Late Sunday night. Sitting on a more than reasonably delayed flight from Munich, reading yet another new book (Finished one, and left it for my friend to read on her flight home in a few days. Promoted it by saying it’s utterly bad, but since it’s my sister’s I can’t bloody well leave it behind. My friend took the bait…), listening to the suite from Downton Abbey, and eating some mint chocolate. I’ll be getting a cup of tea soon.
Anyway. When looking out on the grey airport building, I made a decision not to return to Italy unless someone kidnaps me. Okay, be careful what you wish for, and all that, but seriously… I might be complaining every time I have to fly to and from CDG, but Paris is always Paris, and I can take a shitty airport if I get to see the cherry trees blossom when snowstorms are still raging back home. However, Italy.. No. No. No.
No Italian food, nor weather, can get me convinced it is worth all the damned fuss I always encounter.
Let’s rewind a bit, I can understand some (most) of you are a bit confused. I’ll take it from the very beginning.
About twelve years ago a friend of mine was studying in Milan. As I hadn’t travelled outside the Nordic countries that much, I decided to visit her. For hours I queued at the Kilroy office in Helsinki (this was long before skyscanner, not to mention iPhone apps in general, was born), and got a superb deal with a four hour layover at CDG. Needless to say, there went four hours I will never see again.
The ticket stated I was flying with AirFrance, but when boarding a blue propeller plane I kind of figured I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The airline was called Gandalf Airlines (yes, really) and the ride over the Alps more than bumpy. It’s amazing that ride didn’t scare me off planes for all eternity, come to think of it. I have no idea for how long that flight took, but it sure was longer than the smiling idiot at Kilroy had said. When finally landing in Bergamo, which is (and I quote a comment I got today from someone living close by) situated on a potato field, my luggage arrived in seven pieces (yes, really). I collected the pieces, and tried to get some help. Since I no parlare italiano, it was an impossible task. The only thing I could understand was that the airport was closing, and I was disturbing the peace. So out I went. It was dark, cold, and of course it was raining cats and dogs. My friend had advised me to take a bus, so I limped to the only bus stop I could find with six of the pieces put into the seventh, and there I waited. And waited. And waited. No bus. My friend’s Italian phone could not be reached. I was soaking, on the verge of crying, and of course that’s when I get a text from my mother, asking if all is well, if I arrived safely. Uhmm. Mum, I’m sorry. I lied terribly in that answer.
I got to Milan in the end, and had a reasonably good week, although I’ve never been so cold in my life as those late autumn days. I decided right then and there Italy was not for me.
Almost ten years later, I get an agenda for a meeting I needed to attend. The place was stated to be in Turin. All grown up and used to flying (and someone else paying my ticket), I decided to give Italy another try. I booked direct flights to Milan, and carefully printed out train schedules. I checked maps and remembered to wear warm clothes when flying down.
When getting off the Malpensa express I realise the train to Turin is actually leaving from another train station. How that little fact had slipped my mind, I have no idea… But suddenly I find myself getting a crash course in the Milan metro system by a homeless man. Since I still no parlare italiano, it was quite the achievement. By the time I get to the right train station, the three different trains I had on my carefully printed schedule had of course already left. Or… No, wait, one of them is still there.. Delayed. So I run. And for those of you who haven’t been to the central station in Milan, it’s huge, and Italians are much like Finns, not really moving out of the way however many Sorry! Oh, Sorry! SORRY!!!s you mumble.
Halfway to the platform I remember I have no ticket. So I run back. Almost all the way back down to where I started. I get a damned ticket, and run back. When I enter the train, I’m sweating like a pig (those warm clothes were a really bad idea), and thirsty like a sailor. And hungry. SAS had just decided to stop serving food on their flights. I had not been informed.
I was, however, informed of further delay with the train (funny how much you actually do understand from a message in a language you do not speak). Dinner in Turin is just starting when the train finally pulls out of Milan. Thank god for mini-bars with Pringles and nuts.
