Saturday, April 3, 2010

Viaggo con Trenitalia

This weekend I decided I wanted to go and spend time with family. I have an Italian family who live in a town called Pordenone in the region of Friuli, Italy. It was my first real solo traveling adventure and to be honest I was a little nervous. I mapped out the whole trip with my Italian brother and I was to arrive on Friday afternoon in Pordenone. The trip was special, for me. I was going on my own for the first time around Europe. I would either mark myself as a traveler or fail horribly and need to search for a new future profession. I packed my bags and got myself together early Friday morning, anticipating some serious self-discovery in my voyage. Pordenone, by train, is about four hours away from Florence, and truly the trip I was taking was supposed to be simple. I would pay 50 euro, ride a train to Venice, change there, then ride another train to Pordenone. No big deal. It would be the same way for the trip home. Accept thats not how it happened. I'm referring to the train-riding experience I had on this four day weekend as my series of unfortunate TrenItalia events. For those of you readers familiar with the children's series of books I'm alluding to here, there are thirteen awful things that happen to three siblings. Thirteen awful things happened to me, too:

1. I mention that I was supposed to get on a train early in the morning on Friday. I was taking the fast, expensive, new Italian train called Eurostar. The regional trains in Italy are considered so bad that most Italians don't take them unless they absolutely have to. Italians are a dainty people and prefer top-of-the-line everything. I walked to Florence's train station, the Santa Maria Novella, arms laden with bags and gifts and breakfast, and dropped my things onto the ground with a huff in front of the "Do-It-Yourself ticketing" stand. I tried to buy a ticket perhaps seven times before I gave up and went to the Biglietteria where I had my first experience with a helpful, hospitable Florentine. Eff my life, the train I wanted to catch was the only one of the day that was sold out. The only way I could get to Pordenone that day was to take the regional train which meant I would need to change trains four times. It also increased my travel time by an hour and a half; the train also didn't leave until 12 in the afternoon. Where I was once arriving in Pordenone around 1, I was now arriving at 6. Awesome. The only good thing, as my ticketer so kindly pointed out, was I'd reduced the cost of my ticket by more than half. She explained to me that the website and the self-service ticketing would always hide the regional-train prices. Always, she insisted, buy your ticket from the Biglietteria.

2. I made it onto the train at 12, no problem. I sat down in the crowded second class seating after promptly placing my delicate bags in the overhead compartment. I took great pains to make sure they took up very little space and were safely fastened so they wouldn't move all around while the train was in motion. I suppose I probably shouldn't have taken such great pains to take care of my belongings because it occured to me quick that no one else gives a shit about them. Some d-bag took his gigantic suitcase and tossed it ontop of my things. I had brought a painting with me to give to my Italian family as a gift and he nearly broke the frame. I didn't realize how horrible of an issue this was until I got off the train. I grabbed my bag and felt wetness. Fucking guy's suticase busted my bottle of Proactiv which spilled out and obviously got everywhere.

3. I boarded my next train. I'd gotten safely to Prato and now I was on my way to Bologna. I sat down in an empty section of seating and was pleased when only one other person joined my section. At first. I took out my Mythology book and began to read, thinking to get some solid reading in during this hour and half journey. Too bad the man across from me immediately asked me if I spoke English and chattered in my ear for a solid hour of the train ride. He was a Philipino man traveling around Italy on his own, visiting friends and what-not. After a few quick introductions he immediately asked me from where was I in the U.S. and how did I feel about Barack Obama? He asked me about the economy, do I feel like I'm a slave to New Jersey politicians, and do I lean to the left or right? I kept my answers short and polite, thinking that he would understand that I desperately wanted to bury my head in my book about mythology, but no. He continued to talk to me, telling me all about the politics in Italy and issues of racism before moving on to the more important subject of oppression in Thailand.

4. I've broken this man into two awful things because when he realized finally that I didn't want to talk about politics (I was constantly trying to re-open my book) he asked me if it was okay if he listened to music. Of course I didn't care at all as he took out his iPhone. I was going to read, bless the Lord. Accept instead of putting in some earphones and listening to his music he turned his iPhone speakers on and blasted Taylor Swift. I made it through half a page of my mythology book on that train.

5. The worst thing about that train happened halfway through the ride. The conductor came by checking tickets and I pulled out mine and handed it to her. Italians don't explain that when you board a regional train you absolutely have to get your ticket stamped in a little machine. You have to validify that you have used the ticket because they don't do it for you. If you don't stamp it you could essential use the train over and over without paying. I didn't know this and came very close to paying an extra 40 euro fine. Stupid bitch conductor yelled at me in English.

