will be writing about the rest of the trip in the next few days before I stop having to suppress the impulse to say “grazie” and “buongiorno”.

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