Allora oggi . . . in four weeks, minus a day, I will again board a flight from the west coast of the United States and travel to Roma. This will be my third endeavor with an Italian language immersion program, my third encounter arriving in Roma, my third international no, . . . make that my fourth solo international travel occurrence. More about that thought later. As I prepare for another trip, I find myself reflecting on my past experiences and drawing upon those experiences as I make arrangements. So what exactly have I learned?

  • I’ve learned how to say “buon giorno” without an American accent.
  • I’ve learned acquiring a foreign language as an adult is super hard.
  • I’ve learned that I need challenges to keep life interesting.
  • I’ve learned international travel is empowering and inspires a sense of gratitude.
  • I’ve learned to appreciate my English vocabulary.
  • I’ve learned humility from my Italian vocabulary and
  • I’ve learned to NEVER EVER use a 50 euro note to pay for a 12 euro train ticket at those ticket kiosk in the Roma Termini . . . EVER!

On the return trip during my last visit I purchased a train ticket from Roma Termini to Fiumicino aeroporto the night before my early Sunday morning departure. This rainy cold November evening the train station was bustling with travellers. Since I had euro cash left, I decided to use one of the self-serve ticket kiosk at the station. Apparently the kiosk could not provide enough change for my 50 euros after purchasing the train ticket. At this point the machine spits out a receipt like a Vegas slot machine when cashing out. I am left standing with receipt in hand and no idea where to “cash out” to use a Vegas term.

After standing in line at four different locations desperately searching for an answer to my simple question, my patience had worn thin. The Italians are not known for their efficiency with bureaucratic settings and I found it impossible to feel a speck of enthusiasm or any allure for the Italian way. I swear I am not making up this next part.  Finally I stumbled upon the customer service counter with several of those self-serve take a number kind of machines. Jackpot! At last I figure out how to get one of those machines to spit out a number and then I wait with the hundreds of other travellers needing customer service from Trenitalia. With time on my hands I read the various signs, watch the numbers come up on the overhead electronic board and realize that different self-serve number giving machines are for different kinds of customer service questions. Seriously! At this point I am desperate . . . I take a numbered ticket from each of the machines hoping to enhance my odds (like Vegas) of finding the correct customer service agent to assist with my dilemma.

If you have ever played bingo with more than one card you know the anxiety associated with keeping an eye on all the numbers in order to NOT miss your bingo. This was my anxiety with the customer service board and all those numbers flashing that directed travellers to the correct agent. I MISSED one of my numbers when it flashed on the board AND I do not care . . . I head over to the available agent once he finishes with another traveller. This customer service agent waves his hand vaguely pointing in the direction of where I need to go. OHHH NO . . . I am having none of this ambiguous response to my question. I stand there repeating in Italian no capito and dove until this agent was sufficiently and visually frustrated with me. Evidently he doesn’t really know where I am supposed to cash out my receipt. Luckily for both of us the agent at the next counter clearly knows and shows both of us where I need to go for my cash out change. If you are wondering, the cash out place is located in a large glass room with several ATM type machines and an armed police officer standing guard at the entrance. By the way, I did get my change.