JOURNAL RAMBLINGS #1: En Route to Umbria (Orvieto)
Note: The cheapest flight from the Philippines to Rome, Italy, was scheduled about a week before I was allowed to move into my program. Considering the fact that I was going to be living in the Ancient City, I decided that I would travel around the region of Umbria in the extra week, meaning that I could not easily wander around rolling a giant suitcase. Thus began my weeklong backpacking trip carrying everything I would own for the coming three to four months.
Apparently, the adventure begins in China. Well, I suppose it technically began the moment my older brother decided to help me pack my backpack.
I figured I’d never survived four months on one backpack before, so I might as well take all the help I could get. “Help” turned into multiple screaming matches in my room as we decided items I could and could not bring. General consensus for the ambitious Italia-bound backpacker: you only need one pair of pants, one pair of shorts (though they will probably only be worn sparingly as Italians don’t wear the kind of shorts we do), one pair of comfy travel bottoms (read: jazz pants), one sweater, one sundress, one to two fancier tops, maximum five everyday tops, one set of sleepwear, sneakers, flip flops, and wearing your winter shoes on the plane. TIP: Sling your big winter jacket over your arm for the flight. It’s just going to take up precious backpack space and will make your bag seem bulky. You don’t want airport security to be suspicious of your definitely overweight and probably wrongly dimensioned hand carry.
My suggestion is to feel out the clothing styles when you get there, find one of those cheap piazza markets, and go fit in. Otherwise, you will stick out like a sore thumb. You’re probably going to get a lot of things during your travels regardless, so don’t waste bag space by filling it up with things you will end up throwing away or paying exorbitant amounts to ship home because, surprise, you can’t get it on the plane.
So I begin my semester-long adventure with a crick in my neck, absolutely no sleep (courtesy of my 4 a.m. flight), and an eternal gratefulness for hips because this bag is heavy and the waist strap is the only thing keeping it up thus far. I don’t know about anyone else, but my general experience with airports (which, considering my international status, is rather extensive) is that they accept U.S. dollars as payment. Try your luck in Europe because if you ever end up in Shanghai, they only accept Yuan and only do exchanges to and from Yuan. No USD to Euro tomfoolery here, so forget having money upon landing. Careful doing money exchanges in Europe as well: This is where pick pockets often loiter to execute their next business endeavor. Alternatively, I suggest you change your money in a bank. Unicredit only has 5-euro commission and a fair exchange rate, while the money exchange in the airport charged me a 50-euro commission. That’s roughly $75 ($1.50 exchange rate).
The hostess for my hostel in Roma was a Filipina. She decided that I’m young and foolish and had taken it upon herself to tell me ‘everything there is to know’ about being a Filipina in Roma. I wouldn’t mind so much if she didn’t look at me like I was a complete idiot. After finding myself a sim card the next day and smiling through manang’s new lecture on how girls frequently get abducted on the streets of Rome—and coincidentally all the places I planned on going—I made it on the train.
Nothing will force you to learn a language quicker than getting on the wrong train.
I suppose this heart attack was a fair trade as my day was fairly ideal until that point. After almost missing my stop in Orvieto (but jumping off at the last moment), I made it to the Duomo and sweet talked the tourist office into letting me leave my giant backpacks (which are wider than I am tall) behind the desk. Apparently, this can be done.
On my way to Perugia, I made it to the Orvieto station with plenty of time for my train: and that is where the trouble began. Turns out, I was so early that I managed to get on a train that was scheduled to come in on the same track as my own and, not checking the time, I boarded it. Thank goodness for the kind, though irritated, lady and her man friend in front of me.
In broken English and liberal hand gestures, they were able to direct me to the right stop and communicate the right train to jump onto after that. Note: Regionale trains almost never check your tickets. That isn’t to say don’t buy a ticket, because the fines are ridiculously steep. I just wanted to iterate that I failed to have a ticket for my accidental train, as well as my second train, and I accidentally got on the first-class car, but I still made it to Perugia without any additional troubles. But yes, trains in and out of Rome check tickets.
Following this fiasco, I went out for dinner alone in the nearby city center and watched people watch me eating a whole pizza on my own. Thus started my shame spiral.