So about a year and a half ago I lost my figurative abroad travel virginity on a whirlwind trip to Rome/Italy. Picture the scene: a small town, English girl, used to the polite and English ways of her small English town, suddenly embarking on a budget trip to Italy’s capital with her best friend Lisa (known to the group as the world’s most unlucky traveller). Recipe for disaster.
This trip was hilarious, stressful and above all, ridiculously random, so I really feel the need to recount it in a summative post about all the shit that went wrong. (I’m renowned for being a massive moaner so I’d just to write a disclaimer and say that this trip was really really good and I thoroughly enjoyed it.)
It started off with 2 excited yet broke girls and 1 powerpoint presentation. (I wish I was kidding). It ended with 2 tired and even more broke girls, a thousand great memories and 1 foot infection.
- We had to stay overnight at the airport
Okay this wasn’t something that went wrong because we actually planned to do this. Watching the excited hen parties on their way to Ibiza at 6am was quite entertaining, feeling like hell when we finally got on the plane was not. I also was a complete airport novice and didn’t realise London Stansted wasn’t actually in London. What’s that about? It should be called Hertfordshire Stansted (less catchy but more accurate).
Although the train took ages, we met a strange Jamaican man who sang No Woman No Cry very passionately to us in exchange for some grapes.
2. A billion fashion blunders
Firstly, I bought hareem type white girl trousers that were petite. I’m 5’6. Queue wedgie.
Secondly, I wore sweaty dresses and uncomfy shirts. Boobs everywhere. Cheeky Italian men. Not a winner.
Thirdly, why oh why did I think New Look sandals would cut it?
3. First Flight Failures
My first flight! I took to it like a metaphorical duck to water. Listening to my carefully structured flying playlist (mostly Taylor Swift’s 3rd album I won’t lie to you my friends) and enjoying the view, I was loving it. Then, the impossible (well . improbable) happened.
“Is there a doctor or nurse on board?”
Lisa, a student of the NHS, was ready to leap into action. Unfortunately, her midwifery skills weren’t actually needed for this emergency. The hostesses were rushing madly about, everyone was looking around trying to spot the person in need of help, then, another passenger collapses. The cabin was in turmoil. The people in the seats either side of the in need of medical attention were climbing over the backs of their seats. Lisa kept turning to me and saying “You know this isn’t an actual thing that happens on flights regularly, I promise”
I put in my earphones and go back to staring out the window, but 5 minutes later Lisa was nudging me again.
“Liz… we’re flying back to Stansted”
I’m not going to lie, because I’d never been abroad I had been beginning to think that it was actually all a lie and it didn’t exist. This, was not helping that.
So, one emergency landing and 2 air ambulances later, we’re in the air again. I was losing hope of ever getting to Italy, but our captain assured us we would be there in a few short hours. (Yes the passengers were okay).
4. Airports aren’t actually that close to cities. Who knew?
I’m pretty familiar with shuttle buses and trains these days, but back on my first adventure I was pretty pissed off to find that my first steps out into Rome looked like stepping out of Southampton train station but a bit more sunny.
Now, I wasn’t expecting like, Julius Caeser to step out and personally welcome me to Italy, but I kind of expected it to be a bit more.. Roman? New Zealand have a fucking giant golem. Step up your game, Europe.
I mean I shouldn’t complain. I was still really excited. I thought ‘This is what Doctor Who must feel like when he steps out onto an alien planet’, and the bus attendant was really fit.
5. Everything is under construction.
Literally. Everything. I think I saw more scaffolding than ancient temples and what not. Okay, maybe I’m being a drama queen, but there was a lot of reconstruction going on. Is September just reconstruction month or something?
6. Navigating train stations and making the mistake of looking lost
Running around like maniacs, we looked for the train to Santo Marinella. We must have looked like complete idiot tourists because on the platform, some Italian man grabbed my ticket from me (??????) and gestured for us to follow.
Thinking this man was just helping out two lost and naive tourists out of the kindness of his heart (spoiler alert: he wasn’t), we rushed after him and he sat us in two seats on the train, thanking him in our shit attempt at Italian. He didn’t leave.
“5 EURO.” He shouted.
Lisa and I looked at each other in panic and fear.
“5 EURO, 5 EURO.” He shouted again, pointing to each of us in turn.
(We gave him like 2 euros each)
7. Too cheap to pay for the beach
When we found the beach, we were initially suspicious of all the uniform umbrellas and chairs lined up, but afterwards decided to just sit somewhere and hope for the best… until they told us to move or pay 10 euros. Then we found the free beach! Which was like the Ryanair of beaches. If a beach was to go on the Jeremy Kyle show, this beach would be the first candidate. It was sort of a mini concrete pier rather than sand, and contained some fat old men and scary shouty people.
8. My reserved English soul can’t handle forward men
Oh my GOD, the most beautiful Italian man started hitting on me in the bar that evening. I literally couldn’t cope with it. He spent 80% of the night staring at me with his face far too close to mine and afterwards Lisa recounted in an Italian accent how every time I went to the bathroom he would turn and ask her how he could tell me how beautiful I was.
His friend apologised for his behaviour, explaining they’re all like that in Naples and the further south you go, the worse it is, which is ironically, the general opposite of England.
9. How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
We decided to head to Pompeii for the day. Now, if you’re set on going to Pompeii, get a tour guide. Don’t even bother saving money and thinking you’ll enjoy it, for what Lisa and I did for 90% of the day was walk around looking at rocks, make Bastille puns (“How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” “Well… if you close your eyes…”) and try to figure out which big hill was a volcano.
10. Bus replacement H E L L
After sitting outside the train station for 2 hours before we realised we were in the wrong place for the bus back to Naples and then another hour and a half wait at the right stop,the bus eventually came, and we sighed with relief. Nay, we rejoiced. Our worries were over! But no. No they were not.
Now, neither me nor Lisa drive so we never really understood what the ‘horrors of driving in Italy’ meant until this bus journey. Honestly. I have never been closer to the devil himself than when we were sat on this bus. Hundreds of thoughts passed through our minds as we passed through rural Naples. If we’re sick, they’ll throw us off the bus. If we’re thrown off the bus, we’ll be in RURAL NAPLES WITH NO WAY TO GET HOME. I can’t remember how long we were on that bus for – it seems like an eternity – but in the end we were dropped somewhere near the station.
11. Back to the sandal error
Our day at Vatican City was relatively incident free. Apart from my poor sandals.
20 minutes into our journey, they broke, leaving me to walk a further 20 minutes through Rome with bare feet until coming to a shoe shop. On feet ravaged by inappropriate footwear. Needless to say, my foot got infected.
12. Hey, our flight’s at 6am so let’s not book another night at the hostel, get really drunk and get a taxi there at 4am.
So that concludes everything that went wrong on my first ever trip abroad. It’s all about character building and learning experiences, right?
What’s your worst travel blunder? We’re all friends here, maybe we should start a support group. Sharing is caring, guys. Don’t leave me out here alone!