I’ve taken many, many trains since I’ve arrived in Italy. I’ve taken enough trains with people, and alone, that I can honestly say I feel pretty confident at navigating the stations, despite the difficulties that can arise dealing with different languages, platform changes and crowds of equally confused people.
Despite this, last weekend, I missed my first ever train. I spent the weekend exploring Verona and Lake Garda with two of my friends from Bergamo. When we went to the train station Sunday afternoon to buy my ticket back to Florence, I discovered that there were no more seats left on the 8:30 train. Instead, I bought a ticket on the 6:45 train, 15 minutes from then, with a stopover in Bologna.
As we practically ran to the track so that I wouldn’t miss my train, Marco turned to me and said “Gina, if you miss your connecting train–” “Marco, I won’t miss it,” I interrupted. “Ok, va bene, but it happens.” After explaining that I can handle it, that I know how to read signs and assuring him it won’t happen to me, Marco dropped the subject, and after many baci (kisses) and Ciao‘s (good bye), I boarded the train. I arrived in Bologna about an hour later and quickly found my next station so that I could be ready for me next train, which was scheduled to leave only 20 minutes later. That’s when the announcement was made that the train was in ritardo (late.) MAN! I just wanted to get home after a long weekend and have time to relax before classes on Monday, but no such luck.
It wasn’t until about a half hour later that I started to realize something was wrong. There weren’t enough people there and the train was supposed to arrive any minute. I checked the departure board at least one hundred times (ok, obviously not that many, but a lot) to ensure that I was at track three, etc etc. After five minutes of nervous fidgeting, I finally summoned the courage to ask a worker. His response? “That train left 5 minutes ago.”
Turns out that at Bologna central station there are central and west tracks. I was at 3 ovest, when I should have been at 3 centrale. There was one more train that went to Florence that night and it left in under a half hour. Running to the line to buy a new ticket, I realized that with only two workers (one more than the usual in Italy) I would never get through the line fast enough. I quickly stumbled through the “Fast Issue” machine, paying more than I should have, and ran through the station with all my luggage to the right track. I made it home an hour and a half later than planned – a little worse for the wear, but still alive. I felt absolute anxiety in the Bologna station, rapidly thinking up back up plans in case I was stranded for the night and trying to calm my exhausted self down. Yet I didn’t call my mom–there’s nothing she could have done anyway. Instead, I used the experiences I already had with train stations and my Italian language skills and fixed the problem. Plus, the rocking of trains make them great for napping.