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Running to Rimini – Part 1

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I‘ve told this little story often over the last couple of years and always find it fun to think about how easily these things happen and how much worse they could get! Travelling is always a bit of an experience and the chance for things going awry never entirely goes away…

I had flown to Roma Fiumicino airport from London Heathrow and arrived at about 11am or so. My connecting flight to Rimini was at 9pm so my plan was to while away the day in Rome (which I hadn’t visited before) before heading back to airport in the evening. I took a shuttle train that took me straight from the airport to Roma Termini, the major central train station in Rome. I passed a nice enough day, and ended up at Piazza Navona at around 6pm.

It was a bright June day and the sun showed no sign of going away. I relaxed at a café and sipped some wine while watching the artists and tourists milling around the piazza. There were some great pictures up for sale and I thought I might take a little wander myself once I’d finished my drink. My general idea was to spend a half hour there and then head back to the airport.

Then I checked my watch. I checked again.

7:20pm

The flight was in an hour and a half, and the shuttle train took 45 mins, and surely there was a cutoff time when boarding. Somehow I’d lost an hour while sitting at the café. Oh well, that’s the price you pay for chilling out in a Roman piazza! I asked for the bill (why is it that paying for a bill takes ages when you’re in a hurry?!) and rushed out of the square and went to look for the nearest Metro station so I could get back to Termini and catch the airport shuttle train. (Yes, I know you’re wondering why I didn’t just catch a cab!) In vain did I wander around those desolate cobbled side streets! The funny thing was that I’d been passing Metro stations all day while sightseeing. How typical. Just as I was beginning to get desperate, I found a big ‘M’ sign (no I can’t remember which) and eventually got my myself–sweat and all–back to Termini.

It was now 7:50pm. Surely there was still hope, but I tried not to think about that. I reached the airport shuttle platform and took out my ticket. My heart sank. For some reason I had hit upon the clever idea of buying a one-way shuttle ticket to Rome that morning. Oh ye powers. Blame the Roman gods for trying to keep me in the Eternal City.

Still, no problem. I headed to the ticket office, only to see that it was closed. Running back to the platform, I found the ticket machine. No cards, only cash. No problem again, I thought. Opening my wallet, I brought out a shiny €50 note and proudly prepared to insert it into the machine. Think again. Only 5s, 10s and 20s accepted.

The watch said 8:10. Time for a new idea. Leaving the station, I headed for the ranks of taxi cabs waiting outside Termini.

“Al aeroporto!”

Oh my. It was my first, and to date, only ride in a Roman taxi. I remember spending most of it thinking that the driver was actively trying to smash into the car ahead of us. Somehow he had a knack of knowing exactly when to break so that the cab would end up barely an inch (OK, centimetre, since we’re talking Europe!) or so behind the car in front. How he managed to avoid an accident is beyond me.

The damned watch said 8:40 when we arrived at the large Alitalia terminal. Surely it wasn’t too late. Rushing out of the cab, I checked the giant departures screen. My flight was still there! The trouble was there was no departure gate mentioned–what was up? I ran to the check-in desk to enquire.

“Deve andare all’altro terminale…”

I was at the wrong terminal! Frantically, I ran down the road to the next terminal building, and got to the check in desk. I gave them the flight number…

Continued in Running to Rimini – Part 2

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