After Molfetta we drove to Bari... a 25 minute drive on the Autostrada. The driving on the streets of Bari was a bit stressful due to crazy streets, no stop signs, yield signs when no one knows how to yield, scooters suddenly appearing on either side, and cars simply pulling out of intersections forcing me to stop. Driving in Manhattan is a stress free experience compared to this stuff. Needless to say when we saw the Hertz sign there was a collective sigh of relief... Driving in this nutty Italia is finito, completo, fine, full stop. Done. Whew.
Returning the car was painless enough. They even offered to drive us over to the station, avoiding a three block walk dragging luggage, and going down a flight of stairs to a tunnel under the tracks, then back up to the main platform. (Why don't they have car rental offices right at the train stations here?!) They dropped us off right in front of Bari Centrale. Great.
We waited over an hour for the train, then suddenly realized we forgot to get some lunch for the ride... I bought a few snacks and drink from a vending machine... the train pulled in at 1:17pm. Duh. Train arriving right around lunch. Duh, Babbo.
The train was pretty crowded so negotiating luggage was a task. Once we got moving we were fine... train travel here is actually very comfy. Babbo saved the day by cutting up some Altamura bread (still fresh) and getting out thick Tuscan Millefiore honey, cacciacavallo cheese and Nutella for lunch. It satisfied us. We nap a bit, play word games, Lucas plays Minecraft on a Kindle, we snack, more water and Fanta and in four hours we arrived in Rome Termini Station... one of the busiest stations I've ever been in. There are multiple trains pulling in several minutes apart, people everywhere, the signs are not too apparent... yikes. I mean, I've dealt with New York's Penn and Grand Central stations in my life, but I've never seen anything like this.
Then the we couldn't find our driver... they usually hold a card with your name on it and stand by the platform your train comes in on... but no driver and the throngs were so thick it was hard to see through them. A phone call and 15 minutes later, our fast talking, older, yet chic driver Cicelia showed up outside and took us to Gensola, our neat apartment in the Trastevere district... a cool, workaday yet trendy part of town which reminded me of Greenwich Village.
Our apartment is called Gensola in Trastevere. The first floor apartment is modern, stylish and very comfortable. Two bedrooms and two modern baths and a kitchenette on a ground floor of a teeny piazza with steps leading up to the Lugatevere, the road alongside the banks of the Tiber River. Cold air conditioning, powerful water pressure and comfy beds made this place a hit with all of us. Perfect.
And no more driving... I just hope my feet hold up with all the walking I know is ahead of us....
Taking a day trip from our Amalfi Coast apartment, we headed out toward Pompeii... over the mountains and a short autostrada drive away. I've read about all sorts of scams in Italy, many done by gypsies. This one was unexpected... a real shocker:
On the way to Pompeii, I was about to pull into the toll booth of the Autostrada, I noticed a young woman standing, texting, leaning with her back to the toll machine... and the car in front of us almost brushing her pregnant looking belly with their side mirror. Huh?
At first I thought she was ticket taker outside her booth, then it dawned on me. She a gypsy trying to scam people! The way she was leaning and pushing her belly into the car's side mirror, she was forcing drivers to pull out too far from the machine to put money into. Then she takes the money out of your hand to "help", gets the change for you, and pockets some. You have to remember here that when you get change the coins could be 1 or 2 euro pieces... that's $1.27 - $2.60 each coin she pockets. I imagine if you try to put a really big bill in she'd just grab the cash and run over to the lanes in the opposite direction. I guarantee the belly is phony. It looked very squishy when the car mirror pushed into it--like foam.
So, when she tried this with me I growled my very best "Va via!" ("hit the road!") and she shrunk away from my car. I opened my door so I could reach the toll machine and sped off when the toll gate lifted. Imagine this happening at any U.S. highway tollbooth (Again, don't Italians need jobs? How about toll keepers or guards?) I can't stand these human leaches.
By the way, I should mention that while I did carry my wallet in my front pants pocket, I did opt to use a flatter money clip wallet to carry just essentials for each day: our main "points" credit card (with no transfer fees), our dedicated ATM card (we opened an account just for this trip with limited funds in it) and daily cash. I had one of those money belt pouches with me, but never really used it. Instead, I bought a leg wallet from Amazon and used it all the time. The leg wallet was able to carry all of our backup cards (though Lisa kept one in her PacSafe mule bag as another backup) along with all our extra cash. There were only a few days I didn't wear it---when it was too hot for pants and I wore shorts.
We were lucky in Italy. We never got robbed but caught a few trying at times. The best advice I can give is learn the simple expression, "Va Via!" Don't just say it... growl it or yell it. Make noise. There are gypsies dressed as makeshift nuns around the Vatican holding cups for handouts. You can tell their habits aren't correct. In general, do NOT give handouts! These beggars might have a partner who just saw where you keep your money. Charity remains at home--when you travel.
There are other gypsies that toss babies to you to catch (just dolls) and while you are distracted, their kids snatch your purse, camera, etc. There are people at train stations that try to "help" with luggage or with those ticket machines... just don't let anyone help you. Oh, and don't be suckered into taking pictures of or with those fake gladiators outside the Colosseum. They will strong arm you into paying huge fees just to take a picture of them. They are pretty aggressive. Now that I think of it, that guy who was crowding us in the Colosseum gift shop was more than likely trying to pick our pockets.
Toll booth gypsies. Who knew? You see, there are many types of scammers and many ways to pick our pockets without actually putting a hand in there...
Don't forget to SHARE this post with your friends, and let us know what you think by leaving a COMMENT. Gratzie!
And finally, a few days to roam around Rome. (Bad pun). We dread the tourist trappings but of course realize the need to see the Roman Forum, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Sigh... we hate long lines and crowds. Stay tuned to see how and if we solved these problems.