#22 – Rome by train – 30 Days, 30 Countries
So….. me and my father were supposed to see each other around 10 PM in Milano Porta Garibaldi. You do need some knowledge on forehand to understand the whole story. Network reception was bad, nobody spoke English, GPS apparently was not working, and the offline map of Italy was the ónly one that I forgot to download on forehand, And as it turned out we were under time pressure. We tried to communicate via Whatsapp, and around 22:20 my father was at platform 1 – and I was at platform 1.. but obviously not the same platform 1 because I didn’t see him. Under a little bit of stress we made a quick Whatsapp call, and found out that my father was at station Milano Porta Garibaldi Passante.
I then realized that he was at another station. I immediately planned something on the Interrail app with 1 transfer with which he should arrive at 23:04 at Milano Porta Garibaldi. Long story short: first train wen’t fine, however arriving at the transfer station: no train. Some passengers/conductors meanwhile helped him. Saying that an other train would to go Garibaldi that would arrive at approximately the time that we were supposed to leave (23:17). While being on the Whatsapp call again, we found out that he AGAIN arrived at Milano Porta Garibaldi Passante. Meanwhile the conductor was convinced that the over-night trains would leave from the ‘main station’. I tried everything at my side (I saw the train on the board), but nobody spoke English.
Conclusion: 5 minutes after we had missed our train all of a sudden we saw each other. It turned out that we were approximately 100 meters away from each other, but in different buildings. There is indeed a Milano Porta Garibaldi Passante station, and a Milano Porta Garibaldi station (located next to each other). But without working GPS, without any information signs (next morning we still found no indication of ‘Passante’ from the main building), without me having the offline map (we would have seen the 2 stations there!), without anyone speaking English and without anyone being able to give any sort of direction we were stranded.
It’s weird to realize that if only 1 of these factors would have been working properly – we wouldn’t have any issues at all. Nevertheless, this is an Interrail experience that you most likely will experience, in the sense that your train will get stranded somewhere.. or you’ll miss the last overnight connection hence you have to stay in the station overnight. We wanted to avoid that, so after an enjoyable night-walk through Milan we found an “affordable” place to stay. So now we’re in the high-speed train to Rome, arriving ~3 hours later than planned. We still have 5 hours to see the best of Rome! Our journey has begun, after a small hickup. The train were are in now is exceptionally luxurious (drink/snack), and on the main part of the route it will go as fast as 300 km/h! Rome by train, here we come.
Rome. I think the most tourist-oriented city I’ve seen so far. It doesn’t matter where you are in Rome: people will try to force you to go in their restaurant – or they are selling you a selfie stick. I wish I had some Dutch souvenirs to sell to them, so I could see how quickly they’ll give up. Also there is cheap food everywhere, which you definitely will be drawn to because it looks and smells amazing. Also the tourist hotspots are unbelievably stunning (Colosseum, Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo) and crowded; making it an enjoyable place for me to watch people… simply watch them – it’s amazing to see all the different types that are out there. Rome breathes architecture.
After we’ve walked for a few kilometres through the city, we arrived at Vatican City. Basilica di San Pietro is massive, and completely flooded with tourists and selfie-stick selling people. Haven’t seen any smoke though…, also Pope Franciscus was not at home I think… (he frequently walks around I’ve heard, lol). So after surviving Rome (I haven’t felt more exhausted up to then, I even needed to sit down 5 minutes before we would arrive at the station because I couldn’t take it anymore), we made it to our train to Ventimiglia. In Ventimiglia we had booked a nice hotel, where the receptionist/owner (I assume) even spoke Dutch. Breakfast was already available at 6 in the morning!!
Unfortunately my blisters have become active again due to the long walk in Rome. So I think I’ll be using the public transport around Barcelona and Madrid to spare me. We just left Monte Carlo (capital of Monaco) where we took a small break to view the city. Pretty views on the ocean, city completely transverted to a race-car track which will be used soon and it looks expensive. After Monte Carlo we ran into troubles. I knew that Interrail in France is not the most ideal combination. On InterCity’s and High-Speed Trains there are only a limited number of seats available for Interrailers. And I couldn’t book on forehand because I expected to have at least some delay. Which we did not have!
So it turned out that we had no problems going in/out Spain and Portugal, however going into France is a ‘another cook’ (Louis van Gaal). All the TGV’s from Hendaye to Paris have been fully booked apparently the coming Monday. Luckily the ticket-lady at the service desk helped us out by selling us 2 beds in the night-train from Hendaye to Paris. Positive: no extra hotel costs in Paris. Negative: less time to see Paris and too much time to see Hendaye (7 hours). Luckily Hendaye is located next to the ocean, so we’ll probably end up on the beach! No worries.