Italia in 40: Day 30…Creepers, Sweat, and Complete Chaos!

Today was INSANE. In every sense of the word.

I woke up about nine and took a shower and packed my stuff. I folded all my clean clothes and pack them up and then my friend and I went to her local coffee shop one last time. I got a pastry and some cappuccino and then we went to her favorite deli and I got a sandwich for my trip to Assisi.

I got to the station in Aversa around 11:40 and used the ticket kiosk to get a ticket to Assisi. Oddly, it routed me through Naples (south of Aversa) then on to Rome and on to Assisi. My train was scheduled to leave from Aversa at 12:09 and arrive at Napoli Central at 12:29, but it was 5, 10, then 25 minutes late. Right before it was supposed to arrive they changed the platform and announced it in Italian (obviously). I wasn’t super confident that I heard it correctly, so I went back downstairs to check the monitor and then ran to the correct platform and jumped on the train. So, before my real journey even started I was hot, sweaty, and 30 minutes late.

On my way from Aversa to Naples to men were sitting in my compartment and they began talking to me and asking where I was going, so I told them. They asked why I was in Italy and we spoke Italian and English, but then one of the guys started getting weird. When the train started to slow, everyone got up and left their compartments and walked to the corridor of the train. He was standing behind me and offered to help with my bag and I just smiled, but then he asked for my number and Facebook and told me to come visit him in Ferrara, where he was going. I just laughed and pretended I didn’t understand what he was saying and stopped making eye contact with him. The train finally stopped and we happened to walk in the same direction and he tried to talk to me again when we were walking toward the departure board, but I had to hurry past because my train was about to leave.

So, my train to Rome was supposed to leave Naples at like 1:10, and I didn’t get there until like 1:05. I had to run up to the departure board, passively glance at it and then run to the right platform. I got a second class ticket and of course the car I was in was at the end of the train so I had to run all the way down the platform and jumped on the train. Since I wasn’t at the station more than 5 minutes I couldn’t validate my ticket, so when I got to my seat I started to freak out about getting another on the spot fine. I wrote out another script, like I did on my first train ride, to prepare for the validation nazi that was going to check my ticket. Thankfully, when he came by he just hole-punched it and moved on. Later, I found out the entire train system was delayed, so I’m sure they were more lenient today. I was on the Frecce (high-speed) train from Naples to Rome, but in second class, and I didn’t have WiFi. I tried to sign into the system and it wouldn’t let me. I don’t know if it was because it was actually down or 2nd class passengers don’t have access to the system. So, keep that in mind when booking tickets on Le Frecce.

Once I got to Rome, the real trouble began. My ticket from Rome Termini to Assisi was just a generic ticket. It didn’t have a time, train number, platform, or any information, other than my destination. So, I went to the electronic departure board and saw no trains for Assisi. I then went to the paper departure schedule and again saw no train to Assisi. I examined the schedule really closely and saw a train to Perugia via Assisi. I looked at the departure board and saw that it was leaving from platform 1E which was outside of the station, off to the side-in the complete opposite direction of where I arrived. I looked down at my phone and it was 1:17 and the train was leaving at 1:23. I tried to haul ass, but right before the platform I stopped and validated my ticket so that I could jump right on. I literally got 15 yards away and the train pulled away. I said the F-word and a few others and then I walked back toward the station. I stopped at the paper departure board and looked for the next train to Perugia and saw that it didn’t depart Rome until 6. I kept looking saw NO other trains that stopped in Assisi.

I decided to go to the kiosk and look up the schedule on there, and I saw a train stopping in Foglino and then another train going from Foglino to Assisi, for only 10 Euro. I bought it, but when it printed out it was the exact same ticket I got in Aversa: a general ticket to Assisi with no time, train, platform, line-number, or anything.  I went to the help desk and asked to get a refund and the lady directed me to a long line of people changing their tickets (since so many trains were delayed today). I was dreading the line, but it moved really quickly and thankfully the employee working spoke some English. She wrote on my tickets and told me to go to ticket office in Assisi to get my refund. I asked her what was the next train going to Assisi and she said the 3:58 to Foglino. So I asked her what the train would be called on the departure board and she said Foglino. I waited around, bought a water, and then saw trains start to come up from 3:50 to 4 on the departure board. There was no train to Assisi, Perugia, or Foglino. I started to panic a bit and went to the paper schedule and didn’t see any trains for Foglino, Assisi, or Perugia on the paper one either. I went to another paper departure schedule and examined it closely and saw a stop at Foglino on the line to Ancona. The Ancona train left at 3:58, so I put 2 and 2 together and decided to get on that one. Of course, I look at the electronic departure board and that train is leaving from platform 2E, right next to the platform I had to run to right when I got to Rome, when I missed the train to Perugia.

