Friday, July 18, 2014

FCO Airport to Rome

After we took a short flight from Munich to Rome, we arrived at Leonardo da Vinci di Fiumicino Airport (FCO) early around Friday 11AM local time. We tried to pack light for our trip, but given my requisite kid gear, we still had a stroller, a car seat, a large suitcase, my father's laptop bag and two backpacks.

We were fortunate enough to stay at the InterContinental De La Ville for two nights on points. Located atop the Spanish Steps, it had a premium location in Rome. From FCO Airport, we had a handful of transportation options into downtown.

The simplest method (though costly) would be a public taxi from the Airport. While they're supposed to have a fixed fare of €48, good luck finding a compliant taxi driver willing to take you for that price. According to the TripAdvisor and, most drivers will refuse the fixed fare and would rather just wait for someone who's willing to pay a bit more. But even if we were able to find a taxi, €48 is about $65 USD.

Instead, we opted for the "fast" train right from FCO to Termini Train Station. After we collected our checked baggage, we exited the airport by going upstairs to the bridge over towards the Hilton Airport Hotel and the train station. There we saw a few small convenience stores and some freestanding train ticket machines in the middle.

From the same machine, you could buy tickets for both the €14/person fast train (direct, non-stop to Termini Station) or the €7/person slow train (making local stops throughout the greater Rome metro area). It's important to know that slow train doesn't take you to Termini Station, so make sure you choose the right one for your destination.

We had no problem getting our fast train tickets with our credit card, but you got a ticket that needs to be validated before you can board the train. Luckily, there was an attendant at the gate who took our tickets and validated it right there for us. The train was pretty full, but we found seats about 3 cars down with enough space for all our stuff. My father was responsible for the car seat, suitcase, stroller and one backpack. My mother had her purse, her backpack and her adorable child. Unfortunately, however, the trains weren't air conditioned as Europeans tend to think that A/C causes people to get sick. Nevertheless, the 30 minute ride was otherwise uneventful which was nice.

Sweaty and a bit jetlagged, we arrived at Termini Train Station and found our way outside to the taxi stand on the street. We originally planned to take the Metro to our hotel, but had heard that the Spagna Metro stop was at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, whereas our hotel was at the top. Daunted by the thought of lugging big bags up the hundred or so steps in the middle of a crowded July Friday, we opted to pay a premium and just have a taxi drop us off in front of our hotel.

Unfortunately, my father only had a €50 bill in local currency, so he confirmed with the taxi driver that he had change for it. The driver confirmed in broken English and started to load up the truck with our luggage. Everything went into the truck except my mother's purse and backpack which she took with her. Then we were off on our Roman adventure (aka, my parents' 5th wedding anniversary trip)!

After checking on Google Maps to make sure we weren't taking the long way to our hotel, my father then looked for how fast the meter was ticking up as we drove. Shocked, there was no meter! How could my well-traveled father have gotten in a taxi without a meter? He immediately asked what the fare would be. The driver said €15. Though it was more than he would have thought for the short ride, my father in the moment rationalized his error by concluding that we weren't at risk of taking the long route by having a fixed fare. Update: Of course, he's been kicking himself after searching on and finding out it should have been only half of that!

We soon pulled up to the Intercontinental. My mother's job was to run out and ask the hotel doorman for assistance with our luggage while my father took care of me and paid the fare. She grabbed her purse, but left me with my father. Now my father had to hold me while unloading the baggage with the taxi driver. We set up the stroller first and put me in it on the sidewalk. Then my father carried the bags from the trunk to the curb as well. Within seconds, all our bags in the trunk were unloaded.

The doorman and mother arrived and took the larger suitcase and car seat while my mother pushed me in the stroller. Meanwhile, my father paid the driver for the ride and counted his change. A bit flustered as he dropped a bill on the floor, he made sure he was given the right change for his €50 bill. As the taxi pulled away down the street, my father then took a look at which bags he had (his laptop bag and his backpack), then quickly scanned which bags were being taken by the hotel doorman (the large suitcase and the car seat), but suddenly noticed my mother only had her purse...but not her backpack.

The backpack was still in the taxi!

My father yelled ahead to my mother asking if her backpack was with her, as he dropped his bags and started running down the street after the taxi. But by then, there were so many taxis and they were going in different directions, that it was impossible for my father to catch the correct one. The backpack was gone.

Upon walking back down the street towards the hotel, my father saw my mother shaking her head in disappointment. The backpack wasn't with the hotel doorman either. Despite traveling so extensively over the past few years, we had actually left the backpack in the back seat of a random taxi. And for once, my father didn't pay with a credit card, so it was going to be impossible to track down the taxi again.

I suppose that "fortunately," there wasn't that much in the backpack of value. Aside from a 3 year old Generation 1 iPad with tons of cracks and free kid apps (aka "my iPad"), we lost a handful of my CVS brand diapers, a few plastic baggies of pizza-flavored Goldfish, some of my mother's underwear, my new Minnie Mouse purse and my father's zip lock baggie of his toiletries. Overall, we lucked out that it wasn't a bag of anything important such as our passports, cash, or my father's laptop (with all his website passwords saved). Most of the things in that lost backpack were easily replaced - if we even needed to replace them.

But for now, this is what my father's using for deodorant this week since Italian consumer demand doesn't warrant keeping it in stock at local pharmacies.

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