Slow Trains, Fast Boats
02.06.2012 - 09.06.2012 22 °C
Travel teaches you many things. One is that planning is by-and-large a good thing; especially when trying to transport 2 adults and 2 children around a sizeable and busy country. Another lesson - usually learnt when complacency sets in - is that you should take nothing for granted when using public transport.
So it was the other day that I found myself in the cavernous and very impressive Milano Centrale train station. Having negotiated a bus trip around a large part of Lake Como, and then a straightforward train ride from Como to Milan, I now strode towards binario 19 looking to board the 11.20 express to Bologna (aka La Grassa, or 'The Fat One' ... more on that later). Warning bells failed to ring when none of the carriages were numbered. Choosing one at random, I then also ignored the lack of a seat number, the generally shabby nature of the interior, and a lack of air conditioning. Happily enough we departed right on time, and I settled back for the 65 minute ride to Emilia-Romagna's capital.
At around 12.15 the conductor entered our carriage, and when she worked her way down to me, took a double-take at my ticket. 'You are on the wrong train sir' was probably the polite interpretation of what she said. "Oh" was the slightly anxious response. Nevermind she seemed to say, I will allow this ticket, and the train is going to Bologna anyway. "Fantastico" I uttered with rising spirits, and "what time will I arrive signora?". 2.08pm she said. Normally without a pressing timeline this was a manageable circumstance, but I was heading to Bologna to meet an introduced friend named Elizabeth who was going to help with our flat hunting in that city. Three embarrassed phone calls, and a missed lunch later, we amicably dashed around town and viewed what was on offer.
I'm not taking 100% blame for this schoolboy error, as the Milano-Bologna Express was also due to leave at 11.20; it just so happened that the Regionale was departing at the same time. Live and learn ...!
On the flipside of fast travel, we promised the girls we'd catch the hydrofoil around Lake Como one day. The slower ferries are much cheaper, so we had been patronising them for the previous two weeks. Menaggio - in the centre of Lake Como - up to Colico right at the top is quite a long way, so this seemed the sensible time to hop on the speedy version. 42 Euro later for four one-way tickets, we set off on the trip. The problem however, was that there was no outdoor area to sit in, so we were couped up inside in the stuffy cabin with everyone else. This also affected the normally bella vista you get everywhere on the lake.
A quick consultation with our ferry timetable revealed that we could hop off at Gravedona, have time to buy gelati for all, and then catch the slow boat back down the lake without missing much of our sight-seeing. It is amazing the therapeutic affect sitting outside in the fresh air has on your spirits. Travelling slowly also increases the ability to observe the magnificent terrain, marvel at the postcard-perfect villages sailing by, and even fit in a game of Ludo with your kids.
Speed is good, but it ain't everything ...