Our Italian Snow Adventure

Siena, Italy (Source: Linda Kurtzweil)

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.

One of Linda’s first snowballs…ever (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

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!

Venice, Italy (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

36 Comments on "Our Italian Snow Adventure"

  1. I so enjoyed your story. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing. Have a good time and I hope the snow melts quickly.

  2. I loved reading about your adventure in Italy. It will be something you wont’ soon forget. I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly. Enjoy!

  3. That must be quite an unexpected sight. I’ve enjoyed your travel photos on IG and I’ve seen some others of the snow in Rome.

  4. What a great adventure!! I am so thankful that so many people were willing to help. Gives me faith that kidness truly exist in the world. Travel safe.

  5. Diane McNair | February 28, 2018 at 7:24 am |

    Sounds like it will be a trip h to remember. Thanks for sharing your adventure Paul!

  6. Ethel aka Fran | February 28, 2018 at 7:58 am |

    Yes, I remember all the kind people we met in Italy when traveling there with my daughter. Everyone was always so very helpful. The same in Germany and Switzerland. Of course, I was so thrilled to be in the beautiful places I visited, that I was always smiling and wondered if that had something to do with the way people reached out in kindness. We even had an Italian taxi driver that sang to us and drove us to the Coliseum when there was a beautiful full moon. He wanted us to see it and he didn’t charge us any extra. I will never forget how nice everyone was during my travels. So glad you are having a good time!

  7. I love the crowded train adventure and photo. I do remember that during my trip to Italy in the summer of 2016. Yes totally standing room only and it’s amazing anyone from the back could find their way thru the maze of people to exit at their stop. I too have a bad back and started out with a 20 lb rolling backpack. By the time my journey ended I was up to 35 lbs with added wine. And I experienced strangers assisting me up the stairs also. Amazing how many stairs there can be. I think they helped mostly so I did not slow the crowd behind me from arriving at their track. Enjoy the snow. My NJ youthful memories are all I need of that stuff.

  8. I believe you just experienced one of my nightmares.

  9. Paula Landis | February 28, 2018 at 8:50 am |

    That kindness extended to you two would never have occurred in America……well, maybe, if you were lucky!

  10. Sandy Jackson | February 28, 2018 at 9:06 am |

    Great story Paul, memories of a vacation you won’t forget.

  11. Great story! Isn’t it wonderful how strangers can reach out to help and be respectful? We loved Italy when we were there (but we went in June, no snow!)

  12. Marga Rootlieb | February 28, 2018 at 9:15 am |

    welcome to Europe 😉 Take a train to the Netherlands for some ice skating on the canals!! Have fun you two!

  13. You’re in my favorite place in the whole world. Venice is magical. I hope you have time to see a bunch of it, and have a few chicchetti and some Prosecco and enjoy the remarkable quiet of a city with no cars after dark.

  14. Jane W Adams | February 28, 2018 at 9:59 am |

    Back in the day I, too, did the Rome, Florence, Venice route by train. We departed Florence late night and awoke to a beautiful sunrise as we approached Venice–unforgettable! Have you had to sleep beside total strangers on a train yet? Also unforgettable. . . oh my.

  15. So cool – renewed faith in humankind – thank you for sharing you story.

  16. Christine Fennell Head Office | February 28, 2018 at 10:20 am |

    Thank you for sharing your adventure! The kindness extended to you and Linda made my heart warm. I truly believe there is more kindness in the world than bad.

  17. Despite the snow, it sounds like a wonderful experience of people being kind and caring.
    Years ago I travelled to Italy and found people to be so kind. Enjoy your travels.

  18. Goodness thrives. Love to hear this. <3

  19. Enjoy your stories and great pictures! Since we have recently retired and spending 3 months in Mazatlan coming from Winnipeg Canada I have to say I like your Mexican Pictures better…hahaha. Enjoy the rest of your vacation…tell Linda to wear gloves to make a better snowball!!!

  20. Hi would it be possible or maybe you have written already.
    Some tips on your experience with content specific to Vacation bookings from the Riviera Maya the ease of flights, prices, connections etc. Just curious how easy/hard travels/prices are from the Cancún airport to other places.
    Ive only known 1 way direct from my town lol that’s it.
    But curious when we live there the options to to fly other routes etc. The quirks or bonuses. I know you mentioned you prefer to blog specifically on the Riviera Maya but thought that type of information would fit in with your informative blogs 🙂

  21. Wanda Andrade | February 28, 2018 at 11:27 am |

    “The kindness of strangers”heart warming story.

