Greetings from Rome
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I was determined, after a relatively cushy time in Paris, to stay at a hostel and learn to use the public transport system in Rome. But I must admit, when I collected my baggage from the baggage claim at Rome Fiumcino airport, I was nervous. I ate a panini to collect myself, trekked from one end of the airport to the other end to look for my bus, which was nowhere to be found, then reverted to Plan B, which was to take the Rome Fiumcino express train from the airport to the main Rome train station, Stazione Termini.
The train ticket machine spat out something incomprehensible in Italian when I tried to buy my express ticket, so I did what the guidebooks helpfully told me to do - buy the express train ticket from the tabacchi, or a cigarette store. The shopgirl was dismissive when I asked her where the express train was -- Track 2, she intoned, then turned to the next customer.
I then had to validate my train ticket before getting on the train. It got stuck in the validation machine. I was not keen on spending another 14 euros on another train ticket, so (never mind how ridiculous it looked), I took a safety pin from my backpack and pried the ticket out of the defective validation machine. I went to another validation machine, which it said something incomprehensible in Italian when I tried to insert my ticket, but luckily I did recognize one word, sinistre, which is Latin for left, and I deduced that I needed to insert my ticket more to the left of the slot. That worked.
Ticket validated, I ran to the train, but I missed the express train because an Italian couple was passionately kissing at the train door, blocking the entrance. They detached themselves when the train doors began to close. (This can happen only in Rome.) But the wait for the next train was not entirely a loss. I met an even more intrepid solo traveller, a Japanese young woman who knew basic English and was travelling in Rome for 7 days completely on her own. I chatted with her, we boarded the train together, we exchanged emails while on the train, and finally both of us arrived at Stazione Termini, the main Roman train station.
Gare Du Nord is chaotic. Stazione Termini is the same. I had to buy the Carta Integrata Settimenale, which is the weekly train-metro-bus pass. I headed to a tabacchi again, near the end of the train station, and showed the shop guy my printed request. He fished out the card and said it would be16 euros in English.
The final hurdle in this obstacle course was to actually get on the bus, with my luggage, and go to the hostel. The hostel had printed fairly detailed directions, but I knew how this could go wrong. I bit my lip, jumped on the bus with my luggage, and stared at the map as the bus trundled along. My stop was at a yellow gas station, which I could barely see in the window. I pressed the button and got off the buss. Then, it was a 10 minute walk to the hostel.
I had found it. It was like finding water in a dry desert.
This was my first time in a hostel, and I was not keen on sharing a room with a crowd of guys (that was possible). I just decided to go and see what happened. It worked out fine - I ended up with a crowd of three girls, me included, and one guy.
People at the hostel are quite friendly! There are a lot of solo female travellers in this area of the world! I have met two, one lovely Mexican woman, and one Canadian. I guess I am not the only crazy one!