"Welcome to Rome!"
It's October 2006 and our first trip to Italy together.
Thirty hours after our plane left Sydney, we land at Rome Fuimicino airport and we (i.e. Jan and Marg) scramble to collect our gear. We follow the wave of passengers and find ourselves before a small train which whisked us all to the main airport building. Where now? Though it’s an international airport, the signs are all in Italian.
We anxiously search for the car rental desk and ask a friendly face. They point 'up', so we haul our heavy luggage onto an escalator. Upon reaching the ‘primo piano’ (tip: piano means ‘level’, not a musical instrument), it doesn’t take us long to realise this is not where we want to be.
We haul all our gear onto the down escalator and exit the terminal. We see a distant sign suggesting car rental, so we head for it, and it directs us back into the terminal. Sigh. An arrow points up and it’s then we realise that the 'up' arrow doesn't mean ‘right up' but just to a mezzanine floor.
This time we squeeze into an elevator the size of a phone box and (finally) decide to check the information our Australian travel agent gave us. It says the office is near the Hilton hotel.
We spy the hotel through the window and head for a pedestrian walkway above the road that seems to head in its direction. We rush towards the moving walkway and drop our luggage, stretching our aching neck and arms. It doesn’t move. We drag our bags off and trudge alongside the wretched thing, almost in tears from frustration and fatigue.
We come to a cross road. How there can be a crossroad on an overpass? Then we remembered: we are in Italy. With relief we spot signs for Avis, Europcar and Hertz on a door to our left. If we’d blinked, we would have missed it.
The room is filled with people who look like we feel, hot and hassled, so we are pleased to see our car rental company’s counter is free. The two men behind the counter ignore us. It’s then we see the “Collect a number” sign (written in English so we couldn’t feign ignorance). We take a number then wait … and wait. All the seats are taken, and we notice the next number is about 100 before ours. Gradually seats became available, and just as we collapse into a chair our number is called.
It was about now that we wondered why we didn’t go to the Gold Coast for our holiday.