Italy has a vast and well-functioning rail road system which I have to admit, surprised me in a very positive way. So, when my sister was about to fly in from Amsterdam, I thought it best to share some travel information with her.
Me: Hi honey. You’re arriving really early. There’s no direct bus at that hour so you travel by train to Orte and I’ll meet you there.
Her: Great. See you there then.
Me: Not so fast. Do you know how to get to Orte.
Her: Well, I’ll probably buy a ticket at the vending machine to Orte, and there I go?
Me: Ehm. No. In fact, stay away from the vending machines.
Me: They are either out of order or you really get lost in translation. The last time I tried it drove me insane and I missed my train.
Her: So, what do I do?
Me: You go to the ticket office no matter how long the line is. They do speak English there, and they are very helpful most of the time.
Her: Great! That’s it then.
Me: I’m afraid not.
Me: No. Because you have to transfer at Rome Termini.
Her: Well, I’ll look up my train. I can do that. I’m an adult. I think I can manage.
Me: Well, the thing is. Orte is not the final destination, so it will not be on the board. What you need to look for is your travel time and the number of your train. The latter is really important!
Her: Well then, train number, there you go.
Me: Yes, it’s on your ticket, but the complete number is not on the information board. Just the last four figures. Remember that. And then there’s one other thing.
Her: I can hardly imagine anything else. Really.
Me: The platform from which the train to Orte is leaving, is not on the main information boards.
Me: It’s a Harry Potter kind of situation. Remember? In London they left from a non-existing platform to boarding school.
Her: I hate Harry Potter.
Me: That’s not helpful.
Her: I’m starting to get a little worried here.
Me: No need for that. The thing is. There are two extra platforms that are indicated at the end of the main hall. If you just continue, you will find them on your left. But, you’ll still need your train number and your departure time to find the right platform. And before you board, you check out if Orte is mentioned. Okay?
Her: How the hell are you supposed to find this out on your own?
Me: I don’t know. It’s a riddle, and it can only be solved by Italians. They are born with this kind of information in their DNA. For us, poor suckers, it’s just trial and error. Ci vediamo! See you soon!