Returning to Rome: A Journey Filled with Unexpected Twists

Stacey at Gaeta train stazione - featured image

Duffelbagspouse Adventures Beyond the Bag

I’m back in Rome and it feels like coming home. As I stepped off the plane, the familiar excitement of being back to Rome hit me. The city’s lively noise greets me like an old friend. I love Rome for its surprises around every corner, where a simple wrong turn can lead you to something ancient. It’s the first city I explored on my own years ago. I’ve been inside the Coliseum, walked through the Forum, and even tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain, making a promise to come back one day. Today, I’m keeping that promise. Returning to Rome is more than just a trip; it’s like revisiting the place where my love for travel and adventure first began. It feels great to be back in Rome again.

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The Flight to Rome

Returning to Rome meant a 9-hour flight. And that flight was horrible, but not for the reasons I thought it would be. I had the chance to upgrade for $200, but I still need to. That was a mistake. My seat, 50L, was on the plane’s second to last row. And it was tight. I sat next to an old Italian lady who needed everything from the meal choices to general instructions translated by her son, who didn’t possess an inside voice. She was so old I only got up once in nine hours on that plane because it took her 20 minutes to leave her seat. I usually prefer the window seat, but it is a pain on a packed flight under these circumstances.

In addition, a long-haired service dog was sitting in the last row right under my feet. That’s the last thing you want to hear when you have to take Zyrtec and Singulair every single day. If not, I’ll die sneezing, scratching, or clearing my throat. So I asked for some water and figured I’d double up on my meds.

A Few Missteps

I hit a snag right from the start. When checking in on the United Airlines app, they offered to check my carry-on for free since the flight was full. I agreed, forgetting to remove my laptop and meds first. This mistake left me anxious about my laptop being stolen and unable to double up on my medication during the flight.

However, despite these problems, an unexpected calm came from the quiet old lady sitting in the center seat. She barely made a sound throughout the flight. However, she occasionally offered comforting gestures like a smile or a pat on my hand without being provocative. It was almost as if she sensed my distress. I even found myself looking out for her, standing guard, when she left her door unlocked for the bathroom that one time I stretched my legs.

The journey took another turn when I lost my earbuds halfway through the flight. They rolled out of my ears and disappeared behind my seat. I tried to catch the right one but couldn’t grab it in time. I heard a light thud as it landed behind me, near the sleeping pooch. After we landed, I managed to crawl behind the seat to look for it but only found one. Oh well, I hope he likes hip-hop, rain on tin roofs, and Afrobeats—who doesn’t?

Kosher Meal

I don’t eat pork, so I often pre-order a halal, vegetarian, or kosher meal. If you order a special meal, you can avoid pork because it is not on the menu in these cuisines. You will also be served first no matter where you sit on the plane, which is a bonus.

However, both the meals served on this flight could have been better. Dinner was carb overloaded– breaded curry chicken on a bed of white rice with a serving of white rice. Breakfast was a thick brioche roll with a thin layer of dry tuna salad. Tuna was just too much for 6 am after a nine-hour flight. Luckily, a couple of granola bars did make it into my bag, so I didn’t starve.

The Train From Rome to Gaeta

Nine hours and 3 bottles of wine later, I landed at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. Ashley couldn’t make it to Rome due to an appointment, so she sent Kamren, my grandson, instead. Kamren tends to get lost easily, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw him waiting for me at the exit terminal.

Together, we had to navigate two train rides—one to Termini Station, Rome’s central train hub, and then a regional train to Gaeta, the town where they currently live.

We took a train from Rome to Gaeta, and right from the start, it was pretty clear this wasn’t going to be an ordinary trip. Leaving the busy city of Rome and spray paint tagged buildings behind. The scenery started changing quickly. Fields of olive trees and vineyards passed by my window, making everything look like those classic Italian postcards you see.

As we got closer to Gaeta, I could start seeing the sea. That first peek of the blue water got me really excited. Gaeta’s known for its beautiful coast, and it was living up to the hype even before I got there.

When I finally arrived, Gaeta was as charming as I hoped. The sea was right there, bright and inviting. The town itself felt cozy, tucked between the beach and some hills. Walking around, you could feel that mix of history and a laid-back beach vibe. The locals seemed friendly, adding to that welcoming feeling.

The trip from Rome to Gaeta might have been short, but it showed me so much of what makes Italy special. It’s about the beautiful views, yes, but also about feeling that connection to a place and its people. Watching the sunset over the sea in Gaeta was the perfect end to the journey. It’s moments like these that make traveling worth it.

Important Train Information

There is a lot of help at the train station. But there is one thing you need to remember. When purchasing a train ticket, it must be stamped at one of the green terminals near the tracks. You can also check-in with your digital ticket.This process validates your ticket for the day’s travel, ensuring it can’t be reused or modified. Failing to do this can result in a hefty fine.

*** Don’t check-in until your on the platform. If you check-in and miss your train, you’re out of luck. Regional trains are assigned at ticketing.

Kamren learned this lesson the hard way. The ticket from Gaeta to Rome costs €22, but the fine for not stamping that ticket jumps to €50, and they enforce it right there and then. On our return trip, we found that little green box.

Also, grab a snack. Not all trains serve food, and although I didn’t see anyone eating or drinking, l was told it’s allowed. The train we rode had two levels, but the storage racks were on the lower level. The overhead racks upstairs were only large enough for a coat or large purse. The train is a very convenient mode of transportation in Italy. If you plan to use it, I highly suggest you pack light.

Lock the Toilet Door

Here’s a heads-up based on first-hand knowledge. Make sure to lock the bathroom door on the train. These doors are not your average ones; they’re oval and open mechanically with a button. So, here’s what happened: I accidentally pressed the open button, not realizing a girl was using the toilet inside. She forgot to lock the door. As the door slowly revealed her mid-use, all I could manage was a quick “so sorry” before pressing the button again to close it. But just like it opens, the door closes slowly, making the moment (and the embarassment) lasts a lot longer. Lesson learned: always double-check that lock to avoid awkward surprises.

Conclusion

In the end, everything turned out okay. I didn’t need my medicine after all, and my laptop was just fine in my checked bag. It looked like someone even moved it to a safer spot in my suitcase, which was really nice of them. My return to Rome includes a tour of its newest coffee spots. But Steven was right, like he usually is; walking around Rome is a lot easier when you’re not dragging a bunch of bags with you. It’s like Rome itself; it wasn’t built in a day, and I’ll be able to see it another day.

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