Transportation in Italy: What I Would do Differently
Our nine day trip to Italy, was, well, an adventure. When we got back home everyone asked the classic, “How was your trip?” Our answer, “Um, 50/50.” Let’s start from the very beginning.
We left our house Friday afternoon to drive to the Chicago airport (about a 3 hour drive). Our flight was due to leave at 9:30PM. We parked in economy (Life goal is to always park in the garage) and then waited for a bus for 35 minutes only to discover that the bus wasn’t running to that stop. There was a sign that said the airport transportation system (ATS aka train thingy) wasn’t currently working, so we assumed it wasn’t. After our wait, we decided to walk our butts to the next economy lot to catch the bus. The bus picked us up & took us just across the parking lot to the ATS. Why was there a sign that said it wasn’t running if it was? Who knows. We finally get through security and have a beer. Then, our flight to London gets delayed 30 minutes. No big deal.
We get into London on time. It’s now Saturday. Our flight was scheduled to leave for Florence at 4:30PM London time. Delay. Delay. Delay. More delays. Finally, they cancel the flight. We wait in line FOREVER at the check-in counter with all the other angry passengers. The airline tell us nothing. They give us a small paper slip to get a room at the airport hotel. Turns out they can’t fly us out to Italy until 4:30PM the next day, AND not only are they eating up our entire day, the also can’t fly us to Florence. They only offered to fly us to Rome with a 4.5 hour bus transfer up to Florence. THE FUCK. We had a rental car reserved in Florence, so we had to keep calling them changing our arrival time. Then we had to change the pick up location to Rome so we could skip the bus and drive ourselves to our Airbnb (which was 1.5 hours north of Florence). Well, the stupid 4:30PM flight to Rome got delayed and then delayed again. You can only drink so many airport coffees.
We ended up spending two entire days in the London Gatwick airport. A great way to start your vacation! They finally got us out of London and over to Rome around 10:30PM. We land in Rome and miss the rental car pick up by 30 minutes which means we get to take the bus. It picks us up around 12:30PM and we drive up to Florence. We get there in the wee hours of the morning (It’s now Monday), and we have to wait 4.5 hours for the rental car place to open.
When we get to the rental car place there are issues with our reservation since we kept changing it from location to location. After an hour on the phone with Expedia (which Expedia was actually super helpful and awesome), we have to cancel the reservation and make a new one. HOT FREAKING MESS. The other American’s in line keep warning us about how hard it is to drive in Italy. They think we are crazy. When we finally get our car, Andrew can barely get it out of the parking lot and to the road. He claimed he knew how to drive a stick shift. What he failed to mention was that he knew how, but had only been behind the wheel of a manual car twice in his life for a solid total of 2 hours.
On the way to our Airbnb we get stuck in traffic at a red light on a very steep hill. Andrew stalls the car, and I’m basically having a panic attack. My immediate reaction was to slap him? Because slapping your significant other is a great way to help in a stressful situation. My harmless little slap sprains my hand and now I’m not only panicking but also in extreme pain. We slowly but surely make it to our Airbnb and most of Monday is gone. We are exhausted and starving, but I’m scared to death to get back in the car to go to the grocery store. I suck it up, get in the car, and we headed to the store to stock up on prosecco, bread, cheese, and prosciutto. That night, we had dinner at our Airbnb with a stunning view, but I was SO anxious about having to get in the car the next day.
Tuesday, we made our way to Sienna and to a winery where we had booked a tour and tasting. Again, we stall out on a super steep hill trying to get there. My anxiety is through the roof at this point. Andrew puts on the flashers and we attempt to get up the hill. We show up at the winery 20 minutes late, and I’m feeling defeated. We can’t find a soul, so we sit there for awhile. Finally, someone comes out to greet us and takes us to the group. This ended up being one of my favorite experiences which I will share in another post!
The next day was slotted for travel from Sienna to the Amalfi Coast. I forced Andrew to turn in the rental car early that morning. I didn’t give a shit if I had to pay for the entire rental. This was the best decision we made. I finally felt my anxiety settle. We made it to the train station, bought tickets, grabbed some Italian fast food (which included an espresso) and were on our way.
Then, our train breaks. They shuffle us off and onto another train. In my head, I’m like, “Is this really happening right now?” The broken train makes us miss our connecting train. Our next two trains have delays and by now it’s 7:30 at night. I had a breakdown in the Naples train station. I literally told Andrew, “I’ve never been sick of you, but I am right now.” Yep, I said that. I also cried… a lot. And asked if eating gelato and a piece of pizza on my Italian vacation was really too much to ask.
Late that evening, we arrive in Salerno to catch our bus to Amalfi. Our poor Airbnb hosts had been waiting for us to arrive for hours. We meet up with them, drop off our bags, and walk to dinner. Sweet relief. I had the best clam pasta of my life that night and the last three days of our trip were pure bliss. I’m chalking all of this up to a learning experience.
My Italy Travel Advice:
Book accommodations that can be reached by public transit
Spend (at least) your first night in the town you fly into
If you have to travel a great distance, utilize the train system (expect delays)
Research the bus routes where you want to stay (expect delays)
If you are on the coast, look up the ferry routes (watch for cancellations)
Hire a private driver if you need to be somewhere on time
You guys, next time is going to be so much better. I swear. Also, I want to give a huge shout out to my love. Throughout this entire travel nightmare he was absolutely amazing. Never once did he get upset or frustrated (unlike me, on the other hand). Instead of getting mad at me, he squeezed me and wiped my tears when I was having my breakdown in the Naples train station, and now that we are back, he keeps making jokes about me crying over not getting to eat bread, pasta and gelato the first half of our vacation. Jeeze, I love him. Thanks for holding us together baby!