Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!

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17 September 2009
Arrival in Italy: settling the score

So far, the count is Mark & Sonia 2, airlines 1.

You may recall that back in June I scored an amazing fare from DC - Rome. It required a quick stop in JFK, which seemed totally worth it at the time.

The commuter flight left Dulles on time, and even arrived in New York a bit early. Then we got to our departure gate at JFK and found that the Rome segment had been totally oversold. They were looking for volunteers to give up their seat in exchange for a $600 voucher. Sweet! I'd always wanted to do that. And the voucher was worth $200 more than we'd paid for the original flight. They would re-route us through Venice to Rome, and we'd only arrive 2 hours later, coming away with $1200 to use for our next trip. Seemed like a win-win situation.

Well, we all know there's no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free flight.

Getting to Rome was a breeze, but when we arrived and asked for the Delta baggage counter (since our bags had come over on the original flight), they told us to go to Terminal C. And of course when we got there, no bags. And they told us we had to go back to Terminal A to file a claim with Alitalia, the SkyTeam partner airline that had flown us from Venice to Rome. So we trooped back to the original terminal, irrationally hoping that perhaps our bags were sitting over there somewhere and we'd be able to go on our merry way. Foolish mortals.

The Alitalia lady was quite pleasant, but since at least two systems were down she had no way of telling us where our bags had ended up. Lovely. We filed a claim and continued to Florence as planned, since we'd already booked our stay there and there was no way to know when our stuff would show up.

Here's where things really got interesting. There's a small railway station in the airport that connects you to the main Rome Termini, the departure point for trains heading all over the country. You can buy your tickets at a kiosk or at a window. We decided to avoid the throngs of Japanese tour groups at the window and use the machine. Fatal flaw! While it happily spit out our two tickets (one to Rome Termini, one to Florence) and charged about the amount I'd been expecting based on advice from my tweeps, it said the next train would be leaving in about half an hour. Turns out that was the departure for the train from Rome Termini to Florence! But we didn't realize that at the time, and hopped the Leonardo Express to head downtown. The train was incredibly hot, and the jetlag was catching up, so we dozed a bit. Groggily stepping off the train in Rome Termini about an hour later, everything came crashing down. The "Express" had spit us out at the far end of the station, so just getting to the main area with all the connecting train info had a bit of a Spinal Tap feel to it. When we finally found an information booth, the grumpy little man told us we'd missed our train, and we'd need to find a Trenitalia office to exchange the tickets. This turned into about an hourlong ordeal, as we managed to find every OTHER kiosk where you could buy tickets, but not the official Trenitalia counter which is literally on the farmost opposite end of the station from where we started. (It's right inside the door if you're coming in from the street though.) Long story short, we exchanged our tix, found the track for the departing train, and quite exhaustedly flopped aboard.

And reminded ourselves that even the most irritating day of travel is better than a day at work.

Piazza de Santa Maria Novella

After a gorgeous 90-minute train ride through breathtaking Tuscan landscape (we'll see you later, hill towns and wineries!) we arrived in Florence and easily found our hostel. Soggiorno Prestipino is a five-minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station, so the location can't be beat. It's small but clean, well-priced (especially for Florence), and the management are a friendly bunch. Highly recommended!

Pappa al Pomodoro, the ultimate Tuscan comfort food

We scraped off some of the road grime and wandered out for a late meal. With plenty of options to choose from, we tried to find something on a small side street that didn't look too touristy or too expensive (these are actually one and the same in Italy). We picked a charming little trattoria and had the first of no doubt many fabulous meals: a steaming bowl of Pappa al Pomodoro, glistening with fresh olive oil, and some house wine that utterly hit the spot. Topped off with a tiramisu so good it brings tears of gratitude to your eyes. Ahhhhh, yes! That's the stuff!

Tiramisu to make you weep

With any luck they'll track down our bags soon, and settle the final score at 3-1 in our favor. But in the meantime it's not going to stop us from enjoying the best that Italy has to offer!

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Posted by sonia at 10:00 PM | Link | 1 comment