Today was our last full day in Italy, and my last half-day in Florence before we take the train back to Rome to stay at a hotel by the airport for an early flight out tomorrow morning. Late last night I had reserved online tickets to see the Ufizzi Gallery as soon as it opens at 8:15am this morning. I took a taxi by 7:30am and arrived at the Uffizzi shortly afterwards, and looked for the correctly numbered door for those with online tickets to show the email confirmation that I had.
I made my way to the door, where an attendant was performing triage on people trying to get in that line. Since I saw a sign for “online tickets” I naturally got in line until it was my turn. Apparently the online reservation is just a means of picking up prepaid physical tickets to gain entrance to the museum. When it was my turn, I showed the triage attendant the email that I had received last night immediately following purchase of my ticket reservation for the 8:15am timed entry. He looked at it and said something in Italian to the effect of that wasn’t the right email. I pulled up a second email receipt from the online booking, and this time he answered in English and said, “This is the wrong email, just a receipt. You need an email voucher download, you need to download the email voucher. Maybe you get wifi and download it and come back.”
Disheartened, and drawing very close to 8:15am, I rushed around the block to find a cafe that would have WiFi. I found a little hole in the wall and ordered a coffee while I tried to enter the 18-digit WiFi passcode from a piece of paper taped to the napkin dispenser. I scoured the two emails that I had received from my online booking, which while I thought it was the immediate Uffizzi Gallery booking agent, it was actually a thirdparty booking agent WeekendInItaly.com. I clicked on any possible clickable icon in the email, which brought me to their app, their social media pages, and anything else besides a downloadable PDF of this supposed voucher I needed. I refreshed my email dozens of times, thinking maybe there was some mysterious additional email that I needed that somehow didn’t arrive yet, after checking my spam and junk email filters. Still nothing.
By now it was drawing on 8:45am and I had clearly missed my window for the alleged timed entry that I thought I had reserved. Annoyed and frustrated, I gave up because there was nothing I could do. I even asked where the line was to buy regular tickets but that line was way, way longer than I had time for (because I had to return to the hotel by noon to check out of the hotel). Disappointed I started walking back to the hotel. As I was walking by I passed a place called “A Lovely Egg-sperience” which seemed like a breakfast joint. I entered and found a restaurant dedicated to the breakfast experience, so I found a table and settled in. Since my Uffizzi Gallery experience was hopelessly and unexpectedly scrapped, I might as well find some way to redeem the morning by having a nice breakfast. They had a little bit of everything, waffles, pancakes, eggs, toast, even a free-standing honeycomb for honey for tea or oatmeal. I was happy with my mimosa.
After breakfast, I made my way back to the hotel, taking in as much of Florence as I could before we left this charming city this afternoon. When I arrived in the lobby I found my father attempting to check into our flights using the lobby computer. He was getting frustrated because Alitalia/Delta wasn’t allowing us to check into our flights. I took over the keyboard and attempted to enter our separate confirmation numbers on the computer but it still wasn’t working. I tried entering our confirmation numbers using the Delta app on my phone, which redirected to Alitalia, and wha-bam! I was able to check in correctly, at least for my mother’s and my reservation.
I packed up the remaining bits of luggage, handed my postcards to the receptionist to mail them, and checked out of the hotel promptly by noon. The hotel allowed us to hold our luggage there while we went to a restaurant across the street for our last lunch in Florence. It was a cozy place with walls lines with a textured stone. We got simple foodstuffs like pizza and pasta, followed by us all toasting our last day in Florence with shots of limoncello. We recovered our luggage from the hotel and took a taxi to the Florence train station, where we waited an hour for our train to Rome. Again, all the trains within a few minutes’ departure of ours received their platform assignments first, and we had to wait until the last minute when our train’s number appeared on the platform.
The 1.5 hour train ride back to Rome was uneventful and relaxing as we watched the scenery pass by the windows or briefly napped. When we arrived to the Roma Termini we were the first ones in line for a taxi which took us to the airport hotel. While my mother settled into room, my dad and I went to the lounge’s happy hour to see what it was all about. We were poured a glass of wine and given some small hors d’oeuvres and debriefed our impressions of this trip. We returned to the hotel rooms and we all repacked our bags to comply with international airline regulations, and decided to order room service for our last night here. Room service took about a full hour and a half before it was delivered to our door. The food was good even if a little lukewarm. We all went to sleep early so we could get out the door the next morning at 5am.
ADDENDUM: Day 9 Thursday (Return Travel to USA)
Early at 5am we took the shuttle to the airport across the street, checked in our luggage to the gate agent and went to wait in the lounge for our flight. The Rome Fiumencio-DaVinci (FCO) airport is very large, and it took us almost a full hour just to walk to the proper wing to find the lounge nearest to our gate. The gates at this airport were unlike I had seen before, as nobody can enter the walled-off area until it is boarding time, then take an escalator down to another level then walk onto the jetway. When it was our turn we boarded.
Our long flight from Rome to NYC JFK airport was about 9 hours, but it was during the regular daytime so I found it hard to sleep this time around. I watched a few movies, one of which starred Chris Hemsworth as a whaling captain. I ran out of interesting movies so I eventually resorted to playing chess against the computer. I took a few brief naps, and we were served lunch at the beginning of the flight and dinner at the end, with a few snacks and glasses of Aperol spritzer and wine in between.
In JFK my flight to Boston departed about an hour earlier than theirs to Buffalo, so I only had about a 2-hour window to get to the proper gate out, including customs and baggage claim. We all waited for our luggage to come out of the chute before going into customs and the main terminal. Our luggage was among the last to come out, about 45 minutes later. Since my connecting flight departed earlier, I said goodbye to my parents and jetted my way towards the customs line with my two bags.
Since I used the “Mobile Passport” app to answer customs questions, I went right through the Mobile Passport line (much quicker and shorter line) and pretty much ran all the way down the terminal’s corridor until I got to my gate way on the other side of the airport, which involved again going outside of the terminals to get back to Terminal 1, except this time it was during the day. I made it to the right wing, so I ducked into the lounge for just a quick bite to eat for about 15 minutes and then ran again to my gate and caught the plane in time to depart to Boston. When I arrived at Boston Logan airport I knew I was home immediately at the sign of the Dunkin. I was picked up at the airport an hour later and was glad to arrive home and be in bed by 9pm EST. This has been truly a wonderful and exciting trip to Italy, but there’s still no replacement for my own bed. Now to fight off 6-hour jet lag over the next few days and return to life as usual.