Another visit to The Eternal City.....

Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
Trip End Oct 02, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Friday, September 7, 2012

12 September 7 - Friday

My first task this morning was to get my Packs loaded for the trip. I didn't dwell over breakfast and just had a brief visit with one of the Mathematicians.  Their conference would be over today, and he and some of the others would be heading to Rome for a week.

I wandered up to Piazza della Repubblica for a last look at the morning activity.  I also decided to top-up my Euro cash, but the ATM at the Bank in that location was out-of-service so I decided to use the one closer to the Hotel.  As I got closer to the Hotel, I had a visit with two American couples who were staying in the area and touring the various hill towns.

When I checked out of the Hotel, the desk clerk explained more about the system they have for storing room keys at the desk.  When a guest leaves the Hotel, a standard " phone plug attached to the key is inserted into a jack next to a small box with the room number.  When that happens, a red LED turns on.  That apparently also switches off power to the room.  However, when the Maids need to clean the room, rather than have to run up to the desk to get the key unplugged, they insert a "Maid’s Plug” into a jack in the room, which switches on the power.  It’s a bit “low tech” but still very effective.  One other thing I noticed was their very dated CCTV Monitors (B&W?), probably from the '80s (but still working).

I walked down to a nearby Tabachi and bought my €1.20 ticket for the Bus.  During my wait for the Bus, I noticed numerous people starting to park in the Bus stop area.  I pointed out the “towing” sign to a few of them and they moved on.  There was one arrogant twit driving a large black Mercedes car (probably a rental as he had a North American accent) who just nodded at me in a condescending manner and said “I’m just waiting”.  His attitude changed in a big hurry when two female Police officers approached his car with a large ticket book in hand!

While I was waiting, I had a short visit with one of young girls that worked at the Hotel.  We had been comparing iPhone cases the previous night, and as with many of the younger generation she had headphones in place and was listening to some "tunes".  The Bus arrived on time and the trip down to the station only took about 15-mintues.  I was sure to validate my rail ticket right away, and then went to the platform to wait.

I noticed a young couple waiting with a HUGE item of luggage.  It contained two bicycles, as they had been biking through various places in Italy.  I thought my Pack was large, but there’s no way I would want to haul that kind of gear around!  It turned out they were from Portland, so we had a short chat about that.

As usual, the Regionale was quite “warm” and stopped many times during the trip, but arrived in Rome pretty much on time.  On this particular trip, no one ever checked my ticket.  I had expected to arrive in the main part of the station, but was surprised to find that the train was on Platform 1 East.  It was a LONG walk from there to the front of the station, but the platform passed right by the Roadhouse Grill, so I knew exactly where I was.

I figured I’d be able to remember the way to Alessandro Palace, but eventually needed a bit of help from my iPhone maps.  The inside of the Hostel looked much the same as I had remembered from previous visits, although the new Elevator is now in operation so that’s a nice addition.  There was a €2 extra charge for a “city tax” which was new, and of course the €5 deposit for the card key.

When I got to the four-bed Dorm room, I found there were three other occupants already there.  One was from Taiwan, one from Brittany (France) and one from Montreal.  The only bunk left was a top bunk, so I had to take that.  It was warm in the room, although there did appear to be a working air conditioner installed and switched on.  One of the others had opened the windows in both the dorm room and bathroom so I “educated” them on the topic of air conditioners and open windows.  Once the windows were closed and the settings adjusted, the room became comfortable very quickly.  Another advantage of keeping the windows closed is that Room 11 is right above the Bar, so the noise is a real problem at night.

I got cleaned up and then walked back to Termini to buy my Leonardo Express ticket for the trip to the airport tomorrow.  As usual there was a HUGE queue at the ticket windows, so I used one of the machines.  They were also a bit “busy” but it wasn’t a long wait.  When I started to buy my ticket, a “helpful individual” appeared from behind me and started punching buttons on the ticket machine.  I told him to “take a hike” (so to speak) and proceeded to buy my ticket.

I then walked back to the Hostel for a short rest until dinner time.  The guy from Montreal decided to join me for dinner, so I stopped at the front desk to ask for restaurant recommendations.  One of the places he suggested was Trattoria I Leoni D'Abruzzo, which is right next to the Hostel entrance.  I had walked by that restaurant many times in the past, and always thought it was too “ritzy” so have never stopped there, but decided to give it a try tonight.

The seating consisted of tables on the sidewalk, with a small canopy overhead (which left only a very narrow lane for pedestrians to get by).  I believe there’s also seating inside, but I didn’t bother to check.  During the dinner, we had a nice visit with three girls seated at the next table who were from Brazil.  One of the Waiters seemed to be quite taken with them, as he was muttering "I must go to Brazil".   I seem to be encountering lots of people from Brazil on trips to Europe over the last few years.   Although there was a slight "language issue"  (I don’t speak Portugese at all) we had a nice visit.

After the Brazilian girls left, an Italian family (Father, Mother, teenage daughter) sat down at that table.  They were from Puglia in the south of Italy, and were in Rome on holidays.  I continued visiting with them as the daughter had reasonably good English skills, although the Mother also seemed to be able to function in English to some extent.  I tried to use Italian as much as possible, and was really surprised that I was able to carry on somewhat of a “limited conversation”.

When it was time to pay the bill, we put what we thought was a reasonable gratuity on the metal tray.  The Italian woman said (quietly), “No, that’s too much".  Apparently the father is a Waiter, so I guess they know what’s customary for tips in Italy, so I took back part of the gratuity.  I’m sure the restaurant staff noticed that we were being "coached", but they didn’t say anything.

After dinner it was back to the Hostel, where the party in the Bar had reached a deafening crescendo.  There were “disco lights” slowly moving across the floor and walls, copious quantities of booze being consumed and a large crowd in various states of inebriation.  Although I've joined the party in that Bar on previous occasions, I wasn't in the mood to tolerate the noise tonight so it was back to the room, where I helped on of the other guests with his travel plans.  He was heading for Athens and some of the Greek Islands after Rome, but his flights got messed up somehow so he had to re-book budget flights (what did we ever do before the Internet).  I suggested EasyJet of course and also gave him the name of some good Hotels on Naxos and Santorini.

I couldn’t stay awake past 23:00 so packed it in for the day.  I was at first going to keep my iPhone close but I was worried I might roll over and break it, so I locked it in my Locker for the night.  I haven't slept on a top bunk for a long time, and was worried that I might roll-off and injure myself, but fortunately that didn’t happen.

The Taiwanese guest didn’t get back to the room until quite late, but he was very quiet.  I've found that most people staying in Hostels learn very quickly about the "hostel protocol" and being considerate when others are trying to sleep in Dorm rooms.  The most common sound in a quiet room seems to be the operation of zippers as people access their Backpacks.   He seemed to spend a large part of his time in the earlier part of the day watching movies on an iPad.  What a way to spend one’s time in one of the world’s most historic cities!

Tomorrow I continue to Sicily!

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