Who said Aussies aren’t whingers? Italy, pt. II

Cause I am going to continue my whinge about Italy 🙂 in the nicest possible way of course.

The day to leave Milan dawned and Mr Moi and I arose bright and early (well, at about 8am). In anticipation to leave in a hurry and not look back, we’d packed our bags the night before* (which is very uncharacteristic of us). We headed over the the train station at about 9:15am – I’d checked online before coming to Italy, and knew that about two trains left per hour, headed in the the general direction of our next destination – the Cinque Terre.

[*Mr Moi didn’t exactly ever get around to un-packing his bags]

Truth be told, we’d been to the train station the evening before to book our tickets in advance, but with half of Milan, it seemed, booking Sunday night tickets to get back to wherever they came from, we couldn’t be bothered waiting in line, and preferred to go back to our hotel in an effort to search for our missing bag.

So, we arrived at Milano Centrale station on Monday morning, which was in part designed by the Mussolini regime and thus, is huge and hard to navigate (especially considering they are renovating most of it at the moment). After Mr Moi dumped me with the bags to look for a bankomat, we went up to the counter and in my best (read, bad) Italian, asked for two tickets to the Cinque Terre. No problems; we handed over the money and walked away. Then I looked at the tickets – we were leaving in two and a half hours. Bugger.

Loaded with the bags and a disdain of the city, we thought our best option was to wait the time out in the terminal, so I read my book while Mr Moi went shopping for sweets and savouries to sustain us through the journey. Finally, 11:45am rolled around and we boarded our (very full) train. Luckily we had reservations, so I didn’t have to sit on my suitcase for the journey.

We were headed first for Genova, where we would change trains to head to Sestri Levante, where we would then change trains for the regionale train that runs through the five towns of the Cinque Terre. I was a little concerned, as our change over time in Genova was a mere 15 minutes, but Mr Moi assured me it would be OK, and in three and a half hours, as our tickets read, we would be relaxing in our B&B.

The train barrelled along at an impressive speed and made quick time at all the stops, so I assured myself we were well on track (ha ha, pun alert). Not recogising any of the countryside, I took my cue to unload our bags from people moving in other compartments, and the arrival time, listed on our ticket, getting nearer. About 10 minutes before we were due to arrive, we took down our bags and moved into the hallway with a load of other people.

Then the train stopped. There was an announcement in Italian (all I understand was ‘en retardo’ – I guessed ‘late’). So, I sat on my suitcase and waited for the train to start moving. We only stopped for about 10 minutes, so I guessed we were 10 minutes from the station, and was hoping the connecting train waited for the masses coming from Milan.

Imagine my surprise (not) when the train continued to travel for another half an hour, when it finally started moving again.

So I don’t know much about trains, but… We weren’t going slow during the journey, we only stopped for 10 minutes, and yet, we were really f**king late! Could it be that Italy’s trains are about as reliable as those in Sydney? Surely not!

Needless to say, at Genova, I rushed to the info office and asked them what to do, as we’d missed the train that we had reservations for.

Easy fixed. According to the lady in the office, “Oh, your train is still at the platform. Number 20. But run, hurry hurry!”

I didn’t stop to think that it was highly unlikely that this statement was true, seeing as our train was scheduled to leave over 40 minutes ago. And I didn’t stop to think of the irony her sending the annoying tourist who can’t speak to Italian to the furthest platform. I just ran, grabbed Mr Moi on the way and went to platform 20. Where there was NO train, and the next train coming terminated at the following station.

Flipping… GREAT.

This time I sent Mr Moi to the info office while I stayed with the babies, I mean, bags (why is it that in so many travel hubs, they have escalators up, but only stairs down, or vice versa. It’s just as hard to drag the bastards up as it is down).

To cut this long story short, a man stamped our tickets, wrote that our late train caused us to miss our reserved train, told us which platform the next train was leaving from, and sent us on our way. We even had time to stop and get a sandwich.

We boarded the (regionale – stopped at every bloody station) train and ate the sandwich and looked out the window. No one asked for our tickets. When we arrived at the next station, we watched a train depart as we were disembarking. Checked the monitor – no train for an hour. Once again, we were destined to sit around. Time to eat again (a doner kebab this time).

When we finally got on the final train, with an hour’s journey in front of us and four and a half hours behind us, we were disappointed with the waste of the day. And what kind of person designs train timetables so that trains are late, even when they seem to be going as fast as they can?

After three nights and two days in Italy, our expectations of the rest of the trip were dramatically lowered. So, it was highly likely the Cinque Terre wouldn’t disappoint, cause by this time, we didn’t expect much!

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13 thoughts on “Who said Aussies aren’t whingers? Italy, pt. II

  1. Overcrowded, unreliable, late running trains where all the passengers speak another language and where you can’t understand either the carriage or the platform announcements, makes me feel all nostalgic. However I am glad that I no longer commute to Sydney.

    I found the same thing when I travelled through Italy by train.

  2. haha willowtree you make me laugh. I remember when the new timetable came in, I could no longer get on the express from Eastwood because it was too crowded by the time it came through there. The ‘new’ simply cut out one of the previous express services from the Central Coast, I’m guessing, and one from Pymble. Sydney trains suck.

  3. Oh and I meant to say, Mr Moi ended up remembering the same thing about italian trains too, but only after we were halfway through our holiday and it was too late to book a car.

  4. Rog and I once skipped Cinque Terre on the way to somewhere else (Pisa?). I’m sure you’re going to make me think it was a mistake.

  5. LMM, Oh, this made me laugh-because yes, it seems no matter what, even if it appears the trains are on time in italy, invariably you end up delayed. I don’t know how it happens, but it does.
    Last time I was in Rome, I learned to allow myself at least two hours to get anywhere-esp. with the metro. I remember sitting on the metro once, thinking that i might actually be on time, and then it stopped. For no reason. Just stopped for 1/2 hour. No explanation. And then it went again. And of course, it had taken me two hours to get from one end to the other.

  6. they’re still renovating the station?! i was there last october trying to find the bus station (round the back) so i could get to bergamo airport and away from the place. weirdly enough everything went smoothly and to plan. someone upstairs was obviously keen for me to get out.

    re shaun’s comment. i drove every morning in italy for a month and he’s right….don’t do it!! they’re as bad as the poles (must be something about catholic nations). here are my experiences….if you’re interested 😉

    http://burntmaze.com/2007/10/17/the-italian-gob-and-why-i-love-stereotypes/

    p.s. petrol in polish is benzyna although the little kid was saying nie ma paliwo – i don’t have any fuel. he used sand instead. i hope he doesn’t do that when he grows up.

  7. Oh man, I feel you about the stair/escalator situation. I don’t understand why they can’t just put in both Up AND Down escalators! Grrrr. There are some (a very few, but some…) quirks about traveling that I don’t miss.

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