As always, the first question everyone asks after you’ve returned from a trip abroad is: “Did you enjoy it?” Of course I enjoyed our recent trip to Italy, but so many things went wrong this time that I sometimes hesitate before nodding. Here are a few things that happened to us that threatened to spoil parts of the holiday:
- We planned on buying Italian / European SIM cards for our smart phones at Rome’s airport, so that we would be able to keep contact with friends and family while in Italy. No such luck. We eventually did buy a data card, but only four days later.
- We had brought my GPS from home to navigate with (I bought maps for Europe for our trip to Spain a few years ago), only to find that Italy was not included. Luckily we had also packed a guide book to the back roads of Italy that had a very basic map with which we managed to get by the first few days.
- As a result of no GPS and no mobile data, we got lost. A lot. And argued about it, a lot.
- We completely missed the turn-off to Siena and only realised it when we reached Florence.
- We drove a very long time to go see sights that turned out not to be worth the effort.
- We spent four hours walking along the waterfront in Levanto trying to find a boat that would take us to the Cinque Terre. When we finally gave up and headed for the train station instead, we learned that the boat only sails from the next village. Then we took the train to the next village in the wrong direction.
- I packed the wrong shoes and my feet were killing me each and every day. I might have done permanent damage to my ankles.
- I forgot to inform my credit card company that I would be travelling overseas. The first time I tried to pay for something on my card, it was declined. The second time too. I spent two days trying via email to get my bank to unblock my cards (all the while nervously hoarding our last remaining cash), only to find out later that it was the grocery store in Lucca that didn’t accept chip cards and that my cards worked fine everywhere else.
- Early on in the holiday, something went wrong with our DSLR camera. No matter what we tried, it would just refuse to take pictures. Ten minutes later, it would be fine again. Very frustrating.
- We bought extremely expensive day-trip tickets for the boats at Lake Garda, then only visited three towns fairly close to each other, individual tickets for which would have been a fraction of the price.
- In Venice, we bought a 24-hour bus pass, which is pointless unless you plan on travelling right through the night. We should have gotten a 72-hour pass instead.
- Gareth made an ill-advised comment on Facebook that caused a ruckus among some of our friends, upsetting him for a few days.
- In Rome, we bought a 48-hour bus pass for the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, which, again, is pointless because the bus only runs until 18:00 and once you’ve done the circuit, there isn’t much else the bus is good for. On the last day, we waited for an hour for the bus (which supposedly runs every 10 minutes) in the rain and when it did finally show up, there wasn’t space for us to get on too.
- We were pushed out of the queue for the Coliseum, upsetting me so much that we had to leave and come back much later that day.
- We were constantly harassed by the street vendors, and eventually scammed out of 5 Euros in the Borghese gardens.
- Many of the major sites, especially the ones in Rome, were covered in scaffolding. Disappointingly, the beautiful Trevi fountain was totally closed off.
- We completely missed our flight home (by 15 minutes) because I had read the departure time on our ticket wrong. We were lucky to get an alternative flight via Paris on the same day, however that flight was delayed by over two hours due to technical difficulties with the emergency landing gear. People had to volunteer to leave the plane before we could depart.
So as you can see, quite a few things went wrong. Some were our own fault and some we had no control over. I think we learned a few things about ourselves and about each other from all of this. But, as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and we definitely came out stronger.
For more posts in the Ciao Italy 2014 series, click here.