We always fly coach. But this was a grade below that. The four of us lurch around in the tail of the plane, in earshot (and smellshot) of the sloshing toilet water. The air blows so cold and dry that Trish gets a sore throat, Emma a nosebleed and me, a cracked lip. As we attempt to catch a few hours sleep, the teenage boys behind us play a card game that involves punching and slapping. It’s only a 7-hour flight, but it feels twice as long.
The arrival in Rome is super-easy. No matter how many times we do this, Emma and Lily have trouble sorting out why we (or anybody for that matter) needs security, customs and passport control. But they are good at looking cute for the uniformed workers and we breeze through.
The airport train to Rome Termini station is not part of our Eurail passes so we pay the fare (12E) and push on with the crowds of International travelers. I stay in the back with the bags; Trish up-front with the girls for the hour ride.
We’re tired, but it’s 10am and the station bustles with Italians and tourists with Easter week travel plans. At Rome, we race across 30 platforms of trains to make a failed attempt at a reserve train to Venice leaving in 10 minutes. Instead, our fate is to stand in a long line to get seats on the next one, which fortunately leaves only an hour later. We get some coffee, but can’t shake the jetlag.
We board the right train but make a noob mistake and get on the wrong car. Bounced from our seats, we have to crawl 5 cars back with the two 50 pound suitcases and hand luggage through standing-room-only people sitting on bags in the aisles. Sweaty and tired, the espresso buzz long gone, Trisha and I pass-out on the 3.5 hour train ride to Venice. The girls do the same.
Somewhere in Florence we awaken, and our mouths are parched. The dry airline flight, coffee and exercise of running for trains has us all dehydrated. In our jet-lagged hurry we forgot to buy water and this train has no food stand. We’re on the dehydration superhighway with no exit in sight.
The Venice train station empty’s-out right on the canal. We crowd on the water taxi for our first whiffs of that unforgetttable mixture of Venetian smells; brackish seawater, sewage and delicious food being served in open-air cafes.
Up and down, we cross 7 step-bridges to our hotel that’s about 3/4s of a mile from the water taxi at Rialto Bridge. Trish did a good job finding an inexpensive place! It’s a cute 6 room place and they immediately serve us some juice and water, which we gulp down like we’ve never seen the stuff before. Along the way are hundreds of beautiful antique, fashion and food stores including several with Ventian masks.
We refresh with a shower and the girls watch I,Carly in Italian. They’ve seen the episode so many times that they know all the words in english. Trish and I can’t get a good internet connection, but we manage to coax my phone into telling us the location of a restaurant recommended by Clare Weaver (Thanks Clare!) Trattoria alla Madonna is an unassuming place off the main canal near Rialto Bridge. Our waiter charms the pants off Trish, and we get the best fresh grilled Sea Bass we’ve ever had. Maybe our 36th hour of sleep and water deprivation clouds our judgement, but we don’t care. It’s amazing, and we’ve arrived with 9 more days of Italy fun to go!