Slow Train on the Adriatic

A Train Ride in Italy – September 2011
It was a modern three-car unit that formed the 10.30 train from Ancona station. Stopping all stations to San Benedetto.
I had taken the hire car back to Hertz in Ancona, the little black Fiat Panda with a nasty dent and scrape on the near-side bumper which we hadn’t noticed on picking the car up, despite a careful check over, and which we had seen when the car was parked at Pedaso and thought must have been done in the car park at Santa Vittoria. I had even reported to the barber while he was cutting my hair that someone had scraped our car while it was in the parking area sopra. Highly annoying, I had said. And a new car too. The barber had seen me driving it yesterday. The smiling barber misses nothing. But he hadn’t noticed any damage.
But the lady at Hertz said, no problem, era già, it was there already. A sigh of relief. I had only just learned the Italian for a sigh of relief, and here it was coming in useful already.
And I crossed the road to the station feeling quite relieved, not only because of not having to pay for damage to the car, but even more for not having a car at all. It is one less thing to potentially hassle a person. Now I am free of that encumbrance. And we have eight days now when we can’t go anywhere. Excellent.
I bought a ticket for Porto san Giorgio at the self-service machine. Plenty of choice of self-service ticket machines, for everyone wants to queue at the ticket window and argue the toss with the man. And why? The machine is straightforward and you can choose your language and you slot your credit card in and out pops a ticket. €3.75 for a 45-minute ride on the train. Simple and cheap.
I had got to Hertz in good time, not least by having something of a feel for Ancona. Following the directional signs for the station would have had me in the wrong lane and filtering down roads I didn’t want to go to pretty consistently. In fact I did it only once. Then top the car up with petrol and 50 yards up the road to the car hire shop.
I had half an hour before the train left so I stood outside in the sunshine watching the buses come and go. The bus to the hospital, the bus to the airport, the buses to the ferry terminal. An AtlasSib going to Romania. And opposite, among the hotels, was a building with windows open and bare rooms visible and what looked like African immigrants appearing periodically at the windows. Maybe that’s one of the places where they’re staying. (See African Beach Traders.)
Then, and amazingly remembering to validate my ticket at the little yellow stamping machine,
“Caution
In the case of inoperability of the validation machine, or of illegible printing, the traveller must request validation at the ticket office, or else, when getting on the train, to make contact on their own initiative with the staff on board, normally at the front of the train.“
Nothing like using complex language when simple would have done, but then it is Italy. My translation is less contorted than the Italian original.
Before getting on a train in Italy you are supposed to put your ticket into the Convalida machine to get it stamped. About half the machines are working at any one time. Going to the ticket office is usually not a good idea as it will either be closed or have a great long queue and you will miss your train. Finding the staff on board may be easier said than done too. But we muddle through somehow.
This validation machine is at Porto san Giorgio station, though they are much the same wherever they are located.
I went and found a place on the train.
‘Pronto!’
‘Prronn-to!’
‘Non sento! Sono in treno!’
‘Chi è?’
‘Chi è?’
‘Ah, Franco!’’
The train fills up. Italians shout down their telefonino.
A man opposite me with ginger hair and stubble, doesn’t look Italian, talks into his mobile with his hand covering his mouth, quietly, so no one can hear. But speaks natural Italian. White slacks, no socks, brown sneakers, blue shirt and a blue lightweight plastic jacket that he keeps covering his shoulders with. Brown mock-leather plastic briefcase. Could be gay. Going to San Benedetto, not used to travelling by train for sure, too fidgety. Carries a copy of Corriere della Sera but doesn’t look at it.
Two boys holding motorcycle helmets come and sit in the foursome beside me and the man, one of the boys has quite sore-looking lacerations on his leg, probably from falling of his bike. White slacks asks them something and they reel off, more or less, the stations before San Benedetto. White slacks has already asked me about the socket where he can plug in his mobile, and detected that my Italian’s not that good, so doesn’t ask me anything again. Meno male. We find the socket though, hidden beneath the folding table, but he doesn’t plug his mobile in. Fidgety.
Quite a few folks in the train strike up conversation with each other, I notice.
On the way we pass at least two giant edifices of note, IKEA south of Ancona, and Hotel House at Porto Recanati.
We arrive at Porto san Giorgio and I make my way to the door.
‘Non funziona’, says an elderly man with a raspy voice. He has obviously taken upon himself the civic responsibility of telling everyone that the door is not working.
‘Ah, non funziona’, I reply, which I think is what you do, while thinking, an Italian train with a set of doors not working, what a surprise!
And I follow on down the train to where everyone else is waiting, by the next set of doors. Porto san Giorgio is a busy station so there is no panic in getting to the doors on time. Meno male.
The story continues with School Bus from Fermo.

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