Taking the wrong train in Italy

I did very little planning for my trip to Italy. I booked accommodations, scheduled some food tours, made a few train arrangements to get some good deals on high speed trains.

Then I went and got on the wrong train.

I had a great day in Padova prior to this debacle. Patiently waiting at Platform 1 for my 15:03 Frecciargento train 9437 to Rome, stopping in Firenze, I saw the Frecciargento 9435 to Rome approach, forgot how to count, got on the train, found my coach, deposited my bag in the hold, and found my empty seat, 6D, waiting for me.

I realized my mistake the second the train was in motion and we pulled out of the station. Sweet peaches, what have I done!

A few days of mangled Italian meant talking my way out of this predicament was … unlikely. The monitors suggested the next stop was Bologna at 15:50, which was my best case scenario for fixing this (hopefully) minor flash of idiocy.

To keep my load light, I wasn’t carrying a map of Italy, so I had no idea where I was, where I was going, or how fixable a situation I was in.

I was trying to stave off panic while awaiting the scathing, non-English speaking judgement of the Trenitalia staff.

Ten minutes before arriving in Bologna, the ticket-taker arrived. I beat him to discovery by admitting my error.

“Hmph. We are near Bologna, you can stay here and pay €80 or change trains there.”

“Grazie, I’ll change trains.” I was so stunned by his command of English, that I almost paid the money to fix this on the spot.

Feeling adventurous, and cheap, I decided to get out at Bologna.

Best case scenario: my train was exactly 10 minutes behind.

Worst case scenario: figure out how to get to Firenze from Bologna on a Saturday afternoon.

Worst-worst case scenario: stay in Bologna for the night, suck up the missed reservation at my hotel in Firenze, all of which would probably cost more than €80. Alanis Morissette-style irony!


Arriving in Bologna, I sprinted for the departure board. Dumb luck reigns supreme! Sure enough, my original 15:03 Frecciargento train 9437 to Firenze was exactly ten minutes behind, soon to arrive at platform 4.

I boarded 9437 and found Coach 5, seat 6D empty and waiting for me. Once again, I awaited the scathing, non-English speaking judgement of the Trenitalia staff.

What a difference a train makes. When the ticket taker came around this time, he looked at my ticket and smiled broadly, “Buon viaggio!”

What’s Italian for “Get me a drink?”

I enjoyed being on the right train even more when I saw the nun on the left working on a PowerPoint.

What have we learned?

  1. 7 is a different number than 5.
  2. Confessing your sins to an Italian train conductor is good for the soul.
  3. Travel problems are generally fixable, despite significant language barriers
  4. My streak of excellent luck outside of Canada continues unbroken.
  5. €80 is the going rate for being an idiot.



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