Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Abandoned in Italy

So, yes, Venice was very nice. We enjoyed it. But, regrettably, it will not live long in our memories. Because then we tried to go home, and that is the part that will live long in our memories. We're not home yet. Right now I'm sitting in a hotel somewhere in Northern Italy, to the best of my knowledge somewhere near Milan or Bergamo.

I'm jumping ahead. Wind the clock back 24hrs. Our last day in Venice was misty and quite cold. We watched Johnny Depp making a film near the Rialto. We bought our souvenirs. We had a bad meal that left us with the ever-present threat of that other Italian-sounding place, salmonella. Then we boarded our coach to Treviso airport and hoped we'd stay vomit-free for long enough to get home. Fortunately the food poisoning didn't kick in – a near miss.

Treviso airport was foggy. Two flights prior to ours were delayed. There were no seats because the airport was full. Nobody seemed to be flying anywhere. Nobody seemed to be telling anybody anything. But then our departure gate opened and we were sent down into the basement where the heating did not reach, the lights didn't work and information was a TV screen that said our Ryanair flight to Liverpool was delayed. Okay, delayed isn't so bad. It stayed delayed until midnight, just long enough for the public transport back to Venice to stop for the night. Then the flight was cancelled.

So we queued at a desk with a hundred others and waited to hear about our options. Those options were few. We could wait until morning and fly to Stansted, or Dublin or Alicante. Quite what we do at these places was not clear, and it was not clear what would happen if the fog didn't lift, which it showed little sign of doing. It was up to us.

The best option seemed to be a flight back to Liverpool from Bergamo in two days. TWO DAYS! And it would be left to us to find our own way to Bergamo. We found a nice piece of airport floor and tried to turn it into home. It had come to this – sleeping on the floor. I thought of leaving out a little plastic cup as we'd seen so many others doing, outside churches, in Venice. Perhaps this is how they got their start in the begging career, a patch of floor in Treviso Airport.

Then someone said they'd found a coach driver who'd take us to Bergamo so long as there were ten of us, and so long as we paid 25 Euros. We paid, we went. And the financial evaporation began. (Mind you, not to the extent of one of our fellow travellers who'd had his wallet and possessions stolen from his room immediately prior to the flight fiasco.)

We arrived at Bergamo airport at five am. We went to the check-in desk and tried to get onto an earlier flight. Nothing. But here we picked up a useful snippit. We had to print our boarding pass prior to arrival at the airport tomorrow OR RYANAIR WOULD CHARGE US 40 EUROS EACH! This is a kind of fine to discourage us from not using the internet properly. So that's 80 Euros. Seventy-five quid! A penalty for not taking a printer with us as part of our measly 10kg baggage allowance. Need I rant more?

So, is there a hotel nearby?

Oh yes, a couple.

Can we walk there?

Easy. Five minutes. One is just opposite the airport.

Yes. The one just opposite the airport is on the other side of a motorway (autoroute? Autostrada?) Whatever the word it was an invitation to death.

So we elected to go by taxi, and being unwilling to call a taxi to take us across the road we chose the other hotel that was "only five minutes away." It took the taxi quarter-of-an-hour, and he barely let his speed dip below 100. It cost us 20 Euros. 20 Euros for a "five minute" walk!

This is where things improved, though. They allowed us to check in at 6 am rather than noon for our single night. We suspected we'd have to pay for two nights. We were willing to pay it. We wanted sleep.

We slept.

We rang our respective employers and told them why we weren't in work. We rang our families. We bought food. Money evaporated.

And now here I am. Somewhere in Italy. In the lounge of a vast hotel with no other guests. There is nowhere to walk. The road outside is long and straight and fast. We've walked both ways and there's nothing to see in either direction. There's a mozzarella cheese factory, and a petrol station and a small grocers' where we bought chocolate just to practice our Italian. The two shop girls were friendly. They seemed excited to meet two English people. I don't think they'd ever met English people before. Or was it that they never met pedestrians?

It's frustrating. We can see the Dolomites, topped with snow. I'd love to go there and walk. But we haven't got a car. And it's a long walk.

And we wait and see what more delights Ryanair have in store for us tomorrow. Liverpool airport, also, is a long walk.

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