6. I was so relieved to get off that train. When I boarded the train from Bologna to Venice I was excited to finally have some peace. Of course it wasn't an entirely peaceful trip. After five minutes of travel it was announced in Italian that our train would be stopping for a delay. A fourty minute one. Excellent. I caught up on lost reading time, at least.

7. After all that travel I really needed to use the restroom. I was trying to avoid the train bahtrooms because who knows? I just couldn't anymore, though, and so I got up and went to the bathroom. I refused to touch my skin to the toilet even if it was mummy wrapped and used the world-renowned hover technique every female has perfected by age 14. And then the fucking trian lurched to a start. Not only did I slam my head into the mirror but I peed on my own legs. Of all the seriously rotten luck.

8. The rest of my voyage that day passed by uneventfully, thank god, but the very next day I was on my way back to Venice from Pordenone with my Italian brother and sister for a day of tourism. On that train ride who should be on it but a fellow New Jerseyian. Venice is the powerhouse of Italy much the same as New Jersey is the powerhouse of the U.S., and all the factories and refineries lie just outside the city. As we sped along on the train I saw those familiar plumes of noxiousness rising into the air and together me and the other New Jerseyan lamented for the turnpike and home. There were barges loaded up with cargo-boxes, huge barrels of what I'm assuming was petroleum gas, all the familiar turnpike sights. I was sighing alot in my seat.

9. After a beautiful weekend with my family I was on the train again for another round of Trenitalia fun. I was taking the regional train again and after making it to the train exactly on time and settling in, I was feeling really good. I read alot of mythology and made it to Venice for the third time without a problem. When I went to board the train to Bologna, though, it was so crowded I feared I wouldn't make it on. I did, though, and for a solid hour I was smushed between a bunch of sweaty Arabian travelers who had clearly not showered in a long time. I stood protectively over my bag because not only were there sweaty men all around me but there was a shifty homeless man in the back corner. Those are the types you always think are staring at you even and I got really nervous that I would be pick-pocketed. I was tired, moving and swaying with a group of men who smelled like onions, brushing up against them and I wanted to vomit.

10. After an hour and a few stops went by, the train slowly got slightly less crowded. I was able to manuever away from the group of men I'd been stuck next to and up the stairs into fresh recycled train air free of onion fumes. I was still standing but now able to lean up against the sides of the seats. I parked myself and my bag down next to a group of girls and finally relaxed a little. My relaxation lasted only for a moment. The girls I was with started snickering loudly and making fun of me in Italian about my outfit. They probably made fun of my smell, too, because I'm sure I'd managed to bring some onion with me. Whats worse was that I noticed them shortly after feeling each other up. Hands up the shirt boob fondling. Great.

11. I got away from them after about a half an hour and finally sat down. I was with a bunch of older Italian women who promptly fell to sleep. I was finally able to sit down a read a little bit. Halfway through my page and then SNORE! They didn't stop snoring. All three of them were totally out and snoring one after the other. A cacophony of snoring the whole way to Bologna. Mythology was NOT happening on that ride.

12. I got off the Bologna train and rushed around trying to the the Prato train. I had a five minute window to get off and get on. I missed it, obviously. I would have made the train, too, if there weren't two bins called 1. One of them is bin 1 and the other is bin 1 Esci. I went to bin 1 instead of bin 1 Esci, of course. The next train to Prato didn't leave for another two hours. Just my luck. At least I got to catch up on my book.

13. The next and final of the terrible things that happened on my train riding experience was enough to put the icing on my Trenitalia cake. I decided before I boarded the next Prato train to go to the bathroom at the station, thinking to protect myself from my last experience in one. I walked around the station, really needing to go at this point, for twenty minutes before finding the restroom tucked away in some remote corner of the place. I paid 50 eurocents to go in and grabbed a handful of toilet-seat covers. As I was putting the first one down onto the seat my glasses slid ever so slowly off of my face and plopped directly into the toilet bowl. Thankfully I had time before the next train because I spent a half an hour scrubbing them with soap and hot water. I couldn't get rid of the feeling, though, that I was wearing the toilet on my face for the remainder of my voyage.

The only good thing about the trip was the scenery. I recommend that anyone riding trains in Italy sit in the window seat. Its gorgeous.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

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