Of earthquakes and rip offs

Rome Travel Blog

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I had a very weird dream. Last night I was introduced to Ale's flatmate, whose room I had stayed in over the past days. So for my last night I had to share the room with him. I slept in a bunk bed, while he slept in a normal bed at the other side of the room. At night I dreamt he grabbed the bunk bed and shook it, waking me up in the process. What a weird dream.

At the wake of dawn I left Ale's apartment and walked to Tiburtini station to grab the subway. The subway line doesn't extend all the way to Ciampino airport, but I figured I would just take the line to the end station and try to catch a bus from there. The Gazpacho gig had been near the airport, and there had been plenty of buses about, so I couldn't believe there wouldn't be any buses heading to the airport. Well, I guess there is a truth to Italian Cliché # 126, because there really aren't. At least, not from Anagnina bus station, which is the final stop of the subway.

I figured it was not worth trying to find a bus combination to the airport, and opted for a taxi instead.

Italian cliché #23: Italian taxi drivers will rip you off. Well, this goes for taxi drivers anywhere in the world, really, but this Italian guy had so many tricks up his sleeve that I wasn't able to counter all of them. He set his meter to the wrong tariff, he took an 'alternative route' which added at least 15 kilometres to the journey, he tried to short change me when I paid, demanded an extra fee for my backpack *and* he wanted a tip!

I was flabbergasted. My trip to Rome has been a thoroughly positive one, but this experience pissed me off big time.

While in the taxi I received a text message my colleague. Was I still in Rome? Was I ok? I didn't understand. I texted her back that I was fine and that I was on my way to the airport. She texted me back again, had I noticed anything about last night's earthquake?

Earthquake? Suddenly it dawned on me. That dream! That wasn't a dream at all! At least, the part where my bed was shaking was real. That had been an earthquake!

I figured my family might be worried as well, so I phone up my sister to let her know I was ok. She told me it had been one of the heaviest earthquakes in the history of Rome, killing over 200 people. The epicentre had been less than 90 kilometres from Ale's house.

It was all over the news in Holland.

I looked around the airport. I didn't really see much evidence that a disaster had taken place in this country last night. I picked up a newspaper: nothing. There were several TV screens hanging in the waiting area, but these showed some sort of fashion show. Then I saw the headlines at the bottom of the screen: "heavy earthquake hits Abruzzo" "people dead" "Mayor upset" "football news: ..."

Italian cliché #99: Italian media are the worst of all Western Europe. To give an example, I landed in Frankfurt a few hours later and everywhere I looked there were images of the earthquake and rescue operation on TV.

I'll end this blog with a last Italian cliché, let's call it # 233: all Italians are crooks. As I was waiting I walked around the duty free shops. Even though on a European flight you can't buy duty free I was very interested in a whisky they had on sale. The offer was so good, that I decided to buy a bottle. When I came home and wanted to try my new whisky I opened the sealed box, only to find that the bottle inside had already been opened and was half empty! And this was bought from an official store at an airport!

All the rip-offs aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Rome. It is a fantastic city which boasts so many sights and activities, you can spend weeks here and still not be bored. The architecture makes it just a wonderful city to stroll around, soaking up the atmosphere, and its rich history result in there being more sights and museums than one can visit in a lifetime.

This was definitely not my last visit to Rome.

Italian cliché # 631: visit Rome and you will fall in love with it!

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photo by: vulindlela