The last two days we spent in our lovely apartment were gray and gloomy, which made it a bit easier to pack everything back up into our suitcases and leave it behind. So on Friday we made our final goodbyes to our temporary home, and lugged our very heavy bags up the 100 steps from our apartment to the street above to meet our taxi. Our first stop was ACMT, where we deposited all but our carryons, and our second stop was the port. We picked up our tickets at 4pm, and were told that the ferry (which departs at 10pm) wouldn’t start boarding until 8. So we spent a couple of hours wandering around the harbor area and acting like tourists. We sat at an outdoor cafe and drank a local beer, and made our way to the Super Konzum to pick up some snacks to bring on board. At 7 we went to the ferry terminal, where we hung out until they boarded the ferry at 8.
The ferry is *big*–big enough to carry not just tour groups, but also the buses that they travel in! There was a group of about 40 Japanese tourists who, along with their bus, were making the trip from Dubrovnik to Bari. Overall, though, the ship was nearly empty, since this is still the low season for them. Some of the restaurants on board were closed, as was the duty free shop.
When you board the ferry (after going through passport control, where the officer gave a much more thorough examination of each passport than I’ve ever seen at an airport), if you’re staying in a cabin there’s a reception desk where you stop to pick up your key. We’d splurged on a cabin with its own shower, because I knew we wouldn’t get to our housing in Rome until 5pm the next day. It wasn’t luxurious, but it was clean and serviceable.
We dropped our stuff, and then headed to the only open concession on the boat, the café bar. A few backpackers had staked out corner boots for their sleeping bags, but it was mostly empty. We decided to have a celebratory drink to celebrate the beginning of our vacation.
Then we headed out on deck to admire Gruž (the neighborhood around the port) and Babin Kuk (across the harbor, where Lane lived this quarter) in the evening light. It was quite beautiful to see the harbor area lit up as we finally pulled out of dock and headed out to sea. (That’s the photo at the top of this post.)
After we were well off from shore, we headed to bed, since it had been a long and tiring day for both of us. I didn’t sleep terribly well–I don’t know if it was being on a boat, being in a somewhat uncomfortable bed, or just being too wired up about the end of our time in Croatia and the start of our trip to Italy. But 6:30am came around way too fast. I showered (yay!) and headed up to eat breakfast (which we’d prepaid with our ticket–about 8 euros for the buffet. It wasn’t awful food, but it wasn’t anything special, either. As I ate, I could see the coast of Italy out the window, so from there I went up to enjoy the view as we approached Bari.
The port at Bari was not exactly a model of efficiency. We lined up with about 100 other people in the non-EU citizens line. Have I mentioned that Croatians aren’t very good at queueing? You know how when you’re stuck in traffic, there’s always some jerk who comes barreling up the emergency lane trying to cut in front of people at the last minute? Croatians are like that with every line. Add to that the fact that there wasn’t anybody even *working* at passport control until nearly 45 minutes after we arrived, and you’ve got a 90+-minute frustrating wait before you can evenget out of the terminal. And when you do, the signage at the Bari port is basically non-existent. We’d planned to walk to the train station, but finding our way out of the fenced-port proved more than we could manage, so we gave up and paid 20 euros to take a taxi there. We validated our Eurail passes, dropped our luggage at the “Left Luggage” desk, and spent a couple of hours exploring the part of Bari near the train station.
I managed to acquire an Italian SIM card while we were there, from the local provider TIM. The SIM card cost me 20 euros, but came with a balance of 20 euros on it. The woman at the shop, who spoke no English, set me up with a plan that provides 500MB of data, 200 minutes of talk time, and 200 SMS for 2 euros a week. Once I had the phone, I was able to figure out how to add another 1GB of data for 10 euros (no reason not to, since I had the 20 euro credit). We got some coffee, and explored a local park, and finally made our way back to the 1:17pm Frecciargento high-speed train that took us from Bari to Rome.
We had second-class seats, which were reasonably comfortable, but which provided minimal leg room since we were facing each other and kept bumping each other’s feet. We did, however, have free wifi and power outlets, which was a nice perk.
The train arrived pretty much on on time in Rome (at about 5:30pm), and after stopping at the Tourist Information office to buy our Roma Passes (more on that in the next blog entry), we found the #90 bus outside Termini station, and rode it the three stops to our AirBnB lodging, “The Gap of Porta Pia.” Roberto, our host, was waiting outside for us, and despite his lack of English skills was incredibly welcoming and helpful. The location is wonderful, and the apartment is clean and well-equipped. I wouldn’t mind larger towels, and the bed isn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever been in, but for $65/night you can’t beat the combination of price and location!
Today has been a whirlwind of Roman tourism, and I’ll write another post summing up our experiences in Rome either later tonight or tomorrow on the train to Florence. (Probably tomorrow, since we need to be up at the crack of dawn for our 8am “skip the line” tour of the Vatican…)