I can’t say I have flown Alitalia many times, but I will never forget my first flight with them. I got two stories out of it.
First leg – I was going to Barcelona during my spring break of senior year at Boston College. I was planning to move back to Alicante, Spain after graduation and so I was using this trip to go on interviews with English schools. I was a student so I got a cheaper connecting flight from Boston to Barcelona and then I was going to take the train to Alicante once I landed.
I got to Barcelona safe and sound, but my luggage ended up in Milan. Instead of continuing on to Alicante, I decided to stay an extra night in Barcelona to wait for my bags. I called my friend Joan and luckily he was in town. We met up and went for tapas at a restaurant.
After dinner, we were walking along the Paseo de Gracia when we heard a woman scream. It was a Japanese woman, who had just been robbed. The man took off with her handbag and Joan ran after him into an underground parking garage. I went over to help her and tried to calm her down.
She spoke a little English and no Spanish, and everything was in her handbag – her passport, her wallet, her address book and phone, and her translation device. Her flight had been delayed and the visitors center at the airport was already closed when she arrived.
This was 2000 and I don’t remember why she said she did this, but she didn’t even have a hotel reservation. She came to the Paseo de Gracia (Passeig de Gracias in Catalan) to look for a hotel, because it was supposed to be safer than Las Ramblas. A man approached her offering to help her and then he pushed her down and grabbed her bag. What a nightmare!
Joan came back unsuccessful and we offered to take her to the police station. Poor thing didn’t want to get in the car with us because she was afraid we would rob her again. It took me a while to convince her to let us put the suitcase in the car. I guess my Asian looks do come in handy sometimes. I ended up sitting the back seat with her and Joan, in his Broken English, tried to reassure her.
When we got to the police station it was way past 1am. Their Japanese translator had gone home and they told us she would have to wait in the waiting room until morning. She had no money and we even tried to call her parents in Japan, but no one was answering.
She said she had a old music teacher from Japan who moved to Barcelona and they had kept in touch. She had their address, but not their phone number. These details are fuzzy. All I know is that we ended up at their apartment at ‘Lord knows what time’ in the morning ringing their doorbell, but no one was answering. In the end, we took her to Joan’s apartment where she spent the night. At this point, I was the one who was scared to have a stranger in the living room.
In the morning, Joan was able to call the operator and get the phone number of her Japanese music teacher. We got them on the phone. She and her family were home and heard the buzzer, but they were afraid to answer. They thought it was some teenagers playing a prank. We dropped her off at their house and it was a dramatic, joyful reunion.
Lucky for her, Alitalia lost my luggage and Joan and I were there to be her Good Samaritans!
Side Note: Joan is now co-founder and owner of a chain of cafes called Faborit (meaning ‘favorite’ in Catalan) and one of them is located at Passeig de Gràcias, 41 in Barcelona in Gaudi’s Casa Amatller, next to the Casa Batlló. If you are ever in Barcelona, go check it out. Good karma guaranteed!