Getting There

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

I was on a train traveling from Naples to Sorrento, or to Campania.  I won’t keep you in suspense; the train eventually arrived in Sorrento, which is in the region of Campania.  It was a mystery to me why the train a region as the final destination instead of the city.

I spent almost two hours on a train whose destination I was unsure of.  I refused to ask anyone for help because I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  I thought about getting off, going back to Naples, and trying again.  I told myself that the worst case scenario would be if I had to take yet another train from “Campania” to Sorrento.  In the midst of my fretting, we approached Pompeii.  It had started to rain, hard.  Should I still get off there?  Where there any covered areas or was it all outside?  Maybe if I got off I could make sure I got on a train to Sorrento this time.  It was already 3:00 pm and darkness would fall at 5:30.  Was it possible to “do” Pompeii in two hours?  At the stop, inertia won and I stayed on the train to take my chances on where I would end up.  Who knew?  Maybe Campania was a nice city.

It’s not a very exciting ending, I know.  The point of this little story is that I learned some things about myself and traveling:

1) Despite what the travel guides say, European train travel is not “as easy as 1, 2, 3!”

2) I would rather end up in the wrong city than ask strangers for help.

3) Given a choice between taking a warm, dry train to the wrong city or spending a rainy afternoon in a muddy archaeological site, I will stay on the train.

The Hotel Rivoli had emailed to ask if I wanted a pick me up at the train station.  “Oh sure,” I thought, “You want to send your brother in law, who will over charge me.”  I didn’t reply.

I’m not usually that suspicious or rude but it appeared the hotel was only a 10-minute walk.  I had written down the route:  From Via Marziale, left on Corso Italia past Piazza Tasso and Piazza S Antonino, right on Largo Padre Reginaldo Giuliani, right on Via Santa Maria delle Grazie just in front of S Antonino Church.  How hard could that be?

Except that it was still raining when I arrived, so I hailed a cab.  I did what you’re supposed to do—ask how much the fare is before getting in—and the answer was €15.

I don’t know if this is true for you, but it’s interesting how I had spent hours looking at Google maps to sketch out how I would get from one place to another, and it all looked completely different once I was actually there.  While technically it would have been a short walk, given my track record of getting lost I would probably have ended up in the next town.  Five minutes later, the driver dropped me at the entrance of an alley that was too narrow for motor vehicles and pointed to the hotel.  I had to squeeze through a crowd in front of the Church of San Antonino to get to my hotel.

“You took a taxi?” asked the young woman at the desk.  “Fifteen euros!?” she exclaimed.  “We only charge five.”

My room was on the top floor—the third floor—and after that cramped little place in Rome I loved its spaciousness.  It was also decorated with clean, modern furnishings instead of 1950s polyester cabbage roses.

Unfortunately, the lock didn’t work and the door kept popping open.  The rain had stopped and I was dying to explore.  I flagged down a blonde, blue-eyed young woman whose name tag said Ugne.

“Oh, it works fine!” she smiled as she slowly demonstrated how to lock a door.  I smiled and waited until the door popped open.  “Oh no!  I will get help!”  She trotted off, and after waiting 15 minutes I pulled the door shut as tightly as I could, hoped for the best, and went out for a wander.

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