Monday, June 30, 2014

April 12, 2014– Tuscany to Assisi to Rome!

Today’s Travelpod was written by Lizzie and Doug. The words from the Travelpod are in italics. Any new comments are in regular text.

Hi all. Lizzie here. ( this part written on April 12)

Oh today. I woke up feeling decent which was exciting. We got up and ate our last feast at our little paradise. We packed up our stuff and loaded up the car. We said goodbye to Manuela and Andrea and set out for Assisi. It took us about 1.5 hours to get there.

We had a few issues getting there and I must admit this is our worst day for driving. We made the most mistakes/wrong turns and then there is the Rome fiasco that I will explain later.

We finally got to Assisi and found the recommended underground parking without too much of an issue. 2014-04-12-04-48-07_IMG_1653

We parked and got to see most of the major sights of Assisi (San Rufini,2014-04-12-04-51-02_IMG_1656
the Temple of Minerva, 2014-04-12-04-57-18_IMG_1662

San Chiara)

We had a delicious lunch and saw the sights. Gelato included!2014-04-12-06-29-57_IMG_1669

Umbria behind me. It looks very different from Tuscany. 2014-04-12-06-36-57_IMG_1671

Sadly, I started feeling bad so we headed back to the car and did not go see THE major Assisi sight – The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. We did drive past it while we drove down the road. We contemplated stopping anyway, but we both preferred having Lizzie 100% for the rest of our days in Italy than hiking up the hill from the parking lot to see St. Francis's Basilica. Sorry, St. Francis. We have already started the list of reasons why we need to come back.

We started the last road journey of our Italian trip and it started off ok. We made it to Rome in about 2 hours and used my phone to find the hotel. I was still feeling bad so Doug and I decided to drop me off at the hotel with the luggage so I could rest up for our last few days in Rome. We unloaded the car and Doug drove off with his phone and his wallet. That is all we thought he would need for the trek.

I emailed him the details of where our Metro stop was and on what line. I also gave him other random helpful details and he drove off around 6:45 pm. He was going to drop off the rental car at the train terminal and come back via the Metro. At 7:15 pm, Doug emailed me saying, "The whole city is shut down for some reason. I can’t go anywhere and my phone is dying. I will get there, but I will be a while." Oh no.

An hour later and no Doug, I watch a movie. Another hour later and no Doug and I decided to call the Hertz office at the Terminal to find out if he made it there yet. I found the website and found out they close on Saturdays at 6:00 pm. OH NO.

…(doug takes over) Written on April 13 (a day later)
My apologies, devout blog readers for the failure of an update yesterday. I got back to our hotel at about 11:30. With the car. If Florence was a study in why not to bring a car into major cities in Italy, Rome was the final exam.

Lizzie summed up what happened pretty well. She wasn’t feeling well, so we checked into the hotel and I let her go upstairs, take a bath, and go to bed. I put the map on my phone and started driving away. I did a quick check – the directions said it would take about 13 minutes to get to Termini, my phone battery looked like enough for trip there as well as some extra juice to figure out how to get back to our hotel. “No problem, I’ll travel light, I won’t bring anything else with me,” I thought. Terrible idea.

Driving away from the Vatican and into Rome’s city center wasn’t too bad. Until I hit this patch of traffic that was going under a few overpasses. Dead. Stop. Little mopeds were winding their way through the traffic like little gnats or mosquitoes buzzing around your face. They really don’t care about traffic laws at all, they just zip through wherever there is enough room. People in Smart Cars, I found, seem to have the same mentality. But they’re much more annoying because they actually block up the roads. I noticed this on our way into the hotel – it seems like the paint on the road is merely a suggestion. And in fact, some of the roads that have been paved over recently, they didn’t bother to paint lines. Likely because they realized no one followed them anyway. When in Rome, as they say – I certainly have some of my own asinine driving qualities I can bring to the table.

But I digress. Back to finding Termini.
5 minutes from St. Peter’s, I hit this traffic. I turn my phone navigation off to save what battery I have. I finally make it through the traffic to find why it’s backed up so much. The police have shut down a major road that goes into the center. Why would they do that? I have no idea. It must be a Saturday evening thing. So I take the route in the right direction. Only to find another road closure. Reroute again. Closed again. WTF is going on? All the rerouting and the extra traffic is eating away at my battery. So I fire off a message to Lizzie to tell her the roads are all closed, that I’m ok, and that my phone is dying. Don’t worry about me, I’ll find a way. I’m not sure if it was the 10th or the 11th reroute that I lost battery, but there I was: foreign country, no map, basic idea of which direction I needed to go, but no roads that actually led there (all roads lead to Rome, but once there, good luck getting around.. the roads are closed), and I needed to go to the bathroom.

In Rome, they have several streets that have bus and tram only lanes – the cars drive on the outside and the buses and trams pick up people on the inside platforms. In the mostly stopped traffic, I pulled up to a few of these areas, rolled down the window and asked dov’e termini (where is termini)? Not really sure what I was hoping for.. chances are I would get one of the following: a long list of instructions I would only partially understand and have to ask for clarification, a unknowing shoulder shrug, or an energetic point vaguely in the direction I was trying to go that would likely get me to another closed street. But I tried anyway. Various stops got me exactly what I had expected. I followed the more complicated directions, and wound up on a long bridge out of Rome with nowhere to turn around. And once I did make it to the other side, I took a quick turn to flip a bitch, but wound up down a street with a line that was a mile long with cars waiting at that light to get on the bridge I was trying to get on.

