this is a story about trains in italy

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…or as I like to call it, Eataly. Because I think I gained like ten pounds while in Italy for only three days (actually, more like two-point-five days, because clearly we were stupid, and instead of planning on backpacking through Italy for like a month, or seven years, we were like, nahhh, three days should suffice. THREE DAYS DID NOT SUFFICE. Public service announcement: don’t ever make Italy just a “pit stop.” Make it THE stop. Please. For me).

Anyway. Sorry about that. I have a lot of thoughts. I think that’s why I’m so anxious all the time.

ANYWAY.

In the summer of 2014 my boyfriend and I went on a super duper awesome month-long backpacking trip through Israel, Jordan, Spain, Italy, and Greece. In the spirit of documenting my past travels (and also because I am not traveling at the moment), I want to share some stories from that trip (and others) on this blog. This particular story is one of my favorites.

It was our last day in Florence, Italy. We had to catch an evening train to Bologna, where we would then catch another night train to Bari, where we would then take a ferry to Corfu, Greece (got it?). In the morning we checked out of our wonderful, phenomenal bed-and-breakfast, Casa Rovai, grabbed our bags (heavy), and skedaddled about the city for a few more hours before we had to leave. I believe we ate gelato that day. I also believe the wind blew my hair into the gelato, and then it got all sticky and up in my face, and I got frustrated with life and cried about it (I’m a big crybaby, guys. That’s like my biggest flaw). Basically that wasn’t my finest hour, but that’s another story for another day.

Once it was time to go, we rushed to the train station with all of our heavy, heavy stuff. It was a nice train station from what I remember, but everything was (of course) in Italian. I don’t speak Italian. I speak Spanish which is close-ish enough (I mean, in terms of figuring words out and such), but still. What I’m trying to get at is we had no idea which platform our particular train would depart from, so we initially asked a guy (or gal) and he (she?) said the train wasn’t there yet, that it usually departed from platform X (I don’t remember the exact number because why would I remember the number), but to keep an eye out. So we’re all like, okay.

Well, we waited for a while. And a while more. My backpack was crushing my body forward. I hated it. My boyfriend went to ask someone else just in case. The lady looks at our tickets and is all like, oh! You guys are in the executive class (or something of the sort)! You can go wait in the VIP room over there! So we’re like huh, okay! If you insist!

The VIP room was crazy, guys. Crazy. First of all, it was all behind this big fog glass door. You pushed a button to open it, and then this lady in a perfectly white suit and white gloves asked to look at our ticket. Inside it looked like this futuristic slash very retro seventies super clean bright lounge. Like we were in The Jetsons. There was all this food and stuff. I don’t know; I didn’t eat any.

Of course by the time we got to the lounge it was almost time for our train to leave. So we were really in there for a total of like five minutes. But still. It was cool.

So we get on the train, finally. We look at our tickets and see our seat numbers. Okay. We walk through these sections of the train with just the regular seating. We still don’t find our seat. We walk through more sections, and it’s getting nicer and nicer. The people in the train are getting fancier and fancier. We’re just these two dirty, ratty-looking young backpackers and they’re giving us the stink eye, like what are YOU TWO doing in our fancy section?

The crazy thing is we still didn’t see our seats. So we kept walking, and shit kept getting fancier and fancier still. At one point we came across a bar/food area, and we think for sure we walked past our seats. The people working on the train kind of look at us like they think we for sure walked past our seats, too, so they ask to see our tickets and when they do, their eyes totally widen and they say (in a way friendlier tone), “Keep walking that way!”

So we do.

Finally we get to this empty, sparkling clean, beautiful closed off section with a total of like four cushiony seats that you can tell extend all the way back like a bed. The beautifully dressed train attendants ask to see our tickets again, and they say, “This is you!” And we’re like whoa, no way.

They took our bags and put them in a special closet just for us. They asked us if we wanted anything. At first we said no, but then they insisted. INSISTED. So in the end we got cappuccinos. They were teeny tiny and came with these teeny tiny delicious little cookies. The train attendants smiled at us like their sole happiness in life came from serving us. It made me feel a little weird, to be honest. It would’ve been fine if they’d just relaxed.

It was the best thirty-minute train ride of my life (and I’ve been in a lot of Amtraks, guys). At one point my boyfriend looked at me and said something like, “We’ve made it.” As in, we’ve made it in life.

I still don’t know how we got those fancy fancy rich people tickets (which weren’t even expensive, like at all). It could’ve been a mistake or maybe it’s because I bought the tickets in Italian…

Either way, I’m not complaining.

So we get to Bologna but that’s not the end of it. We rush to our platform, only to find out our train is delayed. Like super delayed. And then it gets delayed some more. And some more. And it’s the middle of the night and I’m tired and sore and I just want to sleep.

Finally, after waiting forever (and ever), this ancient bucket on wheels shows up.

We hop aboard. It’s dark. Everyone’s squished together. Everyone looks unhappy. We look at our tickets. Our seats are in compartment eleven, I believe (let’s say eleven). Okay. We walk past compartment eight, nine, ten. Twelve. Wait, what?

Where’s eleven?

We try to move on to the next cart, thinking maybe there’s been a mistake, but the door is locked. A bunch of people are trying to do the same thing; maybe they couldn’t find their seats either. The train is super rickety under our feet, and it’s going so fast, I’m afraid it’s going to fly off the rails. I’m exhausted. At one point I say fuck it and huddle with my backpack by the bathroom door, the only place on this train where there is (barely) enough room to huddle with a giant backpack. I try to take a nap. The bathroom smells like a bad case of food poisoning. This is an eight-hour train ride. I keep thinking about the train to Bologna and decide this is like a movie. We had everything and it slipped from our fingers within a few hours! Womp.

My boyfriend decides to try looking for our seats one more time. Eventually he finds them; the number had been rubbed off. Except there’s people in our seats, and one of them is an old lady.

With lots of hand gestures he tells them he thinks they’re in our seats and shows them our tickets. They say that they’re getting off at the next stop, so could we maybe wait to get in our seats til then? He says okay. But then a train attendant shows up and asks to see our tickets because we can’t just be standing around in the hall. He points to our seats, where the old lady is sitting. My boyfriend says he knows those are ours but that we let them sit there for now. “NO!” the train attendant snaps. “You sit in your spot.” Then he herds the old lady and her travel partner lady out of our seats, and we look at them with our heads hanging down in shame (or something like it).

Everyone else inside the compartment shoots us the worst stink eyes ever known to mankind. My boyfriend offers our compartment-mates cookies from the nice train to ease the tension. I think the stink eyes stopped after that.

The compartment wasn’t much better than my spot by the bathroom door, to be honest. We were all squished in there like sardines (and this one guy had really long legs, too). This wooden bar went across our seats, which dug into our backs. The seats were just hard and uncomfortable in general. The train rattled constantly at our feet. They didn’t announce the stops, so I had to set a million alarms (not that I slept anyway) to make sure I’d be awake to catch Bari before it was too late.

Luckily we made it to Bari. We were gonna walk to the port to catch our ferry but we were too tired, so we took a taxi. And then at the port, while going through my stuff, I realized I’d lost one of my passports (I was traveling with three)–the one I needed the most.

Let’s just say that after three days of eating monstrous amounts of pasta, pizza, and bread, I’d been pretty backed up. NO MORE after I lost my passport. Anxiety shits are a real thing, people.

And now you know way too much about me.

Dun dun dun to be continued.