Tandem Travel Tales: Rome, Part 2

THE BAD AND THE UGLY

With as much as we’d like to glorify every day of our lives on the road, we wouldn’t be telling the truth. So we’ll get right into it with this one. Maybe you read the last post about all of the wonderful experiences we were able to have in Rome. Unfortunately, we didn’t begin our Roman adventure with sunshine and rainbows. We instead started off with… BED BUGS! Yep, those delightful little fear-mongering, filthy, blood-sucking pests. 

Brittany, grandma, Steve at Trevi Fountain @travelingintandem
Checking out the Trevi Fountain with grandma.

Honestly, there are so many worse things that you can encounter when traveling, but these little ones really gave us the heebie-jeebies. Before arriving we booked a room in a hostel through Hostelworld and ended up rolling in from the airport around 1:30 AM. We elected to stay just northeast of Termini Train Station at Freedom Traveller Hostel, making for a short late night walk to the hostel.

So long and short, we took a bus with Terravision from Ciampino Airport to the train station. Showed up to our place in the pitch black, put our bag in lockers on the other side of the room, took a shower, and went to bed. Fast forward to 6:30 AM and one of our oh so gracious roommates flung the window open and started rustling through her plastic bags.

Needless to say, I was more than frustrated. We tried to spin the early wake up call into a positive experience and get out and explore Rome early. On our way out the door Steve turned his head and, dun dun dun, found a full-sized bed bug strolling across his pillow.

*Ensue paralyzing disgust*

He caught the little fella, bagged him for evidence, and we took some pictures before heading downstairs to chat with the staff.

sculpture in Rome, Italy @travelingintandem
One of the many beautiful sculptures in Rome, complete with a vibrant, blue sky.

Where Did They Come From?

Now, back story. We immediately thought that these might have traveled with us from the Terravision bus. It was filthy. Maybe more so than the New York City subway. The windows looked like someone had allowed their pink-eye infectious toddler to lick every window, inside and out, for an entire week.

We were also kicking ourselves because up until this point we had thoroughly checked every bed that we slept in with a fine-toothed comb. This time we had two roommates and were trying to be quiet and respectful, so we trusted the cleanliness reviews and went to sleep. Never again.

Hey, Front Desk Guy. Help!

Downstairs we communicated with the fellow at the front desk, he apologized, offered to pay for all of our laundry, and requested that we return for a full refund later when he could contact his boss. We were due to stay a second night, but thankfully curbed that disaster. So we were off to the laundromat to clean everything.

Here’s the thing—It’s really hard to show up to a laundromat with all of your belongings and sit outside on the curb to pick through everything inconspicuously so you’re not alerting the world and the staff to your hygeine issues. No one wants to know that you’re there with potential bed bugs. It’s also hard to find spur of the moment, non-hostel accommodations in Rome that are in your budget.

Brittany on a stoop in Rome @travelingintandem
Acting like the Stoop Kid that I am. Eating cold tortellini in Rome while waiting on laundry. 

What Bed Bugs?

So we went back for our refund and we were denied! Oh, the fury. They said they couldn’t find evidence and even though I had bites on my face and we had a bug in our pocket as proof, we must have brought them in and attempted to frame them for a free bed. WHAT? I seriously can’t even imagine someone wanting to do such a thing.

He let slip that this was an issue they had in a number of other rooms, “but never before on the 4th floor.” And there was no reimbursement for the laundry since the mat wouldn’t give us a proper receipt. Hahaha. We insisted on meeting the owner later that afternoon. Thanks for the gaslight, bud.

Thank You, Booking.com

On to the next place. We put all of our things in the shower and literally tweezed through every.single.thing.in.our.bags. And then our bags themselves. It took the entire day and we visited the laundromat a total of three times. On the final go, we even went back to put our physical bags in the ultra hot dryers. We returned to the hostel, for the third time, later that afternoon with laundry receipts in hand, and were given a full refund.

