Kindness Costs Nothing (Unless You Are Italian Train Ticket Checker.Maybe)

Jul 17, 2020

Italian Gelato Pumkin, Orange, Chocolate from Gelateria del Teatro, Rome

Anyone feel that things are a bit toxic these days? Can the world please go back to being kind. I mean the bar is pretty low already. Even a simple smile will do at this point!

Blue Ikea Plate with South Indian Food, Rome

Just wanted to share some random acts of kindness that changed my day. This is just a plate of Indian food on IKEA plate but means a lot to me. A lot of emotions linked to this.

I had it all planned from India. I was supposed to take the mid-morning train from Florence to Rome and head straight to the Vatican. My plan was to get full sleep after walking for hours in Florence and climbing 463 steeps stairs to the top of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The night before Christmas Eve, after I arrived at my Airbnb, for some reason, I decided to check the Vatican website. (I wanted to try one last time to get Vatican Museum tickets since they were not available for some reason). I read a notice that declared that the Vatican was supposed to be closed on Christmas Eve afternoon, Christmas Day, and also on the day after Christmas. My return flight from Rome was on the day after Christmas. My ticket was around 11 AM from Florence. There is no chance that I will be able to get tickets and visit the Museum and St Paul Catherdral in one hour. Please note that trains are great in Italy - frequent, well connected, easy to book. But, this was the holiday season. Many trains were not running. (We have to give them some slack during Christmas times.) I had to make a change of plan. Even though I was super tired. My only available option was to get the 6 AM train (or was it 5 AM?) from Florence. 

On the wee hours of Christmas Eve (sunrise is around 8 AM), with just 2 hours of sleep (after the whole day of walking and climbing the previous day), I went to Florence train station only to discover that the automated machines were not working. The manned counters were still not open. My online ticket was for another time. I had to reach the Vatican because it was supposed to be closed from the afternoon. I just boarded the train because that was my only option to reach. Another option was to skip Vatican Museums which was definitely not at all agreeable for me. I recall that when I went to Pisa, I found that ticket timings are not written on stones. Later, the ticket checker informed me that it is the case only when you get tickets from the stations. Not valid for online. Also, there was a fare difference. My original ticket was for 25 Euros but the train I boarded was for double. He realized my shock and told me that he will be back after he checks tickets for everyone. He met me right before we were about to reach Rome. Luckily, the train ticket checker excused my 50 Euro fine and took only the 50 Euros meant for the train ticket because he saw I had a ticket for another time. 50 Euros saved is huge! Especially in Italy where things are cheaper compared to other places in Europe.

I went straight to the Vatican where I got to know about midnight mass and how to attend it. My Airbnb guy ensured that I had everything I need and the confidence to roam around Rome at night,  (Unfortunately, my body gave up but I did go again the next day around noon to St Paul Cathedral and got to see the Pope!) For dinner, an Indian guy gave me food even when his restaurant was full because of Christmas Eve (all Italian restaurants were closed), and later a Bangladeshi store owner taught me about 'Dolce' and suggested me a beer to try (which I could not drink because I was tired beyond measure. Sleep seemed most sexy at that point.) But, I will remember each of them. Everyone who helped. Everyone who was kind.

It might not seem big but those simple acts of kindness changed my day. You might forget the exact words people say but you don't forget how they made you feel. I will forever be thankful. Be kind. You never know what the other person is going through.

And look at my love for taking pictures! Even when I was hungry, sleepy, and tired, I put an effort to plate this and take pictures 😂 

Seafood Spaghetti, Ristorante Le Caveau, Rome

Here is another emotional picture from the next day - Christmas Dinner - A plate of spaghetti you see. For me, this picture packs in several emotions for me. Solo. Christmas day. Rome. Pope during Christmas noon. Gelato for lunch. Pasta for Dinner. Wine by the liter. Excellent Italian host who offered me Limoncello and Sorbet, and an engineer-turned-chef from Punjab. Thankful that my body endured it all and let me enjoy it all. Gratitude at its highest form and bone tired.

This picture is one of those picture-for-myself. Not for sharing/social media. Just a reminder of good times. I love capturing emotions with photos because I am not great with words—introvert struggles. Your memories will stay. Be kind to yourself too.


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