Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday, 29th October – Siena to Rome

Well, what a day! Just when we were congratulating ourselves on how well we were managing and how smoothly everything has gone, pretty much everything went pear-shaped today. Let me tell you all about it!

10am: We had identified a bus right outside the hotel that went to the railway station so we thought we’d save the taxi fare and catch the bus. The bus stops in Siena have electronic indicators telling you which buses are coming next, and giving the whole day’s timetable for each bus and the closest place to buy tickets – very helpful. So we checked out the #13 to the station – next bus 1.30pm. You can’t hail a cab in the street, you have to go to a taxi rank, but there was none nearby, and the next bus to the city centre was a half hour away anyway (tip for next time – don’t try to travel on a Sunday in Italy). Fortunately the tourist map we had had a phone number for a taxi so we rang & one came quite quickly. OK, we thought, a bit more expensive but otherwise back on track.

10:30am: We queued for a train ticket to Rome – first train (the slow one) was at 12.30, and the fast train wasn’t till after 2pm. (We had gone online to try to prebook our train ticket to Rome, but the only option for ticket collection was “self-service” but Siena station has no self-service machine – there were trains every 30 minutes so we figured it was safe to just turn up – but apparently not on a Sunday morning!). There wasn’t time to go anywhere before the train came, so we sat at the station reading the Rome guidebook.

12.30: Got on the train which was very punctual. Though not without some anxiety as we were the only ones in the carriage and weren’t sure it was the correct train. However it was, and we had the carriage to ourselves to Grosseto, where we had to change for the train to Rome. (No wonder they have so few trains on Sunday – no passengers!). We had no idea what time we were due at Grosseto, or where it was (or where we were, for that matter), and there were no announcements. Shelley managed to emerge from the WC in the nick of time.

1:45: Sat on the platform at Grosseto for 45 minutes waiting for the 2.30 to Rome. We had booked seats for the second leg, in carriage 1, but had no idea which would be the front end of the train. Made an educated guess, which was correct, except carriage 1 was at the back of the train! Had to run the full length of the platform with our luggage, and as soon as we were on the train it departed – we have never held up an inter-city train before! The train trip itself was very comfortable and uneventful.

4.15: Arrived at Rome’s Termini Station. What a hectic place, very modern, lots of lights, shiny shops, and people. Rick had alerted us to pickpockets so Keith’s head was spinning trying to watch his back, and mine. Tried (and failed) to find the tourist information but bought a map and a weekly bus/train ticket and worked out where to catch the Metro to our B&B. Battled with throngs of people but managed to get on & off the metro at the correct place.

5:00 Wheeled our bags over cobbled roads to where we thought the B&B ought to be – no such luck. Wandered up & down for about 45 minutes, eventually found it (we had walked past it in the first 5 minutes). The quaint building has 2 separate staircases, so of course we chose the wrong one. Then the manager came down to find us and said he was sending us to a new B&B, much better for the same price. Sent us off with a woman who spoke less English than we speak Italian. She insisted we pay cash up front. Long “discussion”. Manager on the phone, said no problem, pay later. Took us to the room. Very nice except smelled like a toilet! We complained but she showed us how to open the windows. Didn’t help. Complained to the manager, very long story, 3 rooms later, several trips back and forwards, (by the way these rooms were in different buildings, a block apart), suddenly found us a very nice room, private bathroom, fridge, TV, all mod cons. Phew! About 8pm by this stage.

8.45pm: By this time we had given up our plans for an evening stroll through Rome, and thought we’d settle for a Pizza at a café we’d seen in the same street – of course it was closed. But ended up having a nice dinner at a restaurant just below our room. But in the end, we are in Rome!!