The owner never ended up showing his face. The desk guy, who looked like he had been milked for all semblance of sanity, went on to tell us that they had indeed found an infestation. The little fellas were living behind the wall picture in swarms. Ew.

Bed Bug bags @travelingintandem
Trying to carry our bags to the laundromat without letting them touch me.

Fast forward: We never found any evidence of bed bugs in or on our belongings. We were really lucky to have stored all of our belongings, exempt our pajamas, in lockers on the wall opposite the infestation. And it was a good learning experience.

Bonus: we made friends with the fellow at the laundromat.

SURPRISE #2

Public transportation can really put a damper on your day in Rome. We had a number of issues with the buses. The takeaway? Don’t rely on the Roman bus system for any sort of timely transport. We initially thought that the timetables were wrong, that Google schedules were mistaken, or maybe we were just in the wrong place. But after a handful of missed buses at different stops with a variety of puzzled locals, it became clear that the bus system kind of sucks. On our last night in Rome with grandma, we ended up waiting 40 minutes for a two-mile bus ride.

Train Tables

The trains are also a bummer when there have been issues on the lines, though I think this is far less common. Our final morning in Rome with grandma we booked two separate tickets to time our departures appropriately. We were to put grandma on her train headed to the airport, complete with an elected fellow who was to help her lift her bag off of the train. Steve and I were to board our train 5 minutes later, headed in the opposite direction. At the time, we were going to Southern Italy for a work exchange.

All went well with grandma’s departure, and she made it home in one piece. Ours, however, did not go smoothly. The issue immediately became clear when our train just didn’t show up. It continued to get pushed back with no explanation and we eventually approached the counter to try and figure out how to reroute our trip to Naples in time to catch our train to Caserta.

Castel Sant'Angelo @travelingintandem
The crew in front of Castel Sant’Angelo.

The fellas at the counter had no idea what we were talking about. We were originally supposed to take a series of five trains to our final destination. As a result of the first one not showing up, we were all of a sudden missing all of our subsequent connections.

So thankfully Steve was ahead of the game. He thought to walk to the metro and take it to Termini, the main station, instead of waiting on the invisible train. After a brief wait the kind attendant put us on a really nice express train to Naples that got us there in time for our train to Casserta. While it was so frustrating in the moment, we ended up on a much nicer and faster train in the end. It only cost us 3€ to ride the metro and a decent amount of patience.

General Issues

Rome is full of tourists, therefore full of scams. There are so many street hustlers trying to get a dollar out of you. They approach you with a joke and then slip a bracelet or something on your person and insist it’s free before requesting payment. At first it seems harmless, but after a few days it’s a lot of energy and focus to constantly tell people “no”. And they don’t always have the kindest responses.

Also, with tourism comes crowds. As mentioned in the last post, there is plenty of space in Rome. But if you’re moving with crowds in the vicinity of the attractions, be ready for elbows, lack of personal space, and general panic over nothing. At times it can be a bit jarring. That was especially the case for us at The Vatican. Once you get stuck in the crowd, or in the middle of a tour group, you will physically be herded from room to room like cattle.

Altare Della Patria @travelingintandem
Altare Della Patria in Rome

Finally, as with any big city, Rome is dirty. With people comes their garbage. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be a very diligent waste removal system like in other Italian cities. As a result, you see a lot of rats and roaches. Not the end of the world, but a little gross. It makes everything feel relatively dirty and I couldn’t help but think of The Black Death.

THE FOOD WAS GREAT, I PROMISE.

So, that’s about it. Nothing life altering, but Rome gave us a few bruises along the way. Don’t let the bad stories scare you, though. Just check your beds and walls before putting your belongings in a room, don’t ride Terravision, and don’t waste your time on the public busses.

Next, we’ll talk about the food. You might have guessed, but this is the one we’re most excited about.

Take care,

Brittany

One Comment

  1. It’s so neat to be able to read about all of your travels, and I absolutely love how you go into detail. I really miss you, but I can tell by your blog that you’re doing well. Keep on writing! We all love you! 🙂

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