  22. Wow! What a great story. The kindness of others and joys (and the unexpected delays) of traveling. Enjoy the rest of your trip. Ciao

  23. Love the story! Enjoy your well earned vacation

  24. LINDA J DAVIS | February 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm |

    Great true life stories like this help build bridges, not walls! Thanks so much for sharing your stories♡

  25. Kaye Richardson | February 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm |

    Beautiful story! It’s what we love about travel! We’ve encountered far more helpful, kind people than any other type.

  26. Great story, as usual. I’ve been to Italy only once. The thing I loved about Italian people was their love of life. They don’t sweat the small stuff and they appreciate all the good things in life (like eating well).

    Have a great trip. It’s beautiful there, isn’t it?

  27. Paul Brochner | February 28, 2018 at 3:54 pm |

    Likely the biggest trouble the railroads had during a snow event would have been they don’t have switch heaters like cold climate operations would. The snow will accimulate in the moving parts of the track switches and prevent them from operating fully, resulting in the traffic control system not receiving confirmation that they are in the correct positions. Personel would likely have had to clear the snow in the switches manually, by sweeping them out, resulting in the delays and cancellations.

  28. You definitely have a gift for writing Paul!
    Your story reminds me of why I don’t want to go to Europe in the winter time.
    We thoroughly enjoy the 80’s right now in Playacar.

  29. alice hesselrode | February 28, 2018 at 6:10 pm |

    Even when things go awry good things happen to good people.

  30. Helen Verwey | February 28, 2018 at 6:35 pm |

    I have always believed that there are more good people in this world than Bad!!! So Happy you were enlightened to an easier path to your destination. These are moments you will always remember and sharing your stories reminds me….People are good!!! xo Thank you for sharing….HAppY Anniversary!!!!

  31. Julie Harris | February 28, 2018 at 7:01 pm |

    Amazing!! I concur with the previous poster complimenting your writing style. Glad I found you. My mind has been set for quite sometime wanting to retire in Mexico. We’ve beeen vacationing in Playa Mujeres for a dozen years at least. Made some good friends. I like the idea of being in a gated community. My husband just retired also & he is my roadblock. Read him the article about speaking the language but his fears are deep. This summer we are traveling the East Coast. I think when he realizes how much farther our money will go in Mexico he might become more amenable!

  32. I really like your blog. I am about to leave Italy with my family to go and live in Merida, Yucatan, and I find your blog usefull, interesting and fun. Don’t be too surprised by Italians: we are disorganized and noisy, and we don’t really like following alle the rules all the time, but we are good-hearted people, no doubts about it. Have fun!

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 2, 2018 at 1:14 am |

      Good luck on your new adventure in Merida! We have two more weeks here in Italy and other than some train delays, it’s been wonderful 🙂

  33. Judy Ewer | March 1, 2018 at 2:10 pm |

    Paul, what you and Linda are experiencing is Karma! What goes around, comes around and you and Linda have been helping ex-pats, friends, neighbors and strangers for many years now. The info you share and the help you have provided other, non-Spanish speaking ex-pats in buying and registering their vehicles, paying their property taxes, and avoiding a myriad of pitfalls has been a blessing to so many of us. Now you and Linda are getting a little “pay it forward” benefit redemption.

    My husband and daughter and I will be in Puerto Morelos in 2 weeks to close on our home and begin the next chapter of our lives as permanent ex-pats living in Mexico. We love your blog and that you take the time to respond to so many of your readers’ questions. I hope that once we are settled in that we will be able to meet you and Linda for a drink or dinner sometime so that we can repay the two of you for sharing your life and experiences with us!

    Disfrute el resto de sus vacaciones y viaje seguro a ambos!

    Judy Ewer

  34. Lynne Nucci | March 1, 2018 at 10:48 pm |

    Paul, your blog brought back fond(?) memories of my husband’s and my experience in a snowy Italy in 1985. We were living in England for his job and traveled to Torino in January, 1985 during a 6-7 inch snowstorm .At the height of the storm, we checked out of our hotel for a meeting in Romangano (in northern Italy). The train was delayed. 2 hours later, it was cancelled. We had no chance of securing tickets for another train. It was the only one.! We walked backed to the hotel, our luggage in tow .Unlike your good-samaritan train strangers, we encountered a very compassionate desk clerk who allowed us to return to our old room for additional days until we could secure a return flight to England.

    Thank you for reviving our memories of unusual weather and wonderful Italian people. Not only can we share our Mexican adventures with you. We now have shared memories of snow in Italy.


    Lynne Nucci

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