Returning on Sunday, a friend and I were hoping to get a nice pizza in Milan. We could not find a single open restaurant in the time frame we had. Not one. We ended up paying eight Euro for a plate of overcooked pesto pasta at Malpensa. I swore not to return to that damned country any time soon.
That was until two dear friends of mine got this terrific idea of the three of us accepting an invitation for a weekend in Verona. Against better judgement, I let them convince me. But I did warn them. I told them exactly how everything will turn out. Lo and behold! That Friday night we dined on bread-sticks. On Sunday I showed them where to get the best overcooked pesto pasta in all of Italy. It cost more this time. I swore never to return.
So. Why have I now just spent a weekend in Naples? Your question is as good as mine. And don’t get me wrong, I had a nice time. With the exception of having to rise at 4.15 in order to catch the 6.30 flight, I had no problems getting there. It was a mere two degrees and pouring rain when I left home, and a wonderful 26 degrees and sun when I entered the hotel lobby around noon. I almost started thinking Italy might be okay.
That’s until it was time to go home. As I hadn’t remembered to check in until just before leaving the hotel, all places in the front of the plane were already occupied. I got stuck in the back, with an annoying German lady who kept yelling I’m in her way (I was trying to find a place for my luggage, the stewardess not helping more than angrily telling me we’re overbooked again – thank you for that piece of utterly useless information). It ended with me switching from German to English, calling the battle-axe a f..cking idiot (and in my thoughts including the air-hostess).. Not one of my proudest moments, but I got backup from another lady muttering something about the impossibility of me and my bag becoming invisible.
Of course the flight was late due to heavy turbulence. When the purser tells us we’ll be arriving at gate 44, I can’t say I’m surprised. According to the boarding pass I just checked in my Passbook (what a neat app that is btw), I’m to head for gate 4. Of course.
I somehow managed to get out of the flight without further bantering with the old hag, and started my marathon towards the other end of the terminal. When I huffed and puffed my fourth “Entschuldigen Sie bitte… Dankeschööön..” I cursed my bad shape. My feet were already hurting from all walking and dancing, and I was starting to feel a bit warm in my new black Sunday dress. Well. At least I got to put that new organic deodorant of mine to the test (pleased to say it passed).
Three minutes after boarding should’ve begun, I arrived at the gate. And that’s when I saw the red text. Delayed. 50 minutes. Of course. Offuckincourse.
Half an hour I could entertain myself with free wifi, then I went back to the shops to get a book and some chocolate. Thinking I have all the time in the world, I go to the loo to change into warmer clothes. Literally standing with my pants (tights really) down, I suddenly hear “this is the final call for flight LHblabla to Helsinki”. Oh you’ve gotta be kidding me.. I decide I can put on the warmer tights later, and run. Again.
Finally seated, next to a not so angry Finnish woman (she was actually praying most of the time), the captain explains the reasons for their delay (apparently they came from Rome, and had more troubles with the turbulence than our smaller plane from Naples) and tells a further apology for the fact that the luggage carriage just broke down en route to the plane; now we still have to wait until they find a replacement so that people will get their luggage home with them.
I give up. Thank you and good night.
EDIT NEXT DAY: I finally got home a quarter past one in the morning, having endured a whole flight with bare legs. The taxi driver was a chatty one, started with her getting happy over my destination, as there’s a 24h pharmacy close by. You see, she had a severe headache, and after a few comments from me, she told me all about her worries for her brother who is currently in the Philippines. I could do nothing but offer a listening ear, and wish her, and her family, all the best before I bid her good night and sent her off to get some pills. I guess even bartenders, hairdressers and taxi drivers need someone who listen every once in a while, and I seem to have that effect on them. I mean… The hairdresser in London.. I know all about her brother’s inability to cook a nice Christmas dinner, and the unreasonable demand from her mother-in-law who wanted her soon-to-be daughter-in-law to do her hair on her son’s wedding day. Heck, I even know about her parents’ neighbours’ problems with their insurance company; when a wall had fallen down, the insurance company refused to pay even a penny, as it had been “an act of God”. What the he..?
And to think I was afraid I’d run out of stories to tell…