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Trip Report Italy, Day 1 and 2: Trains, Rain, and Scary Stuff

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We left Bern around 1:30pm and got into our reserved seats for our trip to Milan. We didn't all end up right next to eachother, but we did get seated pretty close together. The boys each had the single seat by the window, my husband was next to the window with a Nun as a seatmate, and I was an aisle with a nice Italian man next to me (incident to be mentioned later) Boy was that train packed and I'm SO glad we booked these tickets in advance. There were alot people standing on this train.
So within minutes of crossing the border into Italy, it begins to rain...hard. We had 5 clear days in Switzerland with a little sprinkle on the 3rd day and clouds that had prevented us from going up to the Schilthorn, but this was the first real rain we saw...and the last!
As soon as we crossed into Italy...the passengers on the train changed. Changed how, you ask?! Well, herein lies the incident. An extremely DRUNK man got on the train and began to ask everyone for money. He decided to pick a fight with the nice Italian man sitting next to me! He was leaning over me, poking the man, and they got in a yelling match!! Luckily, he accepted that he was getting nothing and moved on. He then proceeded to poke and yell at several other passengers. It was scary! Then came the other beggars and sellers. We were offered "socks" by 3 different people, one person who came twice and just stood starring at me like I was going to buy them. We had two "beggars" one of whom carried around her child and walked up and down the train cars for about an hour. The Nun next to hubby gave the child some bread, but it did not appear she was getting much money. The next "beggar" passed out a note to each seat. By this time, the nice Italian man had gotten off and my 11 yr old moved next to me...he was getting nervous. Luckily the person who got on and had his seat was happy to sit in his vacated single seat by the window. So, back to the note. The note explained that she and her 3 brothers were orphans (she was at least 18-20 yrs old) and they lived in a caravan and needed money for food. She passed out the notes, then went around collecting them and the little bit of money she was offered. The Nun this time gave her a coin. I probably would have too, but I had no cash on me. My son made the point that if she can afford to make that many copies of her note (and she must have had access to a computer) then why didn't she use that money for food? "I don't know, honey. Maybe she wants a job but can't get one. Maybe she was able to borrow a computer and someone donated the copies....I just don't know." This was a common theme in Italy - quite a change from Switzerland.
We arrived in Milan around 4pm and had 4 hours to kill until our overnight train would be leaving for Sapri. We went to the luggage storage, had to repack the bags so they would be within the weight limit, and then stored them for a few hours. Unfortunately, it was still pouring so thought we had thought we'd head over to the Duomo for a little sightseeing,but that was out of the question. So instead we just wandered around the few blocks around the train station and the mall in the train station. The boys were hungry and somehow managed to spot a McDonald's, so we gave in and let them have that for dinner since the choices around the station were pretty limited. We collected the luggage about 45 minutes prior to our train leaving and headed to find our platform. The train arrived and we found our couchette car and got settled into our compartment. We had gotten pretty spoiled with the Swiss trains as those were very clean. This car was not exactly clean, but it could have been worse! We booked a 6 person couchette even though we only had 4 people. We let the conductor know we purchased all 6 tickets and he assured us we would have the car to ourselves for the night. He set up the beds for us (and had to move us to another compartment due to a bed being broken) and we settled in for the night. The "beds" were not horrible, but not real comfortable either. At least they give you the little sheet and pillow. It was relatively calm night with several stops along the way. About 2 stops before ours the conductor let us know that our stop would be coming and returned our ticket. We arrived in Sapri at 6:45am and it was a beautiful day!
We were in Sapri to visit my father-in-law. He lives in a smaller mountain village about 10 km from Sapri, but that was the closest train station. I won't bore you with the rest of the days details, only to say that my 80 yr old Italian father-in-law had his own agenda on where we were going to go and what we were going to do. First on his agenda was to make my 13 yr old get a haircut. He likes to wear his hair longer (not ponytail long though) and that drives my father-in-law crazy. After nagging him for the first hour we were there, my son gave in and let some of his hair get cut. They compromised so it wasn't short, but his ears and eyes can be seen now :) My father-in-law then decided to take us to Maratea (by car as he has one) to see the giant Christ Statue on top of the mountain. It was amazing!! These small coastal towns and beaches are beautiful, but are somewhat touristy. I was suprised to find that though each little store or cafe has a different name....they all sell the same stuff/food. So it doesn't matter where you go! The trip to Maratea took us about 3 hours total between travel (40 minutes each way) and walking around the mountain (1 hour). After Maratea, we went back to Sapri and then up to Torraca where my father-in-law lives, had home made pasta at his apartment and then hung out in the village for the night meeting his friends. It was a long but much enjoyed day :)

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