Only my way to the platform, I saw a Despar supermarket at the station and decided to run in and get snacks and drinks since I had a 2 hour ride to Foglino, on the slow train, ahead of me. I bought some chips and two individual boxed wines. I got to the train and sat down and tried to find a place to put my bag, but it wouldn’t fit in the designated luggage storage areas, so I just had to put it in front of me. The train was packed and there was no air, so people were really mad that my bag was taking up so much room, but I didn’t care at this point. One girl offered to help me put my bag in the overhead area, but I explained it was too heavy and apologized. She was really nice and offered me one of her candies. The crowd on the train thinned out as we kept stopping so I finally got to move to a section by myself and move my bag out of the aisle. I drank a box of my wine, had some chips and took some pictures. I had taken a pictures of this trains schedule on the paper departure board at the Rome station, so I kept looking at it so that I would know how far away and how many stops I was from Foglino. Once I was one stop away, I put my backpack back on and moved to the exit area. The train to Foglino was delayed by 15 minutes so I was really worried I was going to miss the last train from Foglino to Assisi and be stuck in this small town I had never heard of or been to. The minute the train stopped I jumped off and there was already a train on the next platform with its doors open. I didn’t want to take the chance of going to the board and missing the train if it was indeed to Assisi, so I just started tapping people on the shoulder and asking if this train was going to Assisi. They told me it was, so I jumped and the doors closed. I just stood in the compartment between trains because I didn’t know how many stops I had until Assisi and I didn’t want to take my bag off and put it back on if I was just going to get off at the next stop. I heard people talking and Assisi was only two stops from Foglino.

There was a man in the corridor that began talking to me and he was weird. He was Tunisian and he asked me where I was from and said if I told him where I went to school he could “use his technology to find me in the U.S. when he visits” and I said no and that I was moving to New York in August. He did tell me about some cool places in Tunisia, including an ancient amphitheater that is better than the Colosseum, and about a bunch of universities and an island that’s supposed to be cool. Even though he kept trying to get me to come to Perugia to visit him and I wouldn’t oblige. Thank goodness the train stopped about the time he pulled out his phone to “show [me] something”. I jumped off and decided to call my hotel.

I could have sworn I paid a small supplement when I made the reservation regarding a shuttle to a from the station, but when I called he told me to take the bus. I read the posted signs and when into the bar in the station (it was really neat-like a real antique train-station bar) and purchased a ticket for the bus (it’s 70 cents cheaper than purchasing a ticket on board the bus). I read the schedule and counted the stops on the map from the station to the piazza where my hotel is. The bus arrived a bit late, but thankfully there were two attendants on board and I asked one of them if this bus did indeed go to my piazza and he said yes. The ride up the hill to Assisi was gorgeous, of course, and the attendant was nice enough to let me know when to get off. I would have gone past my stop because although I counted 7 stops from the train station to my destination, the bus doesn’t stop at all of the stops unless someone rings the bell, so at the point he told me to get off I had only counted 4 stops.

SN: I was shocked to see a McDonald’s, with a drive-thru, that serves breakfast and is open 24 hours a day on the weekends…

I got off the bus and bought a map out of a vending machine and tried to find my hotel. I saw a sign pointing up a street for it and ended up walking around, up and down the hills of Assisi, for 30 minutes with my heavy bag, trying to find it. It turns out I walked right past it before I went up any of the big hills…I finally saw it and went to check in. I was so tired, but it was 7:30 and I knew if I didn’t go find food and drinks I would be SOL until the morning, so I dumped my stuff and walked up the hill a little further and got some drinks and a slice of zucchini pizza (this is my favorite thing to get in Assisi-I don’t know if it’s a regional specialty, but every place I’ve been to in the city offers zucchini pizza).

After buying my dinner I came back and showered and organized my stuff before eating. Tomorrow is going to be a major relaxation day, but I’ll definitely go to a church or two in the afternoon.

I am so exhausted and sore, but I’m glad I was able to finally get here, no matter how challenging it was!

Until tomorrow, y’all!