Italian train dramas

10th May, 2019

I’ll bet you any money that you read the title of this blog post and thought “oh yes, Italian train delays.” I regret to inform you, dear readers, that you are incorrect. This post is not about the (not uncommon) terrible train delays, but about how I entirely messed up.

While staying in Pavia (near Milan), I planned to go to Valenza for the day. Valenza is a little city well-known for it’s goldsmiths and is located near Alessandria, west of Pavia. I was going to meet a friend for lunch, and was to arrive at 2pm.

The morning started off kinda weird. I had meant to get up earlier and have a productive morning, but was tired and went to bed again after breakfast. Hence, the morning was incredibly unproductive.

When it came time to go to the train station, I left myself plenty of time and arrived 20 minutes before the train was due to depart. Plenty of time. Supposedly.

As I stood in line at one of the ticket machines, I slowly realised that the customer in front of me was taking a while to purchase her ticket. The ticket machines themselves are quite slow (very inconvenient when you are in a rush), but she seemed to be having trouble. A few minutes passed, and she walked off without having purchased a ticket.

I took her place, selected the language, waited for the “watch out for pickpockets” audio message to finish playing, typed in the destination, chose the afternoon time slot, chose the train which I wanted and then pressed the “purchase” button.

Nothing.

I tried again.

Nothing.

The screen just froze at that stage.

I joined the line at the next machine, but as I said, the machines themselves are quite slow. There were several people in front of me and I was getting a bit impatient, so I instead joined the line at the ticket booth in the hope that interacting with a human would be much speedier.

Alas, it was not.

When the line for the ticket booth refused to move at all, I realised that I needed to abort my mission of seeking real human assistance and rejoin the queue at the ticket machine.

When I finally was able to purchase my ticket, I rushed to the departures board and quickly found my train. Platform 1. Cool, too easy!

The train was already waiting on the platform, so I jumped on and settled down.

In a few minutes, we were off!

Now, the first stop we passed was Pavia Porta Garibaldi, which is on the other side of town, and not in what I thought was the direction of Valenza. But it seemed that the train was maybe going around Pavia before heading to Valenza (which is slightly south), so I didn’t stress too much.

The views from the train were gorgeous. Huge fields, lovely old estates, masses of bright red poppies. It was stunning, and I was quite happy to stare out of the window for most of the trip.

Forty minutes into the trip, I realised that I was nearing my destination. The upcoming stops weren’t displayed in the train, so wanting to message my friend (she was meeting me at the station), I pulled up Google Maps so that I could let her know how far I was from Valenza.

Well.

As it turns out, I was quite far.

Somehow, I had managed to get on the wrong train and had been travelling for nearly an hour in the wrong direction.

I jumped out of my seat and rushed to get off at the next stop (there are fines for catching the wrong train in Italy). However, as the train pulled away, I realised that I may have made a very grave mistake.

The group of adolescents who had alighted at the same stop quickly disappeared, swallowed up into the cars of waiting parents, and disappeared down the pebbled road and around the corner.

I looked around the station and very quickly registered that I was in the middle of nowhere.

There were no shops around the station.

That was the first indication.

Then I walked around the station building. The car park was empty except for a few stranded cars. It quickly became apparent that the station itself was abandoned.

The one door which was not padlocked opened to an empty room with exactly one shattered frame.

The station had no arrivals/departures board.

There was no ticket machine.

There was nowhere to validate train tickets.

There was no clock, no seat, no sign at all of civilisation.

At this point, I thought that a little panic might not be an inappropriate reaction. I was on the verge of tears, about to truly freak out, when I forced myself to stop being an idiot and focus.

I messaged my friend, got online to buy another ticket (which actually was not a legal ticket cause I couldn’t print and validate it), and then waited for the next train to come to take me back to Pavia, where I then caught another train to Valenza.

So, three trains later, I finally arrived in Valenza. I was two hours late and already incredibly tired, BUT I managed (finally) to get there!

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