People say that Italy is like India, and there are many similarities I see: honking on the road, noise, people talking everywhere …
Rome’s metros are full to bursting point. The only difference between Mumbai locals and the Rome metro is that there are doors that slam shut in the latter, so you cannot hang out. But you have to stand on tiptoe if you want to avoid standing on someone else.
Our worst encounter in Italy, though, was not the metro. It was not the fact that we got separated by the doors that banged shut, and had to find one another again without the aid of mobile phones that seem like an extension of our bodies today.
We got to Rome and looked in our map to figure out where there was a youth hostel. It was early in the morning and cold, but we had IYHF (International Youth Hostel Federation) memberships, and a map with the youth hostels marked.
A very bad phone line connected us to a grumpy receptionist.
We got on to our bus, and missed our stop.
We walked back to the place we had to go – and discovered that the rooms opened only at 11. We had reached Rome at 6 in the morning, hoping to explore it to the fullest.
“Could we leave our bags here?” we asked.
“Sure. The baggage deposit is downstairs.”
We went down and discovered two things – that even the baggage deposit opened only at 10, and that unlike in Milan, storing baggage was not free. We had to pay one euro per bag.
It was not an auspicious beginning. If we had just been backpacking through Europe, we would have had less stuff, but after the exchange programme, we had books, souvenirs and hundreds of other things we were lugging around with us. Still, we were backpacking, and were determined to make the most of it.
We needed to use the internet, and we had to spend some time there, we would use the prohibitively expensive internet at the hostel. Over five euros per hour. For us that translated to 250 rupees (at least). At home, then, we could use the internet @20 rupees an hour.
At 10, though the baggage deposit was open, and the queue was endless. Waiting there for an hour made no sense, so we went back up.
At 11, we went to check-in and discovered that 11 o’clock does not mean 11 o’ clock. It meant 11:15, and there was already a queue there too.
We finally got in to our room at noon to find that even though the rooms open at 11, the cleaning time is 11 to 2. Whatever ‘open’ means, then.
We went back down to the reception to find out a little about the city. Silently, the receptionist took our map, circled a few things here and there, and returned the map to us, then turned away to show us that he was busy and we were wasting his time.
Welcome to Rome. I sometimes wonder why it ranks so high amongst my favourite places in Europe.