Viewpoint: Traveling Italy with spontaneity brings challenges

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

My mom and I should have known our eight-day trip through Italy would be less than ordinary.

For as long as I can remember, traveling with the Mardirosian family reflected Murphy’s Law, yet somehow we always managed to leave said vacation spot with lots of great memories.

Why are our trips so chaotic and confused at times? Most families plan every detail of their vacation months and months in advance. Not my mom. She is a much more of a ‘go with the flow’ type of traveler, it is always an adventure with her, and Italy was no different.

Our excursion began in Madrid, where I had just finished a five-week study abroad program with Baylor. I was more than excited for my mom to arrive so I could show her around my favorite spots in Madrid before taking off for Rome.

When we departed for Rome the only thing we had secured were flights and a hotel in Rome for three of our eight nights in the country.

Despite our lack of an itinerary or basic grasp of Italian, we were optimistic and enthusiastic.

The chaos of our trip started before we even departed from Spain. Instead of boarding the plane the American way, we descended stairs from the loading bridge and took a 15-minute ride through the entire airport weaving our way around idle planes along the tarmac.

We finally arrived at a plane so far out on the tarmac I could barely make out the airport, and everyone began to board the steep stairs up to the aircraft. Little did I know this was just a sampling of what was in store for us over the next week.

Once we arrived in Rome, it wasn’t long before we realized everyone was speaking to us in Spanish. Weird, I thought. I could have sworn I just left Spain. But I went with it since my mom and I knew absolutely no Italian (aside from “gelato”), and my mom is fluent in Spanish.

At least I thought she was before this trip.

My mom and I quickly became confused with all the different languages we were trying and sometimes failing to speak: Italian, Spanish, English. We had such a hard time trying to keep them straight my mom would often mistakenly throw a “merci” out there whenever she was trying to thank someone.

After exploring the Eternal City, we decided to head for Milan. Why not, right? We went to the train station and bought tickets for an overnight train, thinking we could maximize our time by spending one night in transit.

My mom explained she had heard nothing but “good things” about traveling through Europe on trains, and she assured me we would be more than safe.

Oh, how wrong she was.

We climbed the stairs to the train, and I almost fainted at the smell lurking aboard. Surely I was not going to spend the next seven hours smelling sweaty body odor mixed with rotten eggs and salami sandwiches. The smell was just the beginning of my problems. The passengers onboard this overnight train looked like they had all just been released from the Italian equivalent of a state penitentiary. We finally found our car, which thankfully had two normal Australian passengers who were equally as terrified as we were. This was not the type of crowd you want to be stuck with in a foreign country.

We arrived in Milan in one piece and from there set out for Venice. It was smooth sailing (on the gondolas) in Venice, and I was amazed at how perfect our trip had become.

It turned out my mom and I had not quite learned our lesson from the first overnight train experience. Our last stop on our excursion through Italy was set to be the picturesque Amalfi Coast. We quickly scanned the options of trains heading to the coast and decided on the town of Salerno, since the Australian passengers had recommended a great hotel there to stay at.

We realized our train would be arriving at 3 a.m. local time once we were already about on board.

We arrived in Salerno unsure of which direction we should walk in order to find a place to sleep other than outside on the ground. When we stopped to ask a nice Italian cop in a gelato shop “dónde está un hotel” (yes, we were still trying to speak Spanish), he shrugged us away, only interested in his dessert.

Merci, thanks for your help.

We somehow managed to find the nicest hotel in the town (finally some good luck), and not much else went awry for the rest of our vacation.

It was quite the experience traveling somewhat like backpackers through Italy with my mom, and it was the best vacation we’ve had so far.

We didn’t learn any lessons about planning or itineraries, which means when we go back to Italy with the rest of my family we will have even more ridiculous stories, though I desperately hope none concern overnight trains.

Jade Mardirosian is a senior journalism news-editorial major from Houston and a Lariat staff writer.