Rome Day Five; Getting out of Dodge
Time to leave Rome. The question was how? We had car reservations from the Termini Train Station (which was about 1.5 miles, give or take, from our apartment). Walking 1.5 miles with three children *and* luggage was less than appealing.
We considered the buses. Routes 40 and 64 would both get us there. However, after some research, we decided this also may be a bad idea. It seems these buses can be "the most expensive rides in town" (the expense due to heavy pick pocketing). Three children and luggage would leave us exposed to those who might take advantage. Therefore we decided to take taxis (plural).
Most taxis in Rome only hold four people. Five people and luggage would be a tight fit indeed. We could’ve called a larger taxi but I was told the meter starts when the taxi leaves it’s current location. Therefore it made more sense to take two.
We walked the couple of blocks to Piazza Navona where the taxis gathered. Our car reservation was for 10:00 am and we arrived at the Piazza at 9:00 am. Thus we decided to have a bit of breakfast and waste a bit of time.
Up until this point we’d had breakfast standing at the bar. Our breakfasts had been typically running 12 to 14 euros (five pastries, two cappuccinos and three other drinks). On this day, however, the children were whining and we chose to sit down. Bad idea. In comparison a sit down breakfast, containing essentially the same items, cost 35 euros. Point taken. Stand at the bar no matter how much the kids fuss.
After our shocker of a breakfast we caught our rides. Little and I took one taxi and Middle, the Boy and Mr. Peculiar took another taxi. My ride was 10 euros, the Mister’s was 15 euros. The difference, I think, was the luggage charge.
At the train station we had to ask where the car rental booths were -- platform 24. Our reservations were made through Auto Europe. Therefore we stood in line at Auto Europa. We questioned whether we were in the right place. Then I compared logos -- the one on the paperwork to the one on the Auto Europa sign. They matched. We had to to be in the right place. Not.
Turn out that, yes, we’d made our reservations Auto Europe but our pick up location was through EuropCar (which was clearly stated on the paperwork if we had read a little further). Alas another line and another lesson learned (read your paperwork dummy).
Now another line normally wouldn’t be an issue (we were getting used to waiting). However our taxi driver had mentioned that a big protest was planned at 11:00 am, that very day, at the train station. Romans from near and far were to gather to revolt against austerity. If this were to occur we could very well be stuck in Rome. I was hoping the protestors would be on Roman time and show up at say -- twelve o'clock or even one. At any rate I didn't want to stick around and find out.
Finally we got to the front of the rental line. We had our passports and international driver’s licenses at the ready. The paperwork went quickly. Then another chink in the armor. Our car was to be driven around; the driver would meet us outside.
Hmmm. I had very specific directions on how to get out of Rome; how to get out of Rome from the parking garage. Not how to get out of Rome from the front of the station. Eeek.
And then our car came. I had rented a Volkwagen Toureg (or equivalent). We got the equivalent -- a 3008 Peugeot. The Mister nearly had a meltdown. Our Peugot, in his mind, was NOT equivalent. Our luggage, though relatively small, barely fit (though, with some creative squishing, it did).
I felt we should take what we could get and get the hell out of dodge before the protests started. After all the five of us and our luggage were safely stowed in the car. The Mister wanted to march back in to the rental place and complain.
After some stomping and choice words, he agreed to let it go. We had to find reverse (this was a stick shift, as were most rentals in our price range). We also had to figure out the parking brake --which turned out to be a funny button in front of the stick.
Now on to the streets of Rome. My directions starting from the front of the garage turned out to be useless. We did not pay additional for a GPS unit. Therefore we decided to wing it (loosely based on the directions I had).
We drove down one street, turned in front of the station, turned right again and skirted around the station, right again behind the station, then left, left again, right, left, left, under a train track and miraculously (by the hair of our chinny chin chin) we were on the road that lead to the Grande Raccordo Anulare (GRA).
The GRA is a main highway that circles around Rome. Off this circle are the exits for the Autostrada that lead to where ever one might want to go.
But first one must get on the GRA by following the green directional signs. We missed such a sign and had to turn around. At this point the Mister, already frustrated, decided to do as the Romans do. He swung a u-turn, cut a few people off, made some outlandish gestures and let out a few obscenities. Truth-be-told he was rather enjoying himself. Rome allowed him to drive the way he’d always wanted.
Me? I was just trying to keep my underwear clean.
Our second time around we found the GRA. The next question was where to find the A1 -- the Autostrada that led us out of town. For all the research I did I had no idea if the A1 was on this side of the GRA or on the complete opposite end of town. Plus there was traffic. Oi!
Serendipitously the A1 showed up shortly thereafter and, despite all, we were on our way to Tuscany ...