Every time I think I’ve mastered the dark art that is taking a train in Italy, I make an error so grave it makes me reconsider my decision to move here, my love of all things Italian and my stance on Brexit.
The struggle is real.
Today I got to experience that thing of international renown: the Italian train strike.
I left Modena at five am, and I’m now sitting on the floor in the train station Milan at 2.30pm, having been thrown off various trains, awaiting a train which very likely wont turn up. Am surrounded by piegons, Farage’s fat face on all the newspaper stands (apparantly Nigel Farage is face of Brexit internationally) and drinking red wine out of a plastic bottle. To keep spirits up, I thought I’d write a little guide of what not to do when a strike hits
1. Do not put blind faith in Italian transport system. It can always let you down. Whenever you are due to board a train, check that everything is in working order.
2. Keep yourself to yourself. I spent much of my morning in Modena being stalked by an American couple who ‘just wanted to get to Porto-feeno’, kept asking if there was a subway alternative and apparently deemed my Italian good enough to act as their personal translator. Wife then proceeded to spend much time sobbing and exclaiming, ‘why does Italy hate us so much?!’ After we got chucked off the train a second time, in some provincial town, I spent a long time petting her arm and and telling her it was all part of the experience and what other friends of theirs could say they’ve experienced an authentic Italian train strike?, whilst also trying to persuade them to rent car to take us all back to Liguria.
3. Dont get your hopes up when you find a moving train. They have no qualms about tossing you off at random stop. Apparently the rule of the strike is, ‘we will lure you onto train with promise of getting you home, but we would like you to see all the weird, provincial railway stations middle Italy has to offer en-route’.
4. Do not contemplate punching the train guard who laughs in your face when you tell him where you’re trying to get to. Apparently, Trenitalia staff are there to provide assistance. This big bagonk just giggled and said ‘you ave a very very great problem’. Thank you. I hadn't realised that when I google mapped my location and realised I was 139 miles from destination, in a wide swathe of green land served by no buses. Is this the sweaty face of someone HAVING A GOOD TIME.
5. Drinking by yourself on a busy train is not acceptable. When I finally managed to get on a train to Milan, I got out my little bottle of red wine and took a lovely big swig. The father in front of me tutted. TUTTED. As if I am a degenerate influence on his stupid son who kept playing ‘la bumba’ on his mobile. ME. A magnet for the elderly and under-fives.