Lost in Italy, scared and alone!
Hey mate! Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! What are you up to this holiday? My most favourite things to do are giving a surprise visit to my friends and family, or simply travel to new places. I just cannot stay at home during the holiday. I once wanted to surprise my friend in Switzerland, ended up went to Italy. My Italy trip: lost, scared and alone! How come?
Well, ever since I can remember, I always wanted to travel. My parents are frequent travellers, so I guess it’s something in my blood. They would often tell me about their adventures, and I would think “when is my turn?”
I started to travel without my parents’ supervision when I was 13, though I still had someone who would pick me up at either the train station or airport. When I developed enough self-confidence and near the ripe age of 16, I really enjoy going on adventures and getting lost, though sometimes this led to big problems.
A surprise gone wrong
It’s always good to surprise a friend, but it’s probably best when they live in the same country. I was bored at home in Germany, so I thought maybe it’s worth surprising a friend who lived in Switzerland (which I should have really planned out better in hindsight). It wasn’t until I arrived in front of his house that I found out from a neighbour that my friend and his entire family were on vacation in Norway. I was devastated, I then headed to the Genf Cornavin aka the Genève-Cornavin railway station.
Since I was in the mood to go somewhere, I opted to jump on the first train leaving the station which turned out to be Milan. Italy is only a neighbouring country, so I assumed nothing could go wrong right? Also, I got a discounted ticket because I was a kid, so I took some consolation from this.
Manoeuvring around Milan
The direct train to Milan was precisely how I envisioned it; everyone was sipping on espressos and reading newspapers. I was overjoyed that the 4-hours trip ended but then realised that I needed to figure out where to stay. With no credit cards and limited money, I managed to book a room using Airbnb with my PayPal account (thankfully).
It was around 5.30 pm when I arrived at Milano Centrale. I managed to get a hold of map and tried to establish my bearings in this unfamiliar territory. Nobody spoke English fluently in Milan, so I tried to remember some Italian phrases from the Godfather movies but to no avail.
Anytime I asked a pedestrian or local for directions in English or German, they pointed at the nearby information box and said “info”, helpful indeed. The guy working inside the information kiosk spoke very little English. Not sure though; it might be just his pronunciation that made me didn’t get the information clearly. I thanked him anyway. As time passed, I was becoming more distressed because I had no GPS, internet or roaming data. I decided to go to another infobox and stood in another queue. Each time I spoke to the customer service attendants, I heard different information.
Tired, hungry and frustrated, I did want any adolescent in an unknown city would do, go to McDonald’s. I could sit there, eat, and try to figure out where to get a local sim card. Just as I was heading to the posh (hahaha) restaurant, two young American expats noticed me looking confused and lost. They then approached me to assist.
I showed Emily and Steve my Airbnb address to which Steve started to give me directions towards my destination. I had to interrupt Steve however as I noticed a huge tall guy who looked like a stunt double for Hagrid from Harry Potter. The Hagrid look-alike was perched on his suitcase, and his divine ass crack was showing in public, it was hilarious. I managed to take a photo as you don’t get to see such beautiful opportunities like this. Though, I cannot show you the picture due to content restriction purposes (peace).
After we all laughed, Steve got back to business and gave me the direction but also warned me about the area. The time was 6.27 pm, and the train to get to my accommodation would departure at 6.30 pm, so I skipped dinner and jetted to the train platform.
And then lost again
I got to my location around 7 pm but then realised I had forgotten to buy a sim card. So I had to relive all the pain of asking for directions that I had experienced early in the day (hooray).
In this area, however, the locals would respond with “no English” though one middle-aged man pointed firmly towards a ticket box. The ticket box guy was helpful. He told me I needed to cross the railway towards a dark and desolate path. I was a bit spooked by the fact that it was almost my bedtime, the street was really dark, and I would be the perfect target for a mugger.
After couple minutes walking in the dark, I heard a loud bang. It squeezed up my butthole into my body as I darted back to the station in an absolute fear. Hungry and in need of a sim card, I looked around the station. I came across a girl who was taking pictures of visitors randomly. I assumed she was looking to build up her portfolio, or she was an aspiring artist, but she worked for an organisation instead. She told me that I could use her WIFI but only if I allowed her sharing five pictures of me on her social media. Well, easy!
I enquired if she knew the area, but unfortunately, she didn’t. However, she did offer that I go with her to the local university since most students there spoke English and could help. Even though that could help my situation, I needed to eat and luckily found something traditional German, I mean Turkish, a Kebab restaurant.
I was greeted in Italian as I entered the restaurant. I replied in German (I guess because I was tired and ready to give up). To my surprise, the guy responded back in German. He told me his name was Mustafa and that he used to live in Germany for seven years before moving to Italy. Mustafa’s family could all speak Turkish and German, and some of the waiters in the restaurant spoke basic German too.
I confided in Mustafa how my day had been a total nightmare and he offered to help. He brought Donner to me, and a hungry me devoured the delicious food quickly. Anyway, Mustafa got me a sim card and warned me about the Airbnb accommodations’ neighbourhood to which I immediately cancelled on learning it was extremely dangerous (shoot, no refund). It was cold outside so Mustafa offered me a place to sleep or that I should go to the Milano Central to take a train back to Germany.
Out of Milan and into the unknown, again
Having a Sim card and more importantly, internet, helped me relax a little. I felt empowered again, so that’s why when I went back to the train station I took a train to Rome instead of Home.
I’ve been to Rome before with my family so I guess I had an idea of the city, what could go wrong? I used my phone and booked another Airbnb. By the time I arrived in Rome, it was around midnight. Though I had to take yet another train to get to my accommodation. I managed to talk with the owner, Marc, who was chatty and upbeat. He lived with his father and was in a band.
When I arrived at the accommodation, I met Marc’s father who spoke very little English. He showed me Marc’s room (he thought I was Marc’s friend). Around 3 am, Marc showed up and he slept in the guest room.
In the morning, I found Marc’s dad was about to leave, and Marc was still asleep. He told me to eat breakfast and wait for Marc to wake up. I decided to go shortly after Marc’s dad and took a stroll to many of the iconic landmarks such as the Vatican Museum, Colosseum, Baths of Caracalla and a few others.
I felt like I was in the Gladiator movie because of Rome’s rich historical buildings and preserved architecture. Fortunately, all these hotspots are within the same vicinity, so it was a package trip.
On return to Marc’s place, he was shocked that I was a lot younger than him. I helped him make dinner and Marc prepared a traditional Italian meal. Marc decided to take me on a tour of the city after dinner which looked even better at night. He also showed me how to haggle for bargain postcards and fridge magnets.
We got back home around 11.30 pm, and I booked a flight for the next day. We ended up talking about life, travel and the future into the night. I woke up a little late, and Marc was still asleep. Though we headed out to the airport just in time for lunch. As I checked-in, Marc gave me a parting present, his varsity jacket (which I still have). Thanks Marc, that was really kind of you!
Marc and I remained good friends after the experience which was only strengthened when he came to visit me in Frankfurt. This time I let him stay at mine and gave him a tour.
This blog is more like a special remembrance of my friendship with Marc. Thanks for being an excellent Airbnb host and even better friend!
Alright folks, thanks for reading my blog. Checkout my other blogs here. Don’t forget to share this blog with your friends and family! Have a wonderful holiday!! Ciao!