TRAIN FROM ANCONA TO ROME: Stamp your ticket, learn the language and get your coffee elsewhere!
THE TRAIN SYSTEM IN ITALY can be terribly confusing and also an extremely interesting means of people watching.
Before embarking on a weekend trip to Rome my friends and I decide that the best way for us to reach the Eternal City would be to take the train. An easy three hour ride from Ancona to Rome, it seemed the most obvious choice.
The first train available happens to be the local, meaning that it will take a bit longer and make several more stops than the more expensive and spacious Eurostar. Eager to begin our trip we decide to take it, happy that it is only costing us €13.
Walking onto the train the hot stuffy July air fills the cars.
“Please tell me there is air conditioning”, says Annie.
Well, none of the cars seems to be air conditioned so we sit down in the closest available seats.
Once the train begins to move, the conductor makes his way to our car. In a blur of Italian he indicates that we have forgotten to stamp our tickets before boarding the train.
According to our conductor this offense is punishable with a € 20 fine. However, he will not charge us and instead writes a rather lengthy blur of Italian words at the top of our ticket (I am assuming this excuses us from forgetting to stamp our tickets before boarding the train).
He then goes into another long incomprehensible rant. My friends and I stare blankly, wishing we understood him and nodding our heads. What could he be saying? By this time the air has thickened to an almost unbearable cloud of heat. My entire body, as with the rest of the individuals sitting in our car, is covered in a thin layer of sweat. It is awful.
Annie decides to look and see if there is a snack car to buy a bottle of water, only to return with a look of shock and embarrassment.
“There’s air conditioning in the other cars,” she says.
Ahhhh. Maybe that’s what the conductor was trying to tell us.
We quickly move to the next car, invading the space of a young Italian girl who does not look pleased to be sharing the seats around her with a bunch of sweaty Americans.
The crisp cold air envelopes our bodies and instantly I cool down. I decide to go with Annie on another search for water and we head toward the end of the car.
While on our hunt we see a broad range of unusual-looking characters. We can’t help but burst into a fit of giggles as we try to steady ourselves while walking down the aisles of the swaying train.
The first is a young boy, perhaps the equivalent of the American adolescent Goth. He sits in his seat with a sword pointed upwards in between his legs. He slowly strokes the blade while looking around at the other members of his car. Although I laugh, I walk past him as quickly as possible - he is more scary than funny.
Next we pass a woman who seems to have lost her modesty after becoming a mother. She sits with her her shirt around her neck and her young infants mouth attached to her breast. Her eyes are closed and she appears to be asleep.
Lastly, we pass a car that appears to be a scene from a movie. Several young men, all dressed casually, sit facing each other on the left side of the train car. They are singing in Italian and looking as though they are having a party.
At last we make our way to the end of the train where Annie proceeds with one of the sole Italian words we have learned to master.
“Café?” she asks, looking for the café car.
The conductor looks confused. Perhaps we are not as talented as we think. Annie stares at me blankly as we often do when we are at a loss for words because not knowing any Italian has, in fact, often left as at a complete loss for words.
Resorting to the universal sign for eating, I start acting like I am putting food into my mouth. The conductor laughs and shakes his head no.
There is no food cart on this train.
- Berit Baugher
EDITOR'S NOTE: The top image comes courtesy of Jennifer Adams, a Berry College student who was a member of the 2006 Camerano Project.