About 300 years ago writers, philosophers and artists from all over Europe travelled to Italy to discover its beauty and live and breathe centuries of art and culture. With their slow carriages they crossed an entire continent, riding for many weeks, facing the unexpected with the goal of being repaid by southern treasures.
I travel regularly to Italy, to go back home. I turn on my Mac, I connect to the internet, I visit a couple of websites to search for the lowest fare and puff when once again Ryanair beats any other company when it comes to cheap fares.
We all agree. The initial enthusiasm for the company that introduced low-cost flights in Europe has died long time ago. Today Ryan means stricked rules and insidious footnotes that hide behind every contract line. I would not be surprised to find out that a team of psychologists are already studying the typical travel stress caused by flying with the yellow and blue airline.
My trip to Italy begins with the preparation of a hand baggage which must be strictly 20x40x55 with a maximum weight of 10Kg. Unfortunately I do not own Ryanair officially approved suitcases. I pray that my 24x24x50 hand-bag does not raise suspicions at the boarding gate.
The night before the flight I dream of airport controls comparable to Nazi inspections.
I fortunately remember to print my boarding pass at home and avoid paying a mandatory fine of €40 for last minute check-in. Courtesy of Ryanair.
At the airport I do everything possible to disguise my luggage while I carefully scan the equipment of the other passengers. I watch the flight attendants while determining who can pass the luggage test and embark without paying surcharges.
The flight is a continuous sale: duty free products, lottery tickets, car rentals, shuttle transfers to and from the airport and much more. A hostess draws the attention of distracted and bored passengers by promising her colleague Paul will demonstrate the use of the aircraft's sauna and jacuzzi. A moment of silence is followed by general laughter, followed by new chatting indicating loss of attention during the instructions for emergency conduct code.
We get to Rome later than scheduled. Luckily I spare myself the 45 minute wait at the luggage belt. Courtesy of Italian Airports.
By the time to I get out the police closes Ciampino airport for unknown reasons. The arrival of firefighters and ambulance follows. I am just glad I am not trapped inside.
I miss the bus to Rome city centre because of my flight's delay and dare to go look for another one. I am assaulted by Roman ticket sellers who lie about the departure time of their bus to Rome.
When the bus finally arrives about 70 passangers rush towards the entrance of the vehicle. With a little wrestling (Al Cogan style) I get on board.There's still a couple of empty seats. We are not moving till the bus is filled like an egg.
Meanwhile, competitor lines arrive. The three cars are parked and now filled with paying passengers.
Everybody checks out the window to make sure their vehicle will be the first to leave the airport.
I am exhausted, frustrated, in Italy since half hour and already wanting to leave. I hate Rome, Romans, Italians.
The bus finally leaves. We get out of Ciampino Airport. On my left side I can see some Roman ruins in the fields. They stand out in the night, lit up in warm orange lights. Above them a few stars. I am calm again. Suddenly I remember why I'm in Italy, what Italy means. I feel like Goethe, like Ingres. I feel good.
At least until I get to Termini where I hop on bus 105 and the inhuman stench pervading my lungs makes it impossible to breathe until my destinantion.
Welcome home. Welcome Home.