HOME AT LAST!
Now that we're finally back home in Italy we can breathe a sigh of relief. When the ice storm struck Louisville last week we checked the forecast and said a prayer before we rebooked our flight. USAir would let us reschedule the flight because there was a storm warning, but they would only let us schedule it within the seven days following our original date. In addition to the forecast we also looked at the flight schedules and weighed our desire to get home against what was most practical. Eventually we settled on a departure date of February 3rd, thinking that the predicted snow wouldn't be serious enough to cancel our flights.
Just as predicted, the weather warmed up over the weekend, melting the ice and much of the snow. The roads were in pretty good shape, so even if it colder and we had some snow we were confident the worst was over. Sure enough the temperature dropped well into the 20's and on Tuesday morning we woke up to new snow on the ground.
When we checked into the airport the agent agreed with us that snow wasn't a problem, so we relaxed and settled in at the gate. We knew we had plenty of time to eat the sandwiches I'd made for lunch. When a gate agent made an announcement asking who was making a connection in Philadelphia, warning bells went off in my head. Although we never did find out the reason, our flight was expected to be two hours late and the agent was trying to make flight changes if possible. Because ours was an international flight the agent decided to take care of the domestic connections first - why, I don't know. Eventually he did get back to us, but by that time it seemed that our only option - flying to Charlotte, and then taking another flight to Philly - had just left the gate.
We asked what our options were: could they at least get us to Philly then put us up for the night if we missed the flight to Italy? Could they get us to Philly on another airline? Should we just rebook the entire trip for the next day and go back to my sister's house? We were told that if we did get to Philly but missed the flight to Rome USAir wouldn't pay for a hotel since the delay was weather related. Hmmmm....they put us up for not one but TWO nights when a horrific storm had caused us to miss a flight two years ago. We thought if ALL the flights were delayed perhaps our flight to Rome would still be waiting for us even if we got there late, but the agent told us that 99% of the time international flights take off as scheduled. (I find that number a little hard to believe, but anyway...) The agent did search other airlines, but since none of them have hubs in Philly the choices weren't great and none would work for us. We'd just about decided to go back to the main ticket counter and re-book the flight for the following day when something told us to just get to Philly. Our friend Nedra was coming in to Philly on a flight from San Francisco and would arrive at 7 p.m. She told us we could stay at her house, so that seemed to be the logical solution. At least we'd be there, and with this 99% statement we figured we'd be sure to go the next day.
We moved to a different area to eat our lunch and make some phone calls. Just as we started to eat we were paged back to the gate! Now what??? For whatever reason the gate agent had continued to search other possibilities and told us we could fly to Atlanta on Delta then take the Delta flight to Rome! Wow! We had no idea they'd even consider doing this, but we immediately said yes and headed over to the Delta gate.
We had about thirty minutes before the flight boarded, so I asked the gate agent a few questions. My main concern was the 75 minute connection time. Knowing how large the Atlanta airport is I wondered if we'd be able to get to the international gate in time, and if we missed the flight to Rome would anyone be there to help us. I was afraid that at that point Delta would say that we weren't really their responsibility, and that USA would say that they'd handed us over to Delta.
The two Delta agents assured me that #1, 75 minutes would be plenty of time for the connection. She showed me that we only had to go to the next concourse over rather than the full length of the airport, as usually seems to be the case. Both agents also assured me that we were now their customers, and that they wouldn't desert us, so what else could I do but relax?
Just as she had predicted, we had plenty of time to make the flight to Rome, and although the plane was nearly full it was fairly uneventful, save for a few minutes of turbulence. No screaming babies or talkative drunks, no out of service toilets or surly flight attendants...on the contrary, the flight crew was very friendly and helpful and were always smiling! Wow!
One of the reasons we like to fly USAir is because their flight to Rome arrives around 8:30 in the morning, allowing us plenty of time to get back to Umbria before we crash from lack of sleep. The Delta flight got us into Rome ahead of schedule, before 8 a.m., thanks in part to a good tailwind. Even more amazing was the fact that all of our luggage had made it from USAir onto our Delta flight so we were good to go! We took the train from Fiumicino to Tiburtina where we had to wait for our train for Terni, but once we were in Terni we felt like we were already home! Janine was waiting for us at the station in Marsciano, and it didn't take long to get unpacked. Not having to deal with a suitcase full of dirty laundry is really nice!
Unfortunately our thermostat, which had acted up right before we left, apparently bit the dust while we were gone and the house was below 50ºF! After a quick call to the technician they arrived in about two hours and confirmed that the thermostat was the problem. Unfortunately the replacement thermostat they had with them didn't fit in the space of the old one so they showed us how to turn the caldaia on and off manually and suggested that we call an electrician to get the right size thermostat. Now if we can just get a hold of Elvio, our electrician we won't have to go outside to turn the heat on and off, but at least we're home safe and sound! Last night, in our own bed, with our heated mattress pad to keep us nice and toasty we slept great! Going away is nice but coming home is even better!