I’ll be heading to Rome this week, where I’ll be until late May. I’m going to be hitting the ground running, with some exciting things happening! But first, a word about train travel into Rome.
Figuring out the trains was a nightmare, as it has been ever since they stopped the direct night train from Nice to Rome. Back in the day, you could get on the train in Nice and wake up in time to see the cupola of St. Peter’s whiz by about nine hours later. Then it became 12 hours, with an inexplicable stop somewhere around Genova – they said it was because people were complaining about getting into Rome so early in the morning.
Now it’s a regular train from Nice to Genova, and then a sleeper train from Genova to Rome that lasts roughly six hours. That’s not as good a night’s sleep as you used to get. And it means one more train you have to lug your crap off of and onto. It’s just not a good idea, but there you have it.
I could go from Nice to Rome during the day via Milan, and get in about 8ish PM. But of course, there is no train from here to Nice that gets me in on time. Oh, and good luck finding a train that leaves during the lunch or dinner hours. So, I’m leaving here at 9.15AM and arriving in Rome at 11.30PM.
No, there are no low-cost flights. Well, that’s a lie – there is one from Barcelona, but it would take me four hours of traveling in the wrong direction to get there. There is one from Marseille, but it leaves so early in the morning that I’d have to get a hotel room in Marseille to make check-in, which kind of defeats the purpose of a low-cost method of travel.
When I used to live in Rome and come here to visit Cal, I’d fly in and out of Paris and then take the train down. But that was some serious schlepping I had to do – and, really, trains are just so much more convenient. They are always located in the center of town, and you can just walk in and get on the train – there’s no rigamarole or needing to be there 100 hours in advance.
Of course, getting in at 11.30 at night leaves me two options to get from the station to Marco’s house – a taxi, which I’ll probably suck it up and do despite the cost; or take the last run of what my friends and I lovingly refer to as the “Shitting 105” – the double-length 105 line buses that start at Termini and end at Grotti Celoni, out past the first IKEA.
This bus is just full of human misery. It’s taken almost entirely by immigrants of every stripe, so the city doesn’t really care about its schedule, upkeep or the passengers’ comfort. The passengers themselves act like each bus leaving Termini is the last helicopter out of Saigon – they squeeze into the unairconditioned sardine can and hope for the best.
Of course, this means that the trip lasts forever as at each stop, 15 people have to disembark to let one person out, and then they have to fight their way back onto the bus past the new passengers and the people who have exhaled due to having a millimeter more of space.
But when I do finally arrive at my stop, I am treated to a late-night walk along the quiet streets, past little homes set against the dramatic backdrop of the aquaduct. I’ll wave to the barking dog in the garden across from Marco’s house, go through the courtyard, duck under freshly cleaned sheets hanging from a line nailed into the aquaduct, and let myself into my second home – Marco’s home. My succor.
And that makes it all worth it.