Italy Trip 2019: Day 1 (Wednesday)

I started my journey to Italy on a Tuesday morning, arriving at Boston Logan Airport around 11am to ensure that I would have plenty of time for my flight out at 4pm. Going through security went without incident and then I found my way to the Sky Lounge in the B wing where my flight to NYC/JFK would depart. I knew I’d have a while so I just watched people, had lunch from the offerings, and got a glass of wine. I typed up a couple things and checked some of my reservations and plans for Italy.

My flight got delayed from the original 3:58pm departure time to 5pm and then finally again to 6pm. Originally I would have had a roomy 4-hour layover in JFK, which I had intended to use the lounge there to get some work done, but suddenly my 4-hour layover was now only a 2 hour layover, which would be just barely enough time. But then after we landed, our plane remained on the tarmac for one more hour waiting, for a gate to clear. Now my 2-hour layover was now only a 1 hour layover, with boarding started a half-hour into that, giving me only 30 minutes to get from gate to terminal on time to not miss my flight, I’d be cutting it very close.

galleon-1666084_1920B.jpg

The second we pulled up to the gate and were allowed to leave the plane, I grabbed my carry on and ran as fast as I could. I asked a gate agent where I would find my Alitalia flight to Rome at Terminal 1 and they told me that I’d have to leave the checked airport area, claim my baggage, and re-enter through security check all over again. This aggravated me for the inconvenience, but I had no choice, so I ran in the direction of the baggage claim and exit as fast as my feet would carry me. This involved running by about 20 gates along the way after coming in at B42.

Midway through my sprint to the baggage claim, my parents called to confirm that they had just landed from Buffalo to JFK and that we did NOT need to claim baggage all over and that there’s a shuttle to Terminal 1 at Exit 53. With this knowledge I turned around and sprinted by the 20-or-so gates that I had already passed, backtracking ground I wouldn’t have needed to cover had I seen any sign saying “Shuttle to Terminal 1 at Gate B53.” I made it to the shuttle just as it was ready to leave. I took the second stop and followed signs to Terminal 1, then asked an agent who directed me to exit the outside door, walk along a shady alley at nighttime, and then re-enter the terminal where other people were dropping off friends and family at Departures.

escalators-594463_1920B

I had to go through security again, but the “boarding pass” that I had printed at Logan didn’t include a seating assignment for Alitalia, just a voucher that said I needed to get seat assignment at the gate. But in order to get to the gate through security, I needed a seat assignment — what a double bind! They directed me to the Alitalia desk about 500 feet away, and the agent very quickly went through providing me with a seat assignment and more legitimate boarding pass. Then I still had to wait in the security line, and then I was one of the lucky few to be chosen for a light pat-down, for which I may had had a few “colorful metaphors” that I expressed to the TSA agent because I was so frustrated/anxious I was so very close to missing our flight.

tsa-airport-security-checkpointB

At this point I only had 5 minutes until they closed the gate to the jetway! Once I got my bag, I grabbed my sandals and belt and phone and ran down the terminal, barefoot, just trying to use every extra second to get closer to the gate.

I ran in the direction looking for the right gate number, Number 9. Then my dad called saying that they were up ahead trying to delay the closing of the door, and directing me to the right way to find the gate. The sign to the gate was obscured so it was not easy to see, so I missed it the first time and then backtracked until I saw it and booked it full-speed to the gate. The gate agent smiled and scanned my boarding pass and it felt like I had finally, finally crossed the ribbon of the finish line to the Boston Marathon. I boarded the plane barefoot, looking beet red in the face, panting and sweating from exhaustion, and with a severe side-stitch starting. I found my seat and sat, and asked the flight attendant for as much water as she could muster! One lady across the row from my mother asked my mom if I had gotten sunburnt!

IMG_2004

The four cups of water that I very quickly gulped after boarding brought by the flight attendant.

Before we officially took off and while I was still cooling off from my run, I went into the airplane restroom (since I didn’t have a chance this whole time after running through the airport), and just as I closed the door behind me, the knob to open/lock the door popped off and landed in the sink, locking me into the restroom! This was just too much of the last straw on the camel’s back, so I had to calm myself down from a pending anxiety/panic attack and focused on trying to manipulate the the knob to go back onto the door and thankfully so I could escape and return to my seat to calm down.

The rest of the 8-9 hour transatlantic flight New York to Rome was relatively uneventful compared to my previously harrowing airport adventure. Shortly after departure we were served dinner in several small courses along with wine. I chatted a bit with each of my parents before both of them folded down their seat to sleep for the “night” of the flight. I watched part of a movie and a couple episodes of Netflix shows that I had downloaded to my tablet, and was only able to sleep 1 or 2 hours total when I attempted to nap.

We finally arrived to Rome’s DaVinci-Fiumicino Airport, and we went through passport control, where my parents went right through the automated passport scanners, whereas I was rerouted to check my passport with an actual agent because I was using the replacement passport from my last trip to Italy (in order to get my full money’s worth for paying the full-price of replacement at $150-200 for a temporary passport, expires in 1 year). We claimed our baggage and found our taxi driver to bring us to the airport. It was about a 40-minute drive from airport to the Spanish Steps section of Rome. After we arrived at the airport we settled into our adjacent rooms, showered and freshened up.

My father and I went across the Piazza Spagna to a 100-year old tea shop by the name of Babbingtons to get lunch. It is a cozy boutique tea parlor with a broad selection of teas and also a good selection of sandwiches and pastries. We each ordered a tea and sandwich and one to take back to the hotel for my mother.

Then I called the Rome UPS because I had gotten an email saying there were some issues with dropping off the 4 crates of paintings because they didn’t accept credit/debit card to pay for the import taxes and fees, only bank transfer.

So then I spent another half-hour on the phone with my bank in the USA, only to have them tell me that they can’t authenticate a wire transfer remotely, only in-person at a bank branch. This left me with the only option in order to have UPS paid for the import taxes in order to have the paintings delivered to the gallery tomorrow, when installation is scheduled, is to pay them in cash. This meant that I had to go to several ATMS to pull the amount required.

10569737253_a55579e707_b

Then I hailed a taxi that took me back in the direction of the airport and arrived at the UPS Rome office. They almost didn’t let me into the building until I mentioned the name of my contact person there. We conversed in a mix of Italian and English, and they counted the cash I had brought. I knew that I didn’t have enough to pay the total amount tonight because of ATM withdrawal limits, but I wanted to better arrive with a partial payment to let them know that I am serious about getting the shipment delivery initiated. I asked when they opened the next morning so that I could come by first thing to pay the rest with a new batch of ATM cash cache. The UPS guy said he respected my efforts to make the payment any way that was possible, and when I mentioned I would be at the gallery tomorrow morning, he told me that I could just bring the cash with me in the morning and pay the delivery driver when he arrives. This simplified my next morning by not having to make an extra stop at UPS on the way to Frosinone, since it’s not really along the way.

Once all these issues were settled, I took the same taxi back to my hotel, and I joined up with my parents and walked around the neighborhood in the evening until we found a pizzeria nearby and had dinner there. We each got some pasta and wine, and toasted to our first night here in Italy! After dinner we walked around a bit more, as it was a beautiful night (they call it Bella Note) until we stopped into a gelateria to so that my parents could try their first gelato in Italy. It was as creamy and delicious as I remember from my first trip to Italy last December. We walked back to our hotel while finishing up cones of gelato, then we settled in for the night and slept after our long trip and first day in Italy.