I had so much anxiety about waking up to drive to the airport that I probably slept a total of 2 hours. How terrible. I was up around 6am getting myself together. I looked outside and was shocked to see fog everywhere. I couldn’t see a thing in the distance, and started to worry about the visibility on the roads.
Eric arose from his slumber by 6:30am and told me to stop worrying about nothing. He’s right. My parents raised me to be a worry freak, and I just can’t help myself!
We got dressed for our extremely long day of travel and headed to breakfast, which opened at 7am. We weren’t the only ones there first thing. That mother/daughter duo I had mentioned in an earlier post made an entrance shortly after us. The daughter (in her 40’s) immediately let the waiter know they had a flight and had to hurry. She had an absolutely miserable look on her face. The mother, obviously older in her 70’s, looked like a puppy dog as her mean daughter completely ignored her. They were sitting right next to us and I quietly observed them.
They were so fortunate to be together on this mother/daughter trip at such a beautiful place. I WISH my mom could be here. Yet, the daughter spent the entire breakfast with her face down and didn’t even look ONCE at her mother. I saw the mother glance nervously at her angry daughter. They didn’t speak a word throughout the entire meal.
I know I shouldn’t stereotype, but the daughter looked like a wealthy woman who likely doesn’t work and does nothing all day but spend her husband’s money. What does she have to be so miserable about? I obviously don’t know anything about these people except they seem to prove yet again that money doesn’t buy happiness.
After breakfast, it was time to say good bye to our beloved Tuscan countryside. We closed up our suitcases and checked out. The drive to the airport was very smooth without a single issue - no traffic or any random problems! We stopped at a rest stop once to use the bathroom. Eric had read all these horror stories online about people breaking into cars at rest stops, so one of us stayed outside and watched the car while the other went in.
I didn’t know what to expect from an Italian rest stop, but it was very nice. The bathrooms were clean like in the US and the store had everything, including fresh loaves of Italian bread.
During the 3 hour drive, Eric and I discussed how much we love wine country and can’t wait to go back. Even though I am not a fan of travelling to Europe, I would love to visit some wine regions in France.
Before we knew it, we were pulling into the Rome airport. We kept following the signs for the rental car return which promptly disappeared in front of a large parking garage with no signs. Immediately we were confused. Is the rental car return inside the garage? Why did we need a ticket to enter the garage if it’s a rental car return? There was a sign next to the booth that listed parking prices. This must not be right.
Luckily there weren’t any cars behind us so we were able to back up to the entrance and then just sat there dumbfounded. What do we do? Where is Budget? Why would we need a parking ticket to drop off our car? I’ve rented cars a million times before and have never had to do this.
Eventually we decided that entering the garage had to be right and we had no idea where else to go. We drove forward, took a ticket, and followed signs for Budget in the garage. Thankfully this turned out to be a good move!
We dropped the car off and headed into the airport. There were multiple terminals but there weren't any signs specifying which airlines flew out of which terminals. After contemplating, we made a lucky guess.
The terminal was a bit musty and not heavily air-conditioned like in the US. I was already starting to feel gross and we weren’t even close to getting home. We approached the Alitalia desk and searched for our flight on the board.
Wait a second, this can’t be right…! Does it really say we are delayed 3 HOURS?! Are you kidding me?! We waved down an employee who explained that there was a large fire at the international terminal the day before, so all flights were re-routed to the domestic terminal, thus causing a major delay.
Wow, what luck... Fire at a major airport, in the international terminal, at the airport we are flying from... what are the odds!!!! Oh well, at least we had each other for support and entertainment. This certainly wasn’t my first airport delay and I’m confident it won’t be my last.
They compensated by giving us vouchers for food. We went through security and the guy was checking every bag. Give me a break!
Upon entering the terminal I immediately noticed a SMOKERS LOUNGE. Gross, just looking at it made me want to vomit.
