Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Itallian Trains Confuse Us, Our First Day in Italy

After navigating customs and collecting our luggage, which kind of took for ever (and there was NO WHERE to sit while we waited for them to load one blessed piece of luggage on the carrosel at a time) we decided that rather than dropping the Euros for a taxi from the Rome airport to the Termini to catch our train to Florence, we'd take the Leonardo Express as detailed in our Rick Steves guidebook (note that this is not a free plug for Rick Steves, this is a critical detail because later in our trip we actually run into the Steves himself.  Also, he may or may not be called "The Steves" henceforth in this blog since that's what we called him and his book the whole trip).  We were briefed on how to appropriately use train tickets in Italy by Christine  who spent time living in Rome.  While we got lots of useful advice while planning this trip, Christine and Rick Steves were the two bulletproof resources that were never wrong.  So we validated our tickets and with the first heave of my suitcase onto the train I immediately regretted packing so much.  If I could do it again, I'd bring half as much stuff.  Lesson learned.
Successfully navigated to the Rome Termini
Trying to figure out how to read a train schedule

 We successfully figured out how to read the train schedule and how to get to our track.  We then took our tickets, strolled up to the validation machine about 20 minutes before our train was set to arrive and then.....failure.  Our ticket wouldn't print/validate.  We tried a few times.  We tried both ends.  We even debated if the detachable strip should be detatched or not.  We ripped it off.  We regretted it.  It made no difference because our ticket still wouldn't validate.

Then we noticed our tickets were different than the ones everyone around us had.  We got ours through our travel agent.  Then it occured to us that we didn't in fact have tickets but just a restervation or a voucher.  So we frantically ran to the ticket kiosk and tried to enter our number in order to print our our real tickets, meanwhile our train leaves in 10 minutes.  We are a litte hysterical.  Kind Italian strangers attempt to show us how to use the machine but we assume that they are either scam artists or pickpockets (a fair assumption at most train stations in Italy).  In retrospect, they were probably just kind strangers tired of watching us stare at it, and then our ticket, and then the machine, and then cram it in there and then walk away defeated.  No joke, this went of for 30 minutes.

Finally we corner a TrenItalia representative and tell him about our problem.  He looks at our ticket and says, "You don't need to validate that type of ticket".  What?  This was never mentioned by The Steves?!  I kind of don't believe him but I am tired, I just get on the dang train knowing full and well that at my level of exhaustion I could easily create a histerical crying-fit scene* that would surely cause a conductor to take pity on a couple of American Idiots fresh off the plane.

*Don't judge.  I will never see anyone on that train again except for my husband.  And I think he wouldn't complain if it got us out of a fine.

We end up passing off our tickets without any question (though I still feel like some kind of fugitive) and riding in relative peace to Florence.  I say relative peace because the couple of teenagers across from us made out during half the ride.  Full on making out, with tounge flapping around.  You know what also didn't help?  They were gross.  Not just inappropriate-PDA-gross, but  God-hit-them-with-an-ugly-stick gross.  

After arriving in Florence we started our trek to our hotel, Hotel Cimbue.  It wasn't a bad walk, but I was surprised at how narrow the sidewalks were and how no one seemed to give a crap that I was dragging a roller bag behind me and weren't particularly concerned about staying out of my way.  Not a great first impression of the Italian people, but it's hard to say how much of that was a real perception or if I was just cranky from being tired.  We were pleased with our hotel accomidations and went up to our room for a shower and some rest.   The weather was cool and perfect, we napped with the windows open.


Adjusting my scarf in our hotel room in Florence
I noticed that scarves were big in Italy.  I was glad I brought one with me because I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have been allowed in the country without one.

After a nice break we headed to the Accademia and used our Rick Steves free downloaded audio tour and took a tour of the gallery.  After the gallery we strolled aroun the streets of Florence and explored.

We had dinner next to the Duomo....
And had the first of many, many, many gelattos.  Then we strolled back to our hotel and called it a night.

1 comment:

The Waspy Redhead said...

I need some gelatto. On my trip, I lovingly referred to Rick Steves as "Ricky". He was my bff.