Linda and I are currently exploring Italy. Just prior to our trip, I did a quick post advising everyone that we wouldn’t be writing about our adventures in Italy because it didn’t really fit the theme of our blog, which as you know is Mexico.
Well, I may have spoken (or written) too soon because I have a story from our trip that I believe is worth telling.
Snow in Rome (and Siena)
On Monday, a rare event occurred here in Italy — snow fell in Rome. The last time snow fell on the Italian capital was back in 2012 and the time before that was in 1985.
Linda and I were in Siena at the time and snow fell there too. Linda hasn’t seen much snow in her life and she giggled like a schoolgirl as she made snowballs with her bare hands and threw them at me. She was having a ball — literally and figuratively.
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men
I’m no stranger to the snow. I grew up in New York and saw enough of it to last me a lifetime. Based on my experience with the white powdery stuff, I didn’t think that six inches of snow would be a big deal — wow, was I wrong.
We had planned to take a train to Florence the next morning and then catch a second train to Venice. We already had our tickets and we called the taxi almost an hour prior to the recommended time to ensure that we would make it to the train station in Siena with plenty of time to spare.
The taxi company said that they would arrive in 9 minutes — well, they didn’t. The taxi company seriously underestimated the impact the snow would have on their travel times and the driver arrived an hour and a half later.
We missed our first train which meant that we missed the second one too. So much for taking the time to plan. We hopped on a later train to Florence hoping that we would be able to change our ticket to Venice once we arrived.
The Kindness of Strangers
We arrived to a very chaotic scene in Florence. For some reason that I still don’t understand, the six inches of snowfall in Rome resulted in numerous trains being either cancelled or delayed. Passengers were lined up at kiosks hoping to find alternative routes to their destinations.
When we made it up to the kiosk, the attendant quickly printed a new ticket and told us to hurry because our first train was leaving in a few minutes. I grabbed our two 50 pound suitcases — I was wishing at that moment that we had packed lighter — and hurried to the platform.
When we were within 20 feet of the train, all of the doors shut. I thought we were too late but I was able to open the doors of the car closest to us. When I did, all I saw was a crowd of people crammed shoulder to shoulder into the small area near the doors. There didn’t appear to be enough room for us and our bags. What happened next surprised me.
The people closest to the doors started to shuffle their feet to move back to give us room to get on. They even helped us with our bags, which was a blessing because Linda has a bad back and I didn’t want her to do it.
We spent the next 20 minutes pressed tightly against complete strangers. Everyone was very calm, respectful and unusually quiet. It was so quiet that when people did speak, they tended to do it in whispers.
When we arrived at the next stop, we only had a few minutes to find the next train. A stranger helped by grabbing one of our bags and placing it onto the platform for us before taking care of his own bags.
We followed a herd of people who were fast walking to the next train. There were several flights of stairs and I was definitely starting to feel the strain of carrying 100 extra pounds.
As we were going up the final flight of stairs, I felt one of the bags suddenly get much lighter. I looked to my right and saw that a gentleman in his 30’s had grabbed the other handle and was helping me carry it. The cop in me originally thought he was trying to steal it, but it turns out he was only helping me.
At that point, I felt the other bag get lighter and saw that a second gentleman had grabbed the extra handle on that one. We were able to quickly run up the stairs and we made it to the train with only seconds to spare.
This train was as packed as the first one and we spent the next hour and a half standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, unable to move more than a few inches. Going to the bathroom was not an option.
Just like on the first train, people were incredibly respectful, kind and unusually quiet. Occasionally, the train would tilt slightly as it moved through a turn and people would fall against their neighbor. People would say “excuse me” in whatever language they spoke and then straighten up. No one got annoyed or angry — it was very surreal.
When we arrived at Bologna, we went to the next train and were extremely pleased to find two available seats located near the bathroom. Two hours later, we finally arrived in Venice.
Let’s Wrap This Up
It definitely wasn’t an ideal travel day; however, we know that it could have been much worse if people had not acted the way that they did. It really amazed and impressed us at how kind, considerate and helpful people were to each other during this stressful situation.
Today we woke up in Venice and were surprised to see that it had snowed during the night. We have to travel on the train again tomorrow and we’re hoping it goes better than our last trip — fingers crossed!