Aug
26
2008
3

Sicily to Rome: My first European rail journey

After spending five months in the island nation of Malta it was really time to leave. I booked a Eurail pass, planned furiously then caught the ferry over to Sicily.

I had a Eurail Global Pass planned and ready but I didn’t want to start it for a couple of weeks. I bought tickets on the overnight train to Rome. What an experience! I spoke no Italian, the sales agent no English. He kept saying “reservation” over and over but I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t have a reservation!

In Italy you have to validate tickets before you travel using yellow punches on the platform. Luckily I saw some people doing it or I wouldn’t have known. The whole situation was bewildering.

Locusts

Then the people started to gather. Like swarming locusts, every University student on the whole island jammed onto the platform. Everyone wanted to get back to Rome after the Summer holidays. Person after person arrived until the platform was seething with teens and twenty-somethings. I suddenly understood why “reservation” was so important.

As the train pulled into the station everyone swarmed to the edge and a scrum ensued around each door. People fought to get out; people fought to get in. I jumped in where I could — my massive backpack concussing a couple of unfortunates behind me — and found a seat. A seat!

Relief followed by panic

As people started sitting in the corridors I realised how full this train was. And then I realised I was sitting in first class. There was no way I could afford a first class supplement but damned if I was sitting on the coridor’s steel floor for the next 12 hours.

One person in my cabin spoke a little English and, even better, he was in the same situation. With assurances his seat would be there when he returned he left to speak with the conductor. How many euros would my underhand “supplement” be? I had no idea but it was going to be more than the couple it would have cost me to make a reservation before hand!

We were in luck. The train was so packed with people the conductors had decided to abolish the divide between first and second class and I settled in to enjoy my so-called luxury. My introduction to European rail journeys was certainly hectic but that mad energy has made me come back time and time again.

Craig was using an individual train ticket from Trenitalia, the Italian rail company. Find out about Italy Rail Passes.

Written by Craig the admin in: Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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