Home > Travel > European Transport – fun

European Transport – fun

I spent last week in Italy, and a day before that with work in Athens at my last graduate scheme training. Having finished the ‘Career Workshop’ and the MACH scheme graduation dinner, drunk a fair amount of beer and spent most of the night on the beach playing Mafia, I had plans to leave Athens, fly to Rome, then to Pisa (where I was meeting Ali), then get the train to Piazza Al Serchio. Fairly straightforward, I’d left lots of time at all the changeovers as a nice relaxed start to my holiday.

After the late night Mafia-ing, I only got a few hours sleep. I also forgot to charge my phone, so my alarm didn’t go off. I woke up at 0700, my flight was due to leave at 0905 and the taxi ride from airport to hotel took a good 30 mins on the way there.

So, quick pack (no time for a shower – I’m still quite beachy) and out of the hotel. Panicing (if I miss this flight, I’ll miss all the connections and won’t be able to meet Ali), I get in a taxi and immediately hit Athens rush hour traffic, but arrive at the airport about 0815. (At least I remembered my passport, unlike Chris). They let me check in, I got through security and onto the plane with a few minutes to spare.

New panic: my phone’s about to lose battery, and there’s no way I’ll be able to meet Ali if I don’t have it. So, scour Athens airport to find a power socket- no luck at all.

Flight to Rome, airplane sandwich, touch down a couple of minutes behind schedule- nothing to worry about. Until I discover that I’m in the wrong terminal for domestic departures. Summoning my minimal Italian skills ("Scuzi, per favore" and then English) I find that it’s a 5 minute walk away, no problem. Looking at my watch, it seems to be an hour and a bit before my next plane leaves – not too long to wait, should be just enough time to find somewhere to charge my phone. Except I’d forgotten to put it back a time zone – actually have 2 and a bit hours to kill. And my flight’s been delayed, another 30 mins. Great. Finally get the departure gate, (eventually) find somewhere to charge my phone a bit and settle into getting bored.

Ali hasn’t left London yet, and actually any delay to my flight is good as it’ll mean less hanging around in Pisa for her to touch down. Feeling ok at this point.

And then my flight gets cancelled.

The poor Alitalia girl at the gate instantly gets about 15 angry Italians shouting at her (probably less scary if you can understand them) and a handful of completely blank faces from the non-Italian speakers as she explains what’s happened. It’s Ok, I remember there was a later flight around 1700 – but no, that one’s full. We all traipse back up to the check-in area and get told they’ll lay on a bus for us. This wil be ready to go in 20 minutes and take about 3 hours – if I know anything about the transport industry, especially in the Mediterranean countries, that meansit’l arrive in 30 mins and take 4 and a half hours to get there. And it’ll be a really rickety uncomfortable bus and looking at my fellow passengers I didn’t fancy spending any longer with them than necessary… Thinking about the timing, I’d probably arrive at Pisa about 730 or 8.

So I decided to get a train – I’ve heard great things about Trenitalia so it can’t take that long, right? Back to the Alitalia desk to get the train fare (actually, it turned out to be €10 less that they gave me) then up to the train station. I should mention that all this time I’ve been sending texts to Ali and her folks to keep them updated and my phone is down to one bar – main source of panic is the phone once again.

I get a ticket from a very helpful man, and the train into Rome pulls in a minute later – just time for me to remember to validate my ticket in the stamping machine: very important and have had this impressed upon me by everyone who has previously used the Italian trains…

All is looking good, it’s one of those funky double-decker trains (we REALLY need to get them in the UK) and it’s even got air con. Until I look at my watch, look at the time that my connection to Pisa is and remember one of my Italian colleagues telling me how long the train into Rome is: about 3 minutes longer than the time till my connection leaves. New panic!

I get to Roma Ostiense exactly a minute after it’s due to go, with practically no battery left in sweltering and humid heat. Not feeling great at the moment, little concerned because I’m not sure when the last train out of Pisa to Serchio is. Fortunately the Italian train system isn’t quite as punctual as people made out and my connection is 10 minutes late. It’s only a single floor train, the air con is broken, but joy of joys they have power sockets in all the seats! I’ve spent the last 2:30 hours in a giant greenhouse, but I’m just about to pull into Pisa Centrale, Ali’s waiting there on platform 1 and she’s already got tickets for rest of the journey.

What can go wrong? 🙂

Categories: Travel
  1. Anne
    July 15, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Wow -what a great story…. Next Christmas pressie HAS to be a spare battery or wind up charger !!

  2. Ian
    August 10, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Exciting stuff indeed! Suspense, foreign climes, last-minute successes and you even got the girl at the end. Needs more explosions though.

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