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Published: June 11th 2018
A brief 7.5 hour flight from JFK and we will be in Rome! Cathy and I arrived from Detroit on time to JFK in the domestic terminal. Since we were lucky enough to have our bags checked through to Rome we did not have to go through baggage claim, but we did have to leave the sterile area in the domestic terminal and walk to terminal 1 and go back through security.
The lines were indeed long but the TSA was efficient in moving people along. Cathy and I sped through, no problem and we headed out to Gate 9 for our 4:25 PM flight to Rome. We found the gate, and since we had 2 hours decided to get a bite to eat. We walked from one end of the terminal to the other, pushing through crowds seeking a good place to eat. There was none to our liking. We left this area and went to the other gate section only to push through even more crowds and still not finding any good food, so back to the other gates from whence we came.
As we returned to the area we suddenly heard our names over the loud
speaker. "Farina party come to gate 4." No reason given, never a good sign. So we headed directly to gate 4, desire for food forgotten, and presented ourselves to the gate agent. She told us that our credentials had to be verified. We had no idea what that meant, but we handed over our passports. She checked them and then reissued our boarding pass. It seems with the current state of affairs in Italy, they were rechecking every passenger's passports before boarding. OK, disaster averted we stopped for that bite to eat.
There was still nothing we desired so we hit the old standby, pizza. Two slices, one bottle of water and I was out nearly $20! We headed back to gate 9 to dine and await the flight. We arrived at the gate and noticed that Alitalia flight 609 to Italy was now departing at 6:30 PM. I am used to flight changes so I thought nothing of it. For some reason at about 3:45 I got an itch to check the flight. Why did I have to show my passport at gate 4 when we were departing at gate 9? Confused, I headed over to gate 4
Santa Marie Maggorie Holy Door
Every 25 years this door is opened. If you walk through your sins are forgiven. I went through the door in 2000.
and found that Alitalia flight 603 was departing at 4:25 to Rome. I pulled out my boarding pass and YIKES we were on flight 603 NOT flight 609!
I had to push my way through the crowds back to gate 9, all the way at the other end of the airport and find Cathy. I told her to get up we are at the wrong gate. She looked confused and got up and once again we pushed through the crowds and back to gate 4 and a very long boarding line. Our boarding zone was 2 and since boarding long ago started we were at the very end of the zone 5 line. Now Cathy is a rule follower to the nth degree. I told her we could board earlier but she initially refused to get out of the line and follow me to the head of the line. I finally got her to follow and we boarded at the very end of zone 2.
We were in row 27 of a Boeing 777-300. The configuration was 3 5 3 seats per row. I had the middle and she the aisle, with an older lady in the window.
Knowing women and long flights I assumes this passenger was going to the bathroom at least 7 times during the 7 hour flight. I did notice that two rows ahead was a bulk head seat with two empty and the aisle with a male passenger. I kept my eyes and options open.
A little drama in row 26 ensued. This young lady had the window seat but she wanted the aisle, so she sat in the aisle seat. She settled in, that is until an older husband and wife came and told the seat thief that she had to move. Let's just say discussions ensued where she pushed for the aisle seat. The older and wiser couple refused to budge and the young lady finally, reluctantly, moved to the window seat. I knew this was not going to be a peaceful flight.
The boarding process continued, I kept my eyes on the two open bulkhead seats. I told Cathy, "If that door closes and those two seats are still open, we are jumping out." Of course she did not want to take another seat, So I said "I'm going." I flagged down the flight attendant and informed him
of my intentions and he agreed it was OK. This assuaged Cathy and the door closed and we jumped quickly.
Now the guy in the aisle spoke up and asked what we were doing. I told him we are taking these seats. He was confused and asked, "you mean these are not your seats?" I told him, "They are open and we are moving in with permission from the flight attendant." He was now upset and said, "I just had to pay $100 extra for this seat and you just jump in?" My response, "yup," and I settled in.
He calmed down and asked where we were from. "Toledo," my reply.
"That's funny, I taught at University of Toledo for 17 years." Small world for sure!
The flight was completely uneventful. I slept as best I could as I wanted to be on Italian time as soon as possible. Since we were landing at 7:00 AM I wanted to get a good night's sleep.
Just for the record, the older lady in row 27 was up at least 7 times during the flight, I was so glad I moved!
We arrived in Rome in
St John Laterine Papal Altar
Only a Pope can say mass at this Altar
the early morning. It was already getting warm. Cathy and I deplaned, headed to passport control and the wait to get through. Again a picture of efficiency and we were off to baggage claim. We checked the arrival board and saw our luggage was coming out in claim 4. We headed over and saw bags go round and round, but not our bags. Suddenly one of the passengers called out, "We are in the wrong baggage claim, we are at claim 9." He then pulled out and I saw a bunch of people follow, so we followed suit. Cathy again did not want to move but she reluctantly followed. We passed another information screen and sure enough Flight 609 was at gate 4 and Flight 603 was at gate 9. We continued to the right claim, found our bags and headed to our prepaid shared ride bus to our hotel.
We arrived at COTV Transportation, and checked in. We were told we had to wait for a second passenger who had just arrived. Well 45 minutes later they arrived and we all headed over to the bus.
As is often the case when you are stuck in a car with strangers, a conversation ensues. We found out the couple was on their honeymoon, they were married Saturday and live in Lebanon. The bride shared wedding photos with Cathy and we discussed food, college and how best to enjoy Italy. After a 45 minute ride in heavy traffic, Cathy and I arrived at Una Roma Hotel near the Termini Station downtown Rome.
Of course our room was not ready so we dropped off our bags and headed out for a bite to eat. It was 10:30 Monday morning and I was hungry, Cathy, not so much. So we walked around a little and found a really nice small shop and ordered one slice of pepperoni pizza, a medium caprese salad for me, and a yogurt for Cathy. We added 2 Fantas and sat down to our first Roman meal.
Lunch/breakfast complete we headed out to visit the Chapel of the Capuchin Monks. This was an ancient order of monks started by St Francis of Assisi and still active today. There was a history museum where we learned much of their history. This led us to the Bone Chapels where are decorated with the bones of thousands of monks!
It was fascinating. They had full bodies dressed and posed in different setting within 4 separate chapels. Everything, walls, lights, altars etc were all made of human bones. Why this was done, was lost to history, but it is both beautiful and eerie. Unfortunately no pictures and since I was with the rule police, I refrained from my usual sneak a shot tactic.
We headed back to the hotel and our room was ready. Up we went to a much needed shower, nap and a change of clothes. By 2:30 we were clean, well rested and ready for more adventure. We had made arrangements for a private 4 hours walking tour with and old friend Rich Brunn, a professional tour guide we met 10 years ago. Unfortunately, mis communication prevented the meeting with Rich, so Cathy and I headed out for ourselves.
We visited Santa Maria Maggorie, a church that once functioned as the pope's Vatican. We took a tour into the bowels of the church where an old Roman house was found underground in 1965. There we saw mosaics, baths and rooms indicating this first century residence must have been owned by a wealthy family.
From here we walked over to the Latrine Hill and visited the Saint John Latrine, another church that also functioned as another Vatican. By now Cathy was shot, we headed to the underground Metro and planned to negotiate the subway back to the Termini and our hotel.
It was a little touch and go but we made it and soon found ourselves seated at an outdoor cafe a block from the hotel prepared to enjoy a one price dinner. Here we dined on pasta, veal, and dessert with beverages all for 32 E. It was delicious. The weather was cooler and the food divine. After dinner we strolled the block to the hotel and headed up for an early night.
Tomorrow a possible Ghost Tour near the Vatican!
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