We arrived at Milano Malpensa airport at around 8 a.m. on Friday, September 28th after a pretty bumpy ride across the pond. We were seated in the very last row of the plane and of course there was that requisite screaming toddler just a few rows away. After going through Italy’s non-existent customs area, we hopped on a 45-minute pullman (coach bus) ride to Milano Centrale train station. Due to the two chatty ladies that sat behind me in the bus, literally speaking in six different languages at once, I didn’t catch the sleep I’d hoped to on the ride, haha.
After making it to Centrale, we lugged our six pieces of luggage (nope...we'll never learn how to pack light) into the station to buy some bigliette (train tickets) to Verona . I hopped over to the bigliette veloce (fast ticket) station, and reserved two seats for us on the next Regional Intercity train from Milano to Verona. Walking into main area of the station by the binarii (train platforms) brought back a flood of memories from studying abroad; good ones and bad ones. I shook my head and smiled as we waited for the track number to be announced for our train to Verona.
As some of you know, back in ’05, we had quite the experience at Milano Centrale after our RyanAir flight from Paris to Rome had been cancelled and the only way back home was through a 30-hour series of separate train rides and train strikes through France, Switzerland and Italy. We were forced to attempt to sleep on chairs in the train station’s police office after barberoni (homeless people) harassed us while we waited for the next train to Florence that left at 5 a.m. And although they were honestly the worst 30 hours of my life, I look back on that terrible situation fondly….haha. It turned out to be one of my best study abroad stories, and what’s the point of studying abroad if you don’t have good stories!? :-)
TrenItalia (Italy’s train system) didn’t fail to leave a lasting memory on this trip either. When buying our tickets for the ride, I wanted to get to Verona as fast as possible since we were so exhausted, and I picked the first train that left for the city. I completely forgot about Regional trains and their notorious reputation; Eurostar is a much better option, even if it costs more. Each car of these Regional trains has a bunch of cabins, each with six seats, no leg room, and a teeny hallway on the side. You can pay a cheaper fare to have a ticket without a reservation and sit in any open seat available, or you can pay more for reservation and kick out anyone sitting in your assigned seat.
Luckily for us…the train was packed like a sardine can. There doesn’t seem to be a limit on tickets issued for these trains in Italia and since a train strike would start the next day, everyone wanting to get from Milano to cities in the Veneto was on our train. After struggling to get our mountain of luggage on the train and through the hallways jammed with people, I finally found our cabin, which was - surprise, surprise - packed with Italians.
For the first time on the trip, I whipped out my italiano and explained that I had two assigned seats in the cabin, showing my tickets to the people sitting in seats 101 and 102. And so a game of musical chairs and luggage ensued, along with dirty looks and derogatory smack talking, as the Italians with no reservations had to exit the cabin. Once the moaning about the seat exchange finished, the complaining about all of our luggage that was stuck in the hallway commenced. Com’`e possibile? (How is it possible to have all of this stuff?) Non `e giusto per questo treno!! (It’s not right/fair to have this on this train).
Of course I apologized profusely, offered for people to sit on the luggage so they wouldn’t have to stand, and of course they told me that it wasn’t my fault and not to worry….only to talk more smack about me two minutes later when they thought I wasn’t paying attention…haha. Then the food trolley had to pass through the hallway, pushing about 3 people into our cabin along with two of our 50 pound suitcases that I balanced on my feet.
In the words of Nonna – my host mom from Florence – che casino! (what a disaster!)