17 agosto 2009
DO NOT #1
Buy a train ticket without reserving seats; standing room only is no fun.
Stazione Rifredi, Firenze - It's December 23rd, the hustle and bustle of Italians flocking and swarming to be with family is a frenzy at any train station, including Rifredi. After realizing that the date on our connecting train in Milan to Barcelona was the 22nd (this is for another don't - forget to confirm travel dates) and figuring out what to do once we arrive in Milan, we waited on the familiar platform of Rifredi station for the train to Milano.
Just because a train says it will arrive at a certain time, does not mean it actually will. Italian trains run on Italian time and this was no different. By the time the sun had started to set our train rolled in an hour and 45 minutes late absolutely PACKED with passengers.
Remember there is no limit as to how many tickets to sell for a train. If there are no seats and you have purchased a ticket with no seat reservation you have to be happy standing in the corridor. This normally is not a problem, but during the holiday rush it turns into the worse 9 hour train ride of your life.
No seats. Barely any standing room and then don't forget to add at least one (sometimes two) large suitcases for each passenger. The corridor was a mess of luggage and passengers thrown together as though some teenager's messy room had just blown up on the train. Somehow, among the mangled luggage straps, stray children, and scruffy backpackers, Melisa and I found a small spot along the corridor. One pull out seat and two suitcases later, we nestled down just in time to see Rifredi become smaller and smaller as we pulled away from the platform.
Then the nightmare began. Rolli Polli Polly, an eight year old hyper active child, bumped through the corridor every two minutes to go between the cabin to our left to the cabin to our right. We had situated ourselves in the worse possible location - but as it turned out the seats we had picked were front and center to some very entertaining slapstick family comedy.
Polly bumped my knees and squealed her way over to her the cabin were Rolli Polli Papa was staying only to be greeted with a unceremonious slap across the face from Papa-bear. The loud smack resounded throughout the corridor and we sat flabbergasted at the event. But Polly seemed unfazed and just went on about her hyperactive childlike activity.
Two minutes later, Polly bumped her way through to Cabin #1, where Rolli Polli Mamma, Nonnna, and sister were seated. Again she arrived to be greeted by a smack across the face from mamma's large swollen hand and a yelling to sit down.
This continued for the next hour and half - and included Nonna-bear picking up Polly, smacking her twice across the face, Polly smacking nonna back three or four times, little sister Rolli Polli Anna joining in the smacking, and Mamma-bear jumping in too. Smack smack smackity smack smack.
After a good five minutes of familial smackage - in what I can only assume was a natural loving gesture in this family, Papa-bear excused himself from Cabin #2, bumped his way to Cabin #1, walked straight up to Mamma-bear, smacked her with the heel of his palm on Mamma's face, yanked her forward by the bangs, and smacked her twice across the face.
Again the smacking resumed and suddenly stopped when the train jarred to a halt, bringing Papa's face smacking against the back of Mamma's seat.
"Attenzione. C'é un terramoto - dobbiamo controllare......" the rest was muffled out by the crackle of avhorrible speaker system and 100 groans from the sardine packaged passengers.
Do not be the traveler that encounters travel issues on the part of the trains, who must endure being bumped for six hours while waiting for the train to resume course.
Every time someone needs to use the restroom, you must get up - move your luggage accordingly and sit back down. When the cart being pushed by the snack lady comes through, it's a matter of lifting said luggage of your head doing the hokey pokey and something similar to the limbo and then resettling down in your seat.
Instead! Buy your ticket and request to have a seat reserved just for you! And do not, by any means be shy about asking someone who is sitting in your seat to move. People sit down, and have no problem moving for someone who was smarter than they were.
For the record, we arrived just fine in Milan 9 hours later - earthquakes and all we made it. But it was the most exhausting train ride I have ever taken, I don't recommend this method the day before Christmas or any other holiday.
Until my next train ride, travel on.