Italian Train Incident


Image of a train

This isn’t actually a train in Italy, but it IS a train, which should help put you in the right frame of mind for this story.

So, we … [interruption]

Just as I began this update, we had an exciting l’incidente (accident). We were on a train heading towards Venice, and it stopped somewhere we did not expect it to stop. We waited for further instructions. None were forthcoming. All the Italians got off the train. We got off the train. All of the Italians milled around the front of the train station in one large herd. We milled around in front of the train.

Up until this point, I practiced Italian conscientiously, but there was ALWAYS someone available to speak English in a pinch, even if it was just through google translate. I had tried not to assume Italians would speak English, but Italians are very nice people, and I noticed that they had always jumped in when needed. Now, stranded in the middle of a teeny-tiny Italian town, not one representative of the train company; not one fellow Italian passenger; and not one townsperson spoke any English. They would not even say “non” when I asked, in Italian, if they spoke English. I do believe this happened on purpose. I don’t blame them. There was not a lot to do in front of the train station, and “punking” Americans was probably a great diversion.

At this point, all of the Americans instinctively found each other. A beautiful thing then happened. Truly transformational. Each American recognized at least one Italian word in the announcements over the loudspeakers. All of those hideous corporate team-building events I have attended in my life began to pay off. Like a bizarre game show, team America huddled, pooled our meager Italian, and figured out that the train broke down a little ways up the track.

The game was on to figure out what would happen next. Team America tried to get taxis and ubers. Only Italians got taxis and ubers. Fair enough.

Team America figured out a rescue train was coming to take us to Milan. Ahh, now things got exciting. What platform would we use? What number? Team America thought it would be platform 3, but Team Italy were ALL waiting on platform 1. Team America went to platform 1 with the logic that the train would wait for Team Italy, but not for Team America. So, if we stood with Team Italy, we could all just run back over to platform 3 as a group. The moment arrived.  The platform was announced. It is was Platform 3!! Team America had a 3-second delay in understanding that we were right, as we were trampled by Team Italy running en masse to platform 3.

We got back on the train. It appeared we were headed towards Venice, but it was hard to know for sure.

P.S. The Italians on the rescue train, who were the same Italians milling on the platform, started speaking English again right away. All announcements were once again being made in Italian and English.  It is possible this was all some type of hidden camera thing, and we will all just laugh and laugh about it one day.


For more of our shenanigans in Italy, please see: Italy: Everyone Enjoys a Good Potato Chip.  Also, my Italy Reading List can be found here.

The itineraries we followed in Italy can be found at: Italy Itinerary: Lake Como, Venice, Rome, Pompeii and Italy: A One-Week Itinerary in the Italian Riviera.