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Roaming out of Rome

I left Rome in the gloomy rainy November dawn. It was very early, the streets were uncharacteristically quiet. Street lights glinted in the greasy puddles on the bitumen. The metro ride to Termini station was uncrowded, perhaps even pleasant.

I bought my ticket at a Trenitalia ticket machine at Termini, the terminal spitting out a stiff cardboard ticket of immense size, even more substantial than an airline boarding pass. I passed through the tall glass gates to catch the Leonardo Express, the train from Termini to Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino some thirty kilometres to the west.

Trenitalia has no business calling this train the Leonardo “Express”. Yes, it runs non-stop from Termini to Fiumicino. Yes, it is a very nice train with high-backed seats, plentiful luggage space, and more than enough power points and USB ports. But it crawls along the tracks the entire way. The Leonardo Express shares the same tracks as all-stations suburban services and consequently gets stuck behind the slow trains. I felt that I could have walked to the airport quicker.

I was rather impressed by Leonardo da Vinci Airport. Once again I felt that eerie cognitive dissonance tinged with jealousy - how does such a dysfunctional country with such corrupt politicians and unstable governments as Italy manage to build such amazing infrastructure?

A cute little driverless people mover took me swiftly to a satellite terminal where I waited for my Qatar Airways flight to Doha. As the plane took off I got a good view of the mouth of the Tiber and the town of Civitavecchia, once Rome’s port, before the scene was obscured by the low clouds.

The clouds cleared by the time we crossed the Ionian Sea and passed over Greece. The Greek scenery down below was superb - stunning coastlines, soaring mountains, a cobalt blue sea studded with alluring islands, peninsulas and isthmuses. The plane also passed other Athens. I now understood why Athens has such intense air pollution. The city is a crowded metropolis of mid-rise buildings squeezed into a bowl-shaped basin surrounded by a ring of high hills. There scarcely seemed to be an acre of green space in the entire urban area save for around the Acropolis.

The clouds and desert haze returned somewhere after Cyprus. I passed the time watching Head Full of Honey starring Nick Nolte, a cloyingly saccharine film about a grandfather with dementia taking his granddaughter on a railway adventure across Europe to Venice. It wasn’t Old Nick’s best work. As schmalzy as the movie was, it brought back memories of my own beloved Granddad’s struggle with Alzheimer’s.

The plane landed at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar shortly after sunset. I had a wait for a couple of hours in this rather pleasant, well laid out airport. I took the opportunity to stretch my legs, go for a long walk around the terminal and ride the people mover just for laughs to mentally and physically prepare myself for the long, long stretch home.

Posted by urbanreverie 08:35 Tagged airport train italy rome qatar airways doha

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