So, rather belatedly, I can report that we arrived in Rome at the beginning of July. We last visited Rome in November 1998. It doesn’t feel that long ago, but then it does. You know what I mean.
Our arrival this time was quite different. The first time we arrived exhausted, in the early morning, after a long flight from the other side of the world. This time we arrived fresh, flying in from Amman, on a very pleasant almost four-hour flight on Royal Jordanian. (I have to say we were very pleased with all our flights on Royal Jordanian. They were cheap, the service was good, there was sufficient leg-room even in economy, and we had spare seats beside us on both our longer flights with the airline. And the new airport at Amman is excellent. Even the buses to the smaller RJ planes were air-conditioned). There was no jet-lag, only a very civilised one hour time change. It was easier than flying across to Australia.
Rome’s Fiumicino Airport though was distinctly less pleasant. Dropped off at an obscure entrance by the air-conditioning-less bus that took us from the plane, we queued for ages to go through a single security scanner. Finally getting through that, we emerged into the airport expecting, well, something different from what we found. And what we found was a melee of passengers from our, and other, flights. Only a few immigration counters were open, there was no queuing system, and everyone just crowded in. Time passed. Interminably. It was hot. Crowded. Oppressive.
Then some new counters opened. People rushed to get a spot. About 20 minutes later, some more counters opened. There was a mad rush of people. I feared that someone would slip and get crushed. Nothing was organised, or controlled. Only once did authority show its face. “Stay behind the yellow line,” shouted (I assume) one of the immigration officers. The reaction from the crowd was instant. There was scornful laughter, and slow clapping. Mob mentality was only one or two incidents away. In all my travels, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any immigration control so completely unorganised.
Still, I guess people are basically orderly (especially when they want to enter a country), and finally, about an hour and a half after landing, we made our way successfully through immigration. Of course, by then our bags had been off-loaded from the baggage carousels, along with hundreds of others. But we found them. That is, once we finally found the board that advised where our flight’s baggage had gone. Most airports have a list immediately at the exit to immigration, so you can go straight to the right place. Logical, you’d think? Yes maybe. But not apparently, here.
Still, we had got there, with our luggage, and we were finally in the country.
Benvenuti in Italia.