Travelling in taxis is great. Simply hand over an address, sit back and relax, you’ll be there soon.
It might be the more costly offering than buses and trains but often it comes with spectacular moments.
Our trip to Milan was entirely unplanned. We had been on the train for close to 18 hours from France to Italy. Only to find ourselves standing, at midnight, on a train platform in Ventimiglia staring up at a departure board that wouldn’t let us leave the god forsaken town for another 7 hours.
We wandered around looking for somewhere to sleep but the few hotels on offer were too expensive and so, exhausted and bewildered, we tried to sleep on the beach (we weren’t the only people who seemed to have ended up in this situation and I’m still not sure if that was comforting or not). Several hours later and entirely bitten to shit by sand fleas we woke from a very light sleep and decided that we couldn’t move on fast enough.
We had 1 hour to wait until the next train to Milan and 4 hours to wait until the next train to Rome (our original destination). So, without hesitation, we made our way to the platform departing for Milan.
More hours passed on trains, we grew more tired and, even more uncomfortable.
Milan. We found the tourist information to get a map and find a hostel. We settled on one that appeared to be walking distance from the train station and so we set to it.
It was hot, the air was still, and the inhabitants of Milan were beautiful and well dressed, resulting in us standing out like a vegan at a BBQ. Crushed beneath the weight of our over packed back packs, sweating, pallid and bleary eyed we trudged down street after street trying desperately to follow the map.
I’m not sure how long we walked in total but we eventually reached a small grassy area, with shade and a drinking fountain which (according to the map) was exactly where the hostel was located.
We couldn’t see it anywhere.
Like toddlers with inner ear infections we walked in circles around the square we’d arrived at and peered through restaurant windows at the inhumanly beautiful patrons who sipped and chewed with elegance, and didn’t seem to notice the gargoyles only a pane of glass away.
Still unable to find the hostel, we sat, dejected. We sat some more.
By now we noticed that the water fountain had attracted a surplus of mosquitoes and so, getting bitten, we waited, still lost.
Eventually we decided that there was no other option. Despite our restricted budget, we had to sleep and shower (and now, due to the multispecies bites, I had to apply ointment).
Rising from a bench we swung the straps of our bags onto our shoulders and felt the now familiar, sensation of a sweat damp t-shirt being pushed to our spines. Using the now hated map we walked to the nearest main road and hailed a taxi. The map had the hostels name and the hostel circled. We showed this to the driver. He drove.
We didn’t talk much during the journey except to remark on how far the taxi now was from where we had been so certain that the hostel was only minutes ago.
After some time the taxi stopped. We looked around. We still couldn’t see the hostel.
Already we knew better than to get out of the cab and risk waiting around for another to pass. So, we tried again. We don’t speak any Italian and so we pointed and the driver pointed and both parties repeated the word “where” ad nauseam.
Obviously aware the he was dealing with idiots, the driver phoned someone. They spoke. Then, like music.
“Ohhh” he said with knowing. We put the map away, he smiled and he drove.
Things started to look and feel familiar and, before we knew it. We were back at the square where we’d been sitting about 30 minutes ago. Mosquitoes still preying on passers-by and, I’m pretty sure, our sweat still evaporating from the bench.
Past the square we went for about 100 metres, round a corner, down an alley.
Before us stood the hostel. Bejewelled with air con and beds we felt incredibly relieved… then annoyed as the driver asked us for 20 euros. 20 euros to essentially drive us away from our destination and then back again.
We were annoyed, we even felt a little conned. But looking back we were totally lost and it was our driver’s perseverance that got us where we needed to be so…we paid up, slept and finally got that sweet air con going.