Lesson #1: The phone
card won't work unless you first detach the corner.
I changed planes in New York I made my first transatlantic
phone call, to a hostel in Rome. I nervously awaited my first
opportunity to speak Italian over the phone, but to my relief
the woman who answered not only spoke English, but with an
American accent. She said they would hold the one
bed left for me until 11 a.m. Secure in the thought
that I had a place waiting for me, I boarded my flight, and
slept through most of "Tea
Arriving at the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport
at 9 a.m., I was struck by the sense that it was very much
like any other airport I'd seen. I found a tobacconist shop
in the lobby, and made my first purchase in lira,
a phone card. I attempted to call the hostel to get directions,
but the phone kept spitting the card back out at me. (I didn't
learn until later that afternoon that the corner must be removed
in order to activate the card!)
Impatient to begin, I reasoned that
I could find the hostel on my own. After
all, the guidebook said it was just a couple of blocks away
from the Vatican, a major landmark to be sure. I found my
way to the railway station in the lower level of the airport
by following the signs with pictures of train track. I said
to the agent "Vaticano" and she sold me a ticket,
with a lot of other words thrown in, though the only one I
understood was "Metro."
Rick Steves taught me that a ticket's
not really a ticket until it's validated, which involves stuffing
it into a little slot in a box, which stamps it with the date
and time. I followed the stream of people
to the box and, so validated, I made my way over to the tracks.
I showed my ticket to three people, got a consensus about
which train I should board, and was soon away.
In short order the conductor came 'round,
but when he got to me I couldn't find my ticket anywhere.
I checked my pockets. I checked my bags. I apologized profusely
and began checking everything again. Eventually he moved on,
and I relaxed. Dropping my gaze to the floor, I moved
my foot enough to reveal my ticket, underneath my
A conversation with a fellow train
passenger confirmed my suspicions about what the ticket agent
had been trying to tell me. I would need to leave
the train and take the subway to get to my hostel.
I got off at the stop he suggested, but there was no metro
station to be seen. Again I found a tobacconist shop, and
the helpful fellow there not only directed me to the metro
station, but sold me a ticket for the subway as well.
Home Sweet Hostel