How I Survived Missing Trains in Italy
Now, this is a story all about how my life is eventful and I need to stop missing public transportation. (Bam! Fresh Prince reference! xD)
After my trip to Malta, I had to return to Italy for the beginning of my semester in Bologna. Back to work, Juleen! It was cheaper to fly to Rome then take a train to Bologna so that’s what I did. I had never been to Rome and this was my first time flying into Italy by myself.
Now, if you have read my blog about Malta, you know that I missed the train that I had booked to go to Bari for my flight. As I said in the post, I had bought my ticket using TrenItalia’s discount programme for adults under 26 years old (CartaFreccia Young) and after missing my train, I simply bought a new ticket. What I did not explain was that to get the discounts through the programme, you have to book the tickets by midnight the day before AND tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable (but I did not realise this until later).
I tried to take all the precautions to avoid missing the train again. First, I looked up how long it would take to get from the airport to the train station. Then, I reserved a seat on a train 2 hours after that, in the case of a flight delay and in case I got lost (again) trying to get to the train station. That should have been sufficient, right? Nope because I STILL MISSED THE TRAIN! Here’s how it went down:
On my Ryanair flight to Rome, they were selling tickets for a shuttle to the train station. As I said, this was my first time in Rome so I thought “Nice! This is a cheap ticket (6 euros), around the same travel time as Google Maps said it should be AND I would avoid the stress of trying to figure out getting there” so I bought a ticket. The flight attendant told me that the shuttle should be right outside when I exited the airport and if I remembered correctly, she said it was a blue and yellow bus. As a result, I got off the plane relaxed, confident I would not miss my train. My flight had even arrived ~15 minutes early so I thought I was more than secure.
I get outside the airport. No buses! I’m like “Uh!”. However, I figured that like taxi stands, they probably have shuttle bus areas which they did. There were signs leading the way which I followed. BUT, when I got to the shuttle buses, there was no blue and yellow bus. I decided to wait a couple minutes to see if one would come. After about 10-15 minutes, I started to regret not asking for the schedule. I tried to find one online and after seeing what seemed like the schedule, I waited until the next bus was supposed to depart. No blue and yellow bus came.
At this point, I am starting to get a little flustered. I started out asking for directions in Italian but since I was flustered, it was too difficult to speak properly so I just asked people if they spoke English and switched languages. I spent about 1 hour and a half to 2 hours asking for directions, including going to the ticket booth. I still could not figure out where the bus was.
Eventually, after noticing that my buffer time had more than run out, I decided to follow Google Maps’ directions. I walked/ran for what felt like 20 minutes hoping to take less time than Google Maps said. You should’ve seen me running around Rome with my carry-on and backpack. I got to la Stazione di Fiumicino Aeroporto, the train station closest to the airport panting.
It doesn’t end there though. It seems that Google Maps led me to an entrance that didn’t really seem like an entrance. I had to again ask for directions and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to enter where I did. Anyway, I got inside and I found the ticket booths to see what could be done about my ticket. The guy told me that he couldn’t help me and pointed me to another booth. I actually don’t remember most of what he said because it was in Italian and as I said, I was just too flustered to process anything. Obviously distressed, the persons at the second booth tried to calm me down and explained that I had to buy a shuttle ticket to Roma Termini. Just my luck, one had just left and the next would not be leaving for another half hour.
I waited on the shuttle and tried to calm down as much as I could, which wasn’t much. When the shuttle arrived I got on and basically quietly wept and tried not to get noticed. Actually, it helped to relieve a lot of stress and I thought about what to do when I arrived at Roma Termini. I decided to just take the next train that was heading to Bologna and see what happened. I figured if anything, they would either think I just didn’t know how the system worked (which I honestly didn’t), make me buy a new ticket (which I would have had to do anyway) or kick me off the train in which case I would buy a new ticket.
Fast forward to the train ride when the ticket collector comes to check my ticket. Most of this interaction happened in very broken Italian and broken English. I handed him the ticket and almost immediately he started telling me that I was on the wrong train. At first, I wondered if he meant the wrong train as in wrong time (which I knew) or wrong destination. We had a bit of back and forth trying to understand each other. I actually didn’t even notice that he had switched to English until afterwards. He eventually just got annoyed and gave me back my ticket and moved on. He didn’t make it clear if I could stay though, so I was on edge for the next two stops wondering if I should get off or not until he eventually came back around to check tickets and skipped me and I was able to enjoy the rest of my first train ride to Bologna.
I did not miss anymore trains in Italy after this one but I did ALMOST miss one once, from Bologna. Basically what happened was that I got off the bus at the train station as my train was supposed to leave. Bear in mind that I would also need about 5 minutes to find my track. The entire bus ride, I was just hoping the train would be late as Trenitalia is delayed probably 93% (made up number) of the time that I use it. Luckily, the train was delayed. I got to my train track before the train even arrived.
Have I learnt my lesson regarding being on time for public transportation? Only time will time. 😉
*Disclaimer: Unfortunately, in my frantic effort to get to my train and since my life isn’t a movie, i.e. no cameras following me around, I did not take any pictures. Therefore, most of the images in this post are taken from online. Here’s a picture of Rome from above from my flight: