I arrive in Rome via a 10-hour layover in London. Luckily, I do not need to do anything with my luggage while in England, I can simply take the underground transport downtown to quickly visit my gallery and grab lunch with a friend at the Borough Market. I wonder beforehand if this will unfold perfectly and be a pleasant afternoon, or if I will be running after time, and at worse miss my connecting flight. I decide to take the risk. I meet many people along the way: an undercover policeman, a doctor from Scotland, a taxman with a box of chocolates and a pilot on the tube. All fascinating encounters.
On my way to the gallery, I slip into a few charming cafés in search of warmth and Wi-Fi. It is a cold and rainy London day. Although it ends up being quite a pleasant afternoon at the Borough Market – feasting on my favorite seafood paella and savoring the “too die for” treats from the taxman’s box of chocolates – I am hungry for the sun, and so I’m happy to hop back on the plane for destinations further south.
My flight leaves an hour late, which results in me missing the last metro from the airport to downtown Rome. A taxi drive will cost 40-60 Euros. What? That is the cost of a one-way Ryanair plane ticket! I decide it’s not going to happen. I will not take a taxi and spend this much money on my first day travelling, especially given my very tight budget. I mention to the elegant English couple that sat next to me on the plane, that the tube is no longer running – just in case they were planning to take it. The wife quickly tells another man standing with them that they need an extra seat. I do not know who this man is and what she is organizing, but I begin to catch on that she is trying to lend a helping hand. As my options are slim, I decide to go with the flow. She keeps telling the man, “She is with us. She’s extra”
Seven of us pile into a mini van. I sit next to the driver and decide this is a good opportunity to practice my Italian. We speak for the hour trip and I feel that my Italian improves. I tell him how excited I am to eat spaghetti all’Amatriciana again. This is one of Rome’s specialty dishes. He tells me the recipe in precise detail so that I may make it on my own when I return to Canada. The men here in Italy seem to know the art of cooking like real grandmas. Getting tips, from this Roman driver in Italian – on how to chop my onions and cube my pancetta – while speeding down the highway, zipping along the periphery of the Vatican City walls and through the narrow streets of Rome, makes my day.
When we arrive at the destined hotel, we all hop out and he asks us for our voucher tickets. Everyone scrambles through their pockets and purses. As I have nothing to offer, I shrug my shoulders and say with a sheepish smile, “Sono extra?” He laughs and says, ‘Capito. Non c’è problema.’
Alas, I have arrived in Rome…
(For those curious about the spaghetti all’Amatriciana recipe here is a link to one variation on how to make it… http://theitaliandishblog.com/imported-20090913150324/2012/4/24/from-rome-bucatini-all-amatriciana.html Enjoy!)