The terminal was packed to the max because all of the flights for two terminals were consolidated into one. On a positive note, there were tons of places to eat and great stores for shopping. It was like a mall in there. We headed straight to eat because I was starving. Our voucher allowed us free food at a particular restaurant. We found it near our gate, and it turned out to be small food court where all the Alitalia employees were eating. Hmm…weird. The food looked okay though.
Of course, it was packed so I had to wait forever to get my food. Once I sat down, I watched the bags while Eric got his plate. Overall, the food was OKAY. BLAH would be the best description. At least it was free and my pie was tasty.
We then walked around to explore the terminal. I got tired quickly because it was so packed, and we already had such a long day. I just needed to sit. We found a few open seats and connected to the free, yet extremely slow and unreliable, internet.
Eventually we made our way to the gate and took a seat nearby. The toilets at the airport were atrocious. I’ll just leave it at that.
|Neric at the FCO airport desperately wanting to get home|
FINALLY – time to board our flight. Everyone was anxiously crowding the gate. The agents were busy doing whatever agents do, and we all stared blankly at them. After 20 minutes, I noticed something on the board.
ANOTHER 2 HOUR DELAY.
Everyone started to look a little frantic. I saw one of the gate agents look up at the board in shock. Clearly, they had no idea this was coming.
To say a frenzy ensued would be an understatement. People who know me, also know that my family is very loud, emotional, and riled up at all times. Well, everyone in Italy is the same way. The Italians went berserk! I almost thought they were going to trample the desk. They were standing in a group, yelling and screaming, and pumping their fists.
It was amazing.
The agents responded with extreme patience and composure. You could tell they were used to this behavior. In America, you can’t even look at a gate agent the wrong way or they’ll allow security to tackle you.
An announcement for the additional delay was never made. Any announcements that were made throughout this entire debacle were incomprehensible anyway.
|Proof that were delayed|
There was a study abroad student who was turning 21 at midnight and had plans to go out in Boston. Looks like she’ll be celebrating on the plane!
We had no choice but to sulk back to whatever empty seats we could find. I was brain dead and exhausted, and only had energy to people watch. That’s when I spotted this:
Listen, I’m not trying to make fun. I’m just trying to understand why any sane person (who’s not a celebrity about to be photographed) would wear a tight mini skirt and 5 inch heels to the airport. She must not be sane.
|The most practical airport outfit I've ever seen|
After several more hours, it was time to board again. Everyone gathered around the gate only to find out that before boarding, every single ticket needed to be reissued. Basically, they moved our flight onto a different plane, and then re-assigned everyone to a new seat. Some people had the same seat, and some people were moved. Therefore, they told us that every single person had to get in line and have their ticket re-printed by a gate agent. There were hundreds of people, and 2 gate agents.
As you can imagine, this was absolutely ridiculous.... we just sat around for a 5 hour delay and they decide to notify everyone at the last minute. A total mob scene formed and everyone in line was extremely confused. 30 minutes passed and they had only checked 5 tickets! Eric was ready to jump up and help manage the situation. There wasn't even an orderly line!
Basically, we had to go through hell to get on this plane.
It took several more hours to complete this painful process. Total nightmare! The only good news is that the flight wasn’t cancelled. THANK GOD.
While we were on the shuttle to our plane, there was an Italian couple who said they were flying into Boston and going to straight to Nantucket. Another person asked where they were going to stay, since we’d land around 2am and there aren’t any boats going to Nantucket until many hours later. They nonchalantly replied that they would sleep in the airport, as if it were no big deal (are you kidding me?). It’s so funny to me that I live in Boston and haven’t been to Nantucket. Yet these people are flying 9 hours from another continent to go there.
Anyway, we made it home safely and I literally slept the entire flight. I wanted to kiss the ground when we got off the plane. Eric only slept 1-2 hours and he was in rough shape when we landed. Total travel time was around 24 hours from the time we left the hotel until the time we arrived at our condo.
I would say the biggest lesson I learned on this trip is that I am so thankful to be an American!
Until next time, Ciao!