Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rome If You Want To...(Part I)

I'm having trouble beginning.

Begin at the beginning, they say.

OK. Here goes then...

Bare with me for a moment here...

(clearing of throat)

strumming of fingers

(...gotta pour myself a stiff drink...)

thinking. thinking. thinking. thinking. thinking...


The thing most people warned me about when I told them that I was going to Rome was that the people there would try to rip us off.

This did not surprise me-- not because I have some inherent bigotry toward the Italians. I got nothin' against the Italians (they look like they can take care of themselves in a brawl). It didn't surprise me because every single tourist trap I have ever been to (which is many) is full of people wanting to dip a little deeper into your glorious tourist pocket and shower themselves in the disposable income you've scrounged together through whatever means necessary. In our case we fell victim to the Olde Cabbie Bait 'N' Switch.

It happened innocently enough. We landed at the Ciampino (no, I don't think that's how you spell it but I don't really care) Airport and mumbled our way through the interrogation process of finding out how much it was going to cost us to take a cab to the hotel we had booked online. The general consensus was that since we had booked a hotel outside the city limits the fare would be unregulated and would therefore be fairly pricey. The quote we got was 15 Euros each for a journey of 2.5 kilometers (approximately 1 to 37 million miles as far as we knew).

"Bullshit!" I exclaimed.

"Surely we can find a cheaper way! Join me, sweet wife, as we extract some Monopoly Money from the unfound ATM machine and barter our way to a sweeter deal!"

The problem here was that there was no ATM machine anywhere near the Arrival Lounge (which was roughly the size of a postage stamp. There wasn't even a toilet handy as far as I could tell.). So we dragged our luggage to the Departure Terminal where we finally found a "Hole in the Wall" and I took out 100 Euros (which is about 60 Pounds or $110).

On our way out we were practically tackled by cabbies who would have you believe that they were on the verge of starvation and if we didn't enlist their services they would soon be shrivelling up in the street clutching their bellies and fading into oblivion as their mortgages went unpaid and their children volunteered for scientific testing just to keep a stale loaf of crusty bread on the table.

Finally, we agreed to Alphonzo or Vito or whoever the fuck that we would let him take us to our hotel.

"Itsa longa waya," he said. "Mighta be-a kinda pricey!"

"Just go," I said.

Vito drove us through the streets sweet talking my wife and I and telling us humbly how he wasn't so good with English and whatnot but making it VERY clear that our hotel was a LONG ways away but that he would do his DAMNDEST to get us there quickly via the shortest route humanly possible.


To make a long story short, we finally arrived at the hotel, paid the guy (he tried to charge us 70 Euros even though the meter clearly said 59 (the "5" looked like a "6" he claimed)), checked in, went to our room and discovered this:This is the view from our balcony.

Look closely.

Yes, that's a yellow airplane sitting on the runway of an airport in the not so distant distance. Our airport. Less than 2 miles away. $80 for a cab ride a distance we could have walked semi -comfortably in shitty shoes with large stones chained to our necks...


Anyway, we took this in stride, wrote it off as a "learning experience" and tried to laugh it off. Which we found impossible to do. We did, however, manage to make our way to the city center (roughly 12 miles away) free of charge for the next 4 days, so it's all good.

Join me now as I lay off the bullshit exposition and dazzle you with my low-res photographic stylings:
Here ya go, folks! My first view of Rome when coming out of the train station.
I have sooooo many phrases to describe my feeling about this but I'll leave it to your imagination (they rhyme with "Cheese and rice" and "Duck Me" and "My Little Pony")...

It was election day in Rome.
The crown on Guy Number One is a classy touch and I hope he did well...however, I do feel the gal in the wheelchair demands special attention. It is unfortunate that her lackeys decided to paste her posters, literally, on the streets... (Unfortunately, I didn't get a pic of the guy holding a spot-colored rose between his teeth. It was spectacular, in every sense of the word...)
Everyone loves the Da Vinci Code!


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