World Travel
New Original Fiction
Books & Movies

Film Space
Movies in depth
Dreamscapes Two
More Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living
Sam Hawksmoor
New mystery fiction


25 Years Online
••• The International Writers Magazine -

First Impressions of Rome
• Makenna Kaminski
Look! Confused, American female right here!

Rome Airport train

I hadn’t slept in 40 hours. Between numerous cancellations due to a nationwide airline grounding and two chronically overweight suitcases, my trip thus far had been nothing but sprinting through airports and rapid repacking. Funny how so many of your must-have belongings can be tossed aside in a last-minute panic.
Still, I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping anytime soon. Peeking beneath the plane’s wings, it was like I could already feel Rome’s bustling energy from 20,000 feet above. As we descended closer to the foreign land below, it was like my skin was humming, ready to take it all in.

When I finally landed, I got off the plane and walked towards baggage claim, my feet dragging with my first steps in Europe. After leaving the plane’s safety, I suddenly felt how tired I really was. With eyes half-shut, I somehow managed to shove both of my 50 pound suitcases off the conveyor belt, and magically navigated my way to the train platform that would take me to the city-center.

Yet, I couldn’t shake my underlying sense of anxiety. Outside of the plane’s walls, I was surrounded by rushing Italians shouting words like “avanti!” and “spostari” my way, which I could only assume were commands from me to move, given the way they shoved past me overflowing luggage carts. Then there was the chaos outside of baggage claim – people from all over the world hustling to their next destinations, officers trying their best to navigate, and taxi drivers shouting for me to climb inside their small cars.

For weeks, my family and orientation leaders had prepared me to “not look American”. Yet, I felt like everything I was warned flashed through my mind all at once– “Don’t make eye contact with anyone”. “Look like you know what you're doing”. “Don’t trust anybody”. “And for God’s sake, please watch out for the pickpockets”.

Looking around me, I again remembered my family’s repeated references to the movie Taken. It felt like everything about me shouted, “Look! Confused, American female right here!” And I was beginning to fear that they were right.

When I escaped the chaotic airport, everything finally started to sink in. I was in Europe. Alone. And I had no idea what my next moves were. I knew there was no way I could walk to my hotel with two giant bags alongside two bigger suitcases. I closed my exhausted eyes once more and tried to relax, impatiently waiting to find espresso after the train ride. Roma Traffic

The train came to a stop and I peeled myself from my comfy seat, grabbing my bags along the way. I stepped onto the platform– I was officially in Rome! I was still nervous, but after the ride I was ready to see all I’d been waiting for.

Outside, my heart fell into my stomach. The world beyond the station was nothing like I’d expected it to be. Instead of the Colosseum or Trevi Fountain, it was a McDonalds and KFC that stood uninvitingly across the sidewalk. To each side of me were bags of scattered trash and homeless people on blankets huddled to the wall. My skin was now buzzing with fear– I had the itching feeling crawling up my spine that the surrounding passersby were eyeing my luggage and obvious Americanism. I couldn’t linger here, not with my phone out and four bags in tow.

I had no idea whether Uber worked in Europe, but I quickly pulled up the app and decided to give it a try. I typed in my hotel’s address with no hope, but then my ride was accepted- Roberto would pick me up in 2 minutes. Ok, this was progress, I thought.

I scrolled to see what car he was driving so I could find him easier. White Renault Traffic. It sounded pretty nice, so I assumed it was like some Italian version of a Mercedes-Benz. But then my Google search showed me something completely different. A white utility van? You had to be joking. I tried to cancel the ride and switch to a new plan, but it was too late. I saw the beat-up white van circling the corner.

Roberto, an angry looking old Italian, easily spotted my need for a ride and roared up to the curb. He abruptly stopped the van and began talking in a hurry, gesturing wildly and using Italian words I couldn’t begin to understand. He ushered me to the back of the van and opened up the double doors, aggressively tossing my luggage inside. He spit out some more Italian while I tried to pull my sleep-deprived brain together and stuttered,”uhh…sono Americana”. I mentally applauded my first language attempt, but Roberto only sighed and pointed to the side of the van where I was supposedly meant to enter. I climbed over the ripped, green cloth seats in the back and tried to make myself as comfortable as I could be. It was a short two miles to my hotel, but I already knew it’d feel like hours.

I’d heard enough horror stories to keep my eyes glued to my app. I couldn’t help but think of all the girls who’d been kidnapped in an Uber, their drivers taking them who knows where. I took note of every turn Roberto made as he talked to someone named Frederico on the phone, barely paying attention to directions shouting from the app.

The Tiber in Rome As Roberto drove, I looked outside in fascination as my scenery began to change. The McDonalds and KFC were soon replaced by curving Roman streets, ornate buildings, and beautiful gardens. We crossed the Tiber river bridge as seagulls flew above, picturesque against the deep blue morning sky. I was still in the foul-smelling van with a driver who was (mildly) sketchy, but I started to get more hope that I’d like it here.

When we pulled up to the hotel, Roberto helped me and my bags out onto the sidewalk. Instead of the rapid Italian he used moments ago, he gave a more relaxed farewell and even offered a soft smile as I pulled my bags up to the hotel's grand wooden doors. I looked back behind me and laughed as I watched the van jerk away from the curb and quickly pull away. Looking at the other cars around me, I couldn’t help but realize that all of the honking Vespas and Fiats seemed to be driving the same way. I supposed the driving may have been less of a Roberto thing and more of an Italian thing after all.

Now that the fear disappeared and I was here– safe in Rome– I couldn’t help but laugh. The stress lifted and in its place was the building excitement and anticipation I’d had for months. I simply smiled as I glanced around at Piazza Navona bustling with people and music and life.  Smells of cheese and bread wafting in the air made me think that I wouldn’t be needing that cup of espresso just yet.

I was beginning to think that I’d need to loosen up a bit more on this journey. And maybe, just maybe, first appearances weren’t always as they seemed.

Makenna © Makenna Kaminski (She/Her) 
College of Charleston Honors '24
Major in English Writing, Rhetoric and Publication
Minor in Business Administration 

More travel

Share |


© Hackwriters 1999-2024 all rights reserved - all comments are the individual writer's own responsibility -
no liability accepted by or affiliates.