You wake up at some god-forsaken time in the morning, brush your teeth, fall into the car, and snooze while your Dad drives to the airport. Once you’ve reluctantly removed your shoes and passed through security, you then retire to Costa for that caffeine hit which brings you out of that zombie-like state, followed by a trip around duty-free to check out the price of alcohol- just in case you want to swipe up a bottle of gin on the way home. This family holiday began like any other.

From Birmingham we were travelling to Brussels, to then get a transfer flight to Naples-the final destination. While supping our large cappuccinos we realised from the flashing TVs that our first flight was already delayed. ‘It’ll be a quick lunch in Brussels then’ Dad announces.

Landing in Brussels, the airhostesses declared that passengers transferring to Naples should be allowed to get off first. We pushed through impatient holiday-goers and out into the airport. “25 minutes to get to the gate, we can do this!”- Oh Mum, how wrong you were. As we were quick-marching down a corridor that seemed to have no end, a French man shouted “Are you getting the Naples flight?” I said yes. “Well”, he said, “you better run, that gate is all the way on the other side of the airport! RUN! RUN!” Funnily enough, after this unexpected warning, our pace quickened considerably. Before I knew it, I was slipping all over the freshly-polished airport floor, my laptop case knocking people out as I skidded round corners, following signs for Gate A50.

We scaled one of the longest escalators I’ve ever come across to be confronted with passport control with a queue that snaked through miles of plastic red barrier tape. “15 minutes”- Mum was wringing her hands, Dad marching around to find someone of authority. We joined the UK passport queue, where families were fanning themselves with boarding cards and passports and children whined with boredom. The queue split into two, Mum and Dad took one, Joe and I took the other. At that moment a flight attendant marched past- “Excuse me sir, we’re getting a flight that’s going to leave in 15 minutes, is there any chance we can get to the front of the queue. There are only four of us.” His nose crinkled, as if I had left off a fart in his face, and he sniffed “Madam, there are many people waiting. You are not special.”

Me and Joe made it to the front of the queue, where the bored little man behind the counter barely glanced at our passport before beckoning us out. “Toria, Joe, run to A50. See if they will hold the gate for us”, Dad calls over the heads of British tourists. Once again we sprinted down corridors, slaloming through people on escalators, only to come face to face with security. Shit. Joe joined the queue as I approached an airport worker who couldn’t have looked more stereotypically Italian, with a thin moustache, and black slicked back hair. He laughed as I waved my boarding pass in front of his face- “You will never get that plane, it is too late. Please, join the queue.” Joe continued forward, as I broke the devastating news to my parents. We carried on through security, and as my Dad’s bag was searched I decided to take a run for the gate anyway. Unsurprisingly, none of us made it- missing it by just 10 minutes.

A new journey was arranged and we were sent to Milan, whose airport was unexpectedly worse for wear. Nevertheless, they had a bar that served large pints of Heineken and cheap antipasti- we were glad for anything by this point. At 6.35pm we hopped onto our third and thankfully final flight of the evening. One weak coffee and bag of pretzels later and we landed in Naples, grateful that this nightmare was over.

In order to speed up the process, Dad and I went to find the hire car station while Mum and Joe waited at the luggage carrousel. Whilst standing in the queue in a tiny wooden shed waiting for the keys to our car, I get a phone call from Mum- “The luggage hasn’t arrived. What’s worse is they didn’t give us a luggage reference number, they took that off us in Brussels and never gave it back”. I think our asses officially hit rock bottom at this point.

We collected Mum and Joe from the airport front in our Volvo hire car. By this point it was pitch black, so navigating to our villa was the next hurdle. We rang the owners of the villa and they agreed to meet us at a large white church in a small Italian village called Meta. We arrived in fairly good time, and waited. None of us spoke. We remained in a communal silence, which ironically said more than any words we could have attempted to vocalise. We were pissed off- there was nothing more to it. Steven, the owner met us, and we followed him to the villa.

The villa was beautiful, even in the darkness, and it temporarily lifted our spirits. Until Steven left, and we realised that it was 10pm, and we were in a remote area, with nothing but my laptop, the new Hobbit DVD, and the clothes on our backs to our names. Luckily, the owners had kindly left three bottles of homemade wine in the fridge, a packet of pasta, a small tin of tomatoes and some black pepper- It was too reminiscent of my University diet. I slipped my shoes back on, and headed out to a nearby restaurant with a 20 Euro note, where I decided I would beg like Oliver Twist for “just a bit of bread”. This was desperation!

I stumbled into an up-market restaurant which overlooked a stunning view of Naples and Mount Vesuvius, wearing a sweaty pair of leggings and a baggy top. Inside, there was a private party. Women swished past me wearing designer dresses, with legs that began at my shoulders. I shuffled self-consciously towards the kitchen, to find Steven chatting with the head-chef, gulping a glass of red wine.  I coughed timidly, “Err, hi. Sorry to disturb you. We don’t have any food, and doesn’t seem to be any shops open around here. I was hoping I might be able to buy a loaf off you, or something?” The chef’s face lit up, and with fast Italian words and over-exaggerated gestures he whisked me out of the kitchen saying “5 minuto!”

Walking back to the villa I felt like I had made the biggest triumph of the day. I burst through the door with a platter of Italian party food, and a fresh bottle of red wine. I proudly slapped it on the kitchen table, and beamed as my family gasped. “How much did all that cost?” cried Dad. “Nothing, absolutely nothing. He wouldn’t let me pay”, I laughed. “Well the chef must have really liked you”. I couldn’t have cared less. That night we got merry on homemade wine, and stuffed our faces with party food and pasta.

As our cheeks turned more and more rosey, it became easier and easier to laugh. We had had such a horrific start to the holiday, all we could do was laugh.

Victoria Cox