Have you ever done something knowing it’s for the last time, and you’ve said to yourself, “This is the last time I’m ____”? That was my standard line to myself on my last evening before leaving for my flight home from Rome. Every sentence ended with the words “…in Europe.” “This is the last time I’m packing my suitcase in Europe.” “This is my last breakfast….” “This is my last train ride….” I couldn’t believe that my trip was coming to an end, and I found myself getting choked up each time I completed one of my “last times.”
I had a 6:50 a.m. train reservation from Florence to Roma Termini where a driver was meeting me at 8:30 a.m. to drive me directly to the airport. I began thinking that it was silly of me to leave that early for the airport considering that my flight wasn’t until 2:40 p.m. Before leaving for Europe, however, I had read that transportation strikes were common in Italy, so I hired a private driver to ensure my being able to arrive at the airport on time.
When I returned from Tuscany late that night, I discovered that Marco was waiting up for me so he could ask me what time I wanted a taxi to pick me up in the morning. He then made a reservation before going to bed so there would be a cab waiting for me out front by 6:15 a.m.
Although I had told Marco that I could buy breakfast at the train station, Marco insisted on preparing a very early breakfast for me. It was still dark outside, but when I went into the dining room at 5:45 a.m., the table was already set for my breakfast. What a sweet, dear man.
“This is my last breakfast in Europe.”
Once again, I used sheer willpower so I wouldn’t polish off Rosanna’s delicious homemade apricot preserves.
After breakfast, I went into my bedroom to gather my suitcases. Marco kept checking the front window so he could let me know when the taxi was out front; he wouldn’t allow me to stand outside with my luggage to wait for its arrival. I had to compose myself in my bedroom so I wouldn’t cry when I was saying goodbye to Marco because I had grown so fond of him. When Marco told me that the taxi had arrived, I could barely and only choke out, “Thank you for your kindness, Marco.” Marco kissed me on my cheeks; I quickly gave him a hug goodbye, and I hurried downstairs before he could see me start to cry. I’m such a crybaby! My taxi driver was waiting and quickly drove me to the train station.
“This is my last train ride in Europe.”
After I had settled in on the train, I chatted with a very nice couple from the States who were celebrating their wedding anniversary by traveling through Italy. The woman told me that she had heard that there was a bus strike in Rome. See?!? I finally felt vindicated about my wanting to arrive early at the airport.
My driver was standing at the end of my train platform when I arrived at Roma Termini. YAY…I felt so rich! Little did he know. ;) My driver spoke with a beautiful Italian accent, was impeccably dressed in a suit, and with his bald head and sunglasses, he was striking, looking like a cross between a young Telly Savalas and Paul Shaffer from the David Letterman Show.
We talked the entire time during our drive together through Rome. As we drove past various monuments, my driver gave me interesting pieces of information about Rome’s rich history. He pointed out the Servian Wall, c. 500 BC. I repeat…c. 500 BC. I sat there dumbfounded that all of this had slipped past me during what amounted to my measly 1-1/2 days in Rome.
“This is the last time I’m riding through Rome, and it’s painfully apparent to me now that this glorious city escaped me.”
It seemed that it was taking a while to arrive at the airport. Was my driver proudly giving me a quick mini tour of his home city?
Trying to find a connection, I told my driver that my ex-husband was Italian whose family had originated from Lucca. He was VERY interested in that. He said, “Do you want to know something that is true about all Italian men?” Yes, please. “Italian men are not jealous.” So there you have it. Italian men…who live in Italy…are not jealous. This is very, very good information to know. Seriously.
During our conversation, I told my driver that I’m a photographer and that I regretted not seeing both Rome and Florence as I should have. He said, “Not if, but WHEN you return to Rome, you must visit for five days. Because of its size, you should only spend two days in Florence. Travelers sometimes plan their trip incorrectly by spending five days in Florence and only two days in Rome. It should be the other way around. I know this city well, and I could take you on a private tour, taking you to the best photographic sites…but you must ask for me.”
I told the driver that I didn’t know his name. He said, with his beautiful Italian accent, “My name is Dave.” DAVE??? I told him, “But your name can’t be Dave….you’re Italian! It needs to be something like Giovanni or Mario or Francesco!” Dave explained by saying, “My full name is Davide. I lived in New York for two years. When I lived there, my friends told me, ‘You need a cool name,’ so they called me Dave. My name is cool now.” So, Dave, it is. Ask for Dave at Rome Cabs; he IS a cool guy.
When we arrived at the airport, being the Italian gentleman that he is, Dave opened my car door for me and gave me a kiss on both cheeks when saying goodbye. He was charming. Yes, you really must ask for Dave.
Because I arrived so early at the airport, I stopped for a cup of coffee, and I accidentally clipped a man’s heel with my luggage cart. After I had apologized, I began a conversation with this man and his wife. It turned out that they live in Halifax, and they had just completed a bike tour through Europe. They asked where I had been traveling and, to simplify it, I explained that I had flown to Amsterdam and then traveled south from city to city down to Rome, photographing and blogging as I traveled. With a smile on his face, the man said, “We would never photograph Europe…we rode our bikes through Europe. THAT’S how you experience Europe.” Was I mistaken or did he just jab me, not so subtly hinting that I DIDN’T experience Europe simply because I photographed while I was traveling? Did he think that I saw nothing? What were all of those emotions I felt as I traveled through Europe, so many of them bringing me to tears…nonexperiences?!?
Suddenly, the view of passersby walking through the terminal became more interesting than the conversation I had engaged in. I quickly said goodbye and left.
“This is the last time I have to carry this suitcase in Europe.”
Bag check, please!