I improvised, tried to cut around the long line of cars. Bad idea. I wound up in a valet parking area. Parking areas in Rome are a sight to behold. Double parked here, triple parked there.. sometimes I’m not even sure how a car wound up in the position it was in. It’s a little like finding a car up in a tree. The guys parking these cars are very creative. I found myself at the end of a long, single lane filled with cars – no way to go left, no way to go right, a car behind me, and a form of roundabout that looked to be just barely wide enough for a smart car. I started to think about reversing out of there. But instead, threw caution to the wind and tried for the u-turn. Thinking to myself the whole time “just don’t scratch the car.” I managed to squeeze it through, only to have to wait in the long line of traffic to get on the bridge.

At this point, I had taken so many twists and turns, I wasn’t entirely sure where I needed to go. I had a concept in my brain of where the river bends were and where the city center was, so my plan was to go that way and see what happened next. But first – a stop at a McDonald’s for a bathroom break. It was the busiest (and strangest) McDonald’s I had ever seen. More creative parking in their lot – they actually had a guy in the parking lot helping people to find spots. He pointed one out to me that would have inconvenienced about 4 other people if I didn’t come out in time, but fortunately, someone was pulling out at the same time I pulled in, and I quickly snagged that place. Inside, it looked like a cross between all the wine bars and cafés we had been seeing all over Italy (with fresh pastries and pastas in windowed cases) and a standard McDonald’s with the fanciest patio seating you have ever seen.  Star World indeed.
I tried to ask a few people for directions, but I was so far out of the city, even the broken English directions were only vaguely helpful. I got back on the road with my bladder empty as well as my plan for getting to Termini.

I made it back across the bridge, got stuck in tons more traffic.. and it was getting to be close to 8:30. I decided to try some of those closed roads again, once I managed to find my way back to them and fight through the traffic. Lo and behold, they were open! But I still had no map to actually tell the proper direction to Termini. As soon as I hit a tram track in the road, I decided to pick a direction and try that – those are bound to go back to Termini at some point. I followed one back out of the city, and then back into the city, but it turned off the road I was on and I could no longer follow it. I was out of ideas.

As it got later and later, I stopped caring about returning the car that evening and started wondering if I could even find the hotel again. On the plus side, the traffic was thinning out a bit. So I didn’t have to fight off minis and smart cars for a place in the long line of cars waiting to move down a particular street. On the minus side, I had only my sense of direction to rely on.

Eventually, I found my way to St. Peter’s – driving by nearly all the main sites in Rome on the way. Coincidentally, I think the only attraction I didn’t get to see was the Colosseum on my side trip. I saw a bunch of stuff that I’m still looking up and trying to trace my path of exactly where I went around Rome. That would make for an interesting zigzag pattern.
Once at San Pietro, I found my way back to our hotel, and circled the block trying to find parking. There wasn’t any, but the second time around the block, I found Lizzie running at me in the street. Evidently, she had made friends with the guy at the reception desk and was worried sick about me. He saw me driving the car around and she went out to find me. He helped us find a parking garage down the street to put the car for the night and I finally got out of the driver’s seat after some of the worst traffic I have ever been in. Antonio, the reception guy, quickly became my friend as he had evidently told my wife that she wasn’t allowed to get mad at me. Traffic in Rome is terrible, especially on a Saturday night – he said it wasn’t my fault, and she couldn’t get mad. I don’t think she was too mad anyway, just happy I made it back in one piece. And likely happy I wasn’t too aggravated from driving around crazy Rome.

Ok. Lizzie again.
So after 3 hours I got out of my PJ’s and  headed downstairs. I was not exactly sure what I was going to do, but I felt like I should do SOMETHING. So I chatted with Antonio for about 30 minutes. We started talking in the hotel “lobby” (really just a room not attached to our apartment). Then we ended up outside. I found out he was born in Chile, but moved to Italy when he was two. He and his parents has been here ever since, he studied in Spain for school and came back here. You get the gest. We were out there for a while.

Antonio reassured me a few times that Doug was fine and that Roma traffic on a Saturday night was terrible.

As we were standing outside, I was watching for Doug to walk up so I was keeping my eyes peeled for his bright yellow jacket. I was not even looking at cars. All of a sudden Antonio said, “Look! There he is! See…I told you nothing to worry about.” Relived does not summarize the feeling I felt. I was so glad he was ok. Then he said I could not be mad at Doug and I could not start a fight. I assured him I was not mad at him. I was just happy to see him. As Doug rounded the block again, I ran up to the car help him find the parking garage. Once the car was parked we headed into the hotel.


Poor Doug was SPENT. He sat down for a bit and I let him relax. I can only imagine the stress he felt. I would have been a mess. After a while we headed out to grab dinner (even though it was 11 pm). We ate pasta at this little place on a plaza next to our hotel. Then, of course, Doug had gelato and it was really, really good.

We walked back to the hotel and discussed getting the car and bringing it to the terminal since there was no traffic that late. We ended up vetoing the idea even though we both wanted it done. We were so exhausted.  We got in the room and passed out. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why there was no blog yesterday and we are behind.

We will catch up….at some point.
Love and Hugs, Lizzie

Lizzie Fitbit: 11,576
Doug Fitbit: unknown (this story will be told in tomorrows blog)

No comments:

Post a Comment