Arriving from the hospitality of Thailand to the hospitality of Rome is like walking from a massage to the boxing ring. An extreme contrast. This was Fanfan’s first trip to Europe, long in planning, starting with her dream destination Rome. Two days later we leave Rome completely disillusioned. Not the best of experiences… While I assume locals in Rome are friendly and welcoming we were unlucky to find the percentage who are not. Weirdly they were all found in the tourist industry. OK I understand how living in a city littered with tourists can be irritable to locals. At the same time it seems idiotic to recruit those irritated to work directly with tourists. If you don’t want to deal with tourists then don’t work in the tourism industry. Simple? So is Rome tourist friendly? In 2 days we had 3 bewilderingly bad experiences.
OK this bad experience was just bizarre. I accept it as the misfortune of crossing an out-of-place oddball, far from the stereotypical Italian more of a new breed hipster. In no more than a few words he lies to me, is rude and gives wrong information. Impressive? Scenario. Early our first morning in Rome I arrive to the Terra Cafe counter for information on Rome Bus Tours. At the time (06:00) I am the only person queuing. I start “Hi! Do you speak English?” Answer “No”. He turns his back to ignore me. I search through information on pamphlets sat on the desk. He turns to me, grabs the pamphlet from under my nose, flips it and slams it on the desk. Says nothing. Goes back to ignoring me. With no communication or pamphlet I reluctantly ask “Do you know about bus tours?” Finally he answers “Counter opposite, 9 o’clock”. I walk out. He shouts out to me “08:30”. Obviously he did speak English. Later in the day he uses perfect English to scold me for photographing the Terravision booth (snigger).
Our second and final day in Rome. We call to Basilica di Santa Maria a must see on Fanfan’s attractions list (an amazing building). With luggage in tow Fanfan enters the church wheeling the smaller bag. Within steps of the door a curator gestures with his hands and repeats something from a distance. Not a clue what he said. We expect the bag to be the problem so Fanfan turns to leave the bag with me at the door. She turns to be confronted by the curator. Berated and belittled. “Don’t you dare turn your shoulder on me….. rude girl…”. It went for a while. In one ear and out the next. We were too shocked and baffled by the reaction to comprehend words. Apparently to wheel a bag in Santa Maria you must stay on the white tiles. Sorry we missed it… There just seems to no room for cultural faux pas in Rome. Fanfan leaves the building and only returns after takes a lot of convincing. Well worth it in the end. A beautiful building.
The scenario; the bag passes the luggage gauge after check-in and we continue to board at the boarding gates. “Sorry sir your bag is too big you will have to check it. 50 Euros”. I wasn’t worried. I put the bag into the gauge (pictured below) and explain how it passed earlier. “Sorry sir it didn’t fit ‘easy’ you have to pay 50 Euros”…. What?!?? Complete disbelief. Of course I refuse to pay. “If you don’t pay you won’t fly.” Next follows a 20 minute standoff. It included threats “Do you want me to check the second bag that will be 100 Euros,” (the second bag was tiny in the gauge). The f***er had me by the balls and wasn’t letting go. Humiliated in front of hundreds of people. “Cash or Credit Card?…. Cash or Credit Card”. Snide. Whatever happened to goodwill and service with a smile. It ended with a lie “Last chance to board the doors are closing”. I had no choice but to obey. My testicles rolled to the luggage hold alongside my perfectly sized hand luggage and 50 Euros. Robbed. Of course the doors weren’t actually closing. I was met in the gangway by queues ready to tell of their own experiences. The ‘funniest’ an Asian lady was asked to put her passport wallet from her belt to her luggage. Just to make sure it fits. Would have been hilarious to have sent it with checked baggage…
No I am not whinging about a no-thrills airline. Surprisingly I actually quite like easyJet. This was a completely isolated incident. An incident at Fiumicino Airport forcing us to leave Rome with further bewilderment. Following the incident at Rome Airport we board 3 further easyJet flights with no problem whatsoever; London Gatwick twice and Belfast International. By far the worst of our bad experiences in Rome. An experience we planned to avoid long in advance. In April we would travel to 8 countries, with 4 easyJet flights and only hand luggage. We choose the perfect bag for our 56 x 45 x 25cm carry on luggage limit. We travel light. Nothing could go wrong… until we meet Rome Fiumicino Airport. Thankfully we won’t be seeing you for a while.