After having travelled a few times in the past to various parts of the world, this was the first such occasion for me to be leaving Australia alone. It seemed a waste to have this kind of experience and not share it. Thankfully Blogs can assist with that.
Packing for me can take an enormus act of will, especially when you work up to the day of departure and buy last minute presents. However starting the process of putting things into your luggage 2 hours before you need to be at the airport is somewhat lacking in prudence. On the plus side, I did get to Mass & buy a new pair of shoes. I also managed to catch the flight too!
The 'road' to Rome for me was in three parts; a Qantas flight from Brisbane to Singapore, A long KLM flight from Singapore to Amsterdam, and a comparatively short connection from Amsterdam to Rome.
I normally prefer on an airline flight to sit behind the main wing, with a window seat. On the Qantas Airbus A330 flight from Brisbane to Singapore the best I could manage was a middle seat in the middle column of seats. This would normally be most unpleasant for me, but thanks to a delightful young lady from the Sunshine Coast by the name of Eliza Palmer, it was better than bearable. We conversed about Italy, as she was bound for Milan, about the transfer at Singapore (Her first ever) and her work in the fashion industry. She was very young, probably not much more than 18, and yet was ready to travel and learn.
Here's a tip however: If you have the opportunity to watch various movies made available via the aircraft entertainment system, don't watch "the Downfall". Undoubtedly it's a brilliant movie excellently told with exceptional acting, but all together too disturbing - especially in a confined space. I did much pondering after watching that!
After arriving at Singapore, sorting out the transfer and waiting for the next flight I was gob-smacked and delighted to discover that one of the airport electronic stores was selling a key-ring WiFi detector! Just the device I attempted to buy in 2004 in London in vain. Having put off the purchase of such a device since then I immediately jumped at the opportunity to have one for this trip! All WiFi networks are now belong to ME!
Amsterdam to Rome was uneventful enough, and we by no deliberate act of Eliza or myself ended up sitting together again. This aircraft was an ageing KLM 747-400 with no interactive entertainment system to speak of, though it wasn't missed. To my surprise and benefit, and thanks to industrial grade earplugs, I managed to lightly sleep a generous portion of this 12 hour leg.
Thanks to the rest I was actually feeling fine arriving at Amsterdam at 5:00 am, and said farewell to Eliza who was on her way to Milan to catch up with her Nanny friend.
On this final leg I finally had a window seat, but on this KLM 737, it was in the emergency exit row, so was without a table or under-seat luggage storage.
This inconvenience was all forgotten thanks to a new unexpected companion - Stefania, an Academic who had just finished teaching a course in the US simultaneously in Italian and English about Dante Alegheri's Inferno. Not Paradise or Purgatory - just the Inferno. Hell is more than enough for one course.
We discussed this topic in an animated and honest manner which was most impressive given her dearth of sleep and anxiousness for flying. Stefania couldn't wait to be back home with her family in her beloved Roma and wanted the flight to be all over at once.
She'll return to the US for the next semester to teach another course at a different University, this time on early contemporary Italian film makers and the philosophical implications of their perspective and work. God Bless wonderful Europeans, they enrich the whole world!
Arrival at Fiumicino was familiar enough, and I was disappointed not to have my passport stamped at Amsterdam upon entering the EU and neither at Rome. After a quick but necessary visit to the toilet, I passed through to a very emotional welcome from Mrs Marini who ran up and hugged and kissed me, and a warm welcome from Jess and Sid. Jane Marini was also there with her new born son, Damian.
From that 9:30am point on it was a little surreal, but so very very good to be in Rome - the eternally beautiful city.
Mrs Marini drove us to the Vatican where she insisted on buying each of us a huge Gelati. Just the thing to chase airline food (!!!). From there she dropped us to the Ottaviano metro station and Jess, Sid and I were on our way to explore the juicy core of gorgeous old Rome starting with the Spanish steps. We visited many on the best sights in the centre of old Rome.
That day was very full indeed and so wonderful. What an absolute delight to be in Rome with good old friends!
Sid & I took the last train to Morlupo at 8:30pm and retired for the night at the Marini's home. Just before midnight (Rome time) I managed to get to sleep, and sleep indeed I did.
God Bless friendly strangers, beloved friends and Rome, the city that offers more than a lifetime can experience.