ospitalitá, or taking rides from strangers

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The Italian word for “hospitality” could not have rung truer for my friends and I today on our excursion to the Maccarese-Fregene beach. In fact, excursion doesn’t even begin to describe it.

It all started with the famed taxi-driver-meets-American-tourist scam mechanism of taking the long route to China to reach a certain destination. In our case, the fault was in squeezing five of us into one cab, leaving two to fend for another, and then giving the driver an ambiguous destination of “train station, per favore.” Read: you can take us to whatever train station you damn well please and it will likely end up costing us ten euros. Three cheers for your wallet.

If being overcharged wasn’t enough, figuring out the train station wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either. If your Italian is strictly limited to “Buon giorno“, “Ciao“, and “Il conto, per favore“, decoding the information board may as well be another language in itself. Where is Hagrid when you need him? You basically had to know what you were doing as soon as you set foot inside, so first timers, heed my warning and take someone with you who either A) has a broader range of Italian vocabulary or B) knows how to work the European train station system.

To make matters worse, we realized that our two friends who had to nab another taxi were at an entirely different train station, as their ride to Maccasere-Fregene departed from Platform 2, and ours at Platform 28.

Regardless, we finally made it from the Maccarese-Fregene station to the beach via bus, and it couldn’t have been a more blissful nirvana. The chill waves lapping my body were the perfect antidote to the heat if it got too toasty for comfort, but the sun provided just the right amount of strength for bronzing and catnapping. The ten degree drop in temperature was the cherry on top, as nothing quite beats a fresh ocean breeze.

Though I would have loved a few days of a stay at the beach, sooner or later, we had to get back to Trastevere. A group of men who owned some of the beachside shops helped me navigate our group to the bus stop. I relaxed, thinking to myself, Okay, we’re at the bus stop, everything will be fine. Wrong again… almost.

Instead of slowing down, the last bus whipped past us, and dread immediately settled in. Thankfully the man whom I’d asked for directions approached us and offered us a true godsend of an ultimatum: “I have a small car, I drive you to the station.”

I know what you’re all thinking: Ashley, what the HELL are you thinking? The number one rule of abroad is to never take any offers from strangers, especially when it comes to getting in a car.

However, I trusted my instincts. He only offered us help and seemed the furthest thing from sly, and at this point, all I had on my mind was filling my empty stomach with a sandwich from the café next to Maccarese-Fregene station.

It ended up being an even more refreshing experience than relaxing at the beach. Picture this: five college students with beach bags in tow, crammed into a mini Volkswagon of an incredibly selfless man treating us to a lovely conversation about the history of Fregene, his travels to the United States and all around Europe.

Tucked beneath the threads of this fruitful interaction was a smattering of the Italian gold standard: hospitality. When we finally reached the station in high-traffic, he would not accept the ten euro bill we, flabbergasted by this small miracle, pleaded him take. He just smiled and said, “It is my pleasure to take care of you in the place I call home.”

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