Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

Ten Minutes Late: Not Bad!

My first experience riding an Italian high speed train. The seats in second class are pretty unimpressive compared to Japanese high speed trains, but the ride is pleasant and fast. There are some things that you should know about Roma Termini,, and the trains themselves.

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We landed in Fiumicino about on time, we got our luggage and started lugging towards the train tracks to catch the link to Roma Termini. On the way we decided to see if any of the foreign exchange companies didn’t charge a monstrous fee, but our fears were confirmed: at a time when the exchange rate is below 1.3 we were not able to find better than 1.69… A 30% fee… Ouch! Note to self: at the end of the trip make sure to┬ábring back at least 100 Euros, maybe 200 for comfort.

After a 30 minute ride we got to Roma Termini. Here are a few things I did not know:

  1. The tracks for the train going to Fiumicino are a good 500 meters (I would say 1 km. but you wouldn’t believe me if I said that) from the head of the station where the ticket counters and restaurants are. I did not even know that Roma Termini was a terminal type station where trains end their ride in one direction and have to leave in the opposite.
  2. There is an underground moving walkway that will take you towards the head of the station. You will also see tunnels to take you to the other tracks. If you are carrying approximately your body weight in luggage and have a 2-year-old with you, don’t do what I decided to do: cut across to get to track 4 where our train to Milan was to leave. That was a bad decision because there are, of course, no escalators to take you back up to the tracks. But, it turns out, there was another unbelievable reason why that was a bad decision: some workers were on strike and the doors from the tunnel to tracks 2-9 where closed shut! I wasn’t sure why but the Roman gods were not smiling at me. We took the exit at the end of the tunnel and for a moment could not figure out what to do. We were still so far from the head of the station that I could not see it. Eventually we got there.

We had some time to kill because we had booked for 3PM just to be sure that we could make it. By the way, I couldn’t book tickets through from the States: I had to enlist the help of a good friend.

After lunch we boarded. There is no room for big luggage above the seats. Luckily there is a luggage compartment at the beginning of the car, but it is not too big. We had to put ours at the very top and then it was full.

We had booked two seats that were next to each other thanks to the fact that my friend knew how seats are distributed. The numbering system is designed to confuse you. Seats 1, 2, and 3 are on the left side. Seat 1 is window facing forward, 2 is window facing back, 3 is aisle facing forward. Seats 4-7 are on the right side. Seat 4 is aisle facing back, seat 5 is window facing forward, seat 6 is window facing back, and seat 7 is aisle facing forward. Seat 8 is on the left side aisle facing back. So, the seats that are close together are: 1 and 3; 2 and 8; 4 and 6; and 5 and 7.

The ride was very smooth and fast with no stops. It did not feel like the train was moving very fast but I realized we were zoom-zooming when we were smoking the fancy cars in the fast lane in the nearby autostrada. In case you plan to race the Frecciarossa, keep in mind that the speed limit is 130 km/h and there is a system for tracking your speed. If the train’s average speed must be around 170 km/h to cover the distance in 3 hours, we must have been doing close to 200 km/h in this flat, straight stretch. It felt really good, especially knowing that this method of traveling emits far less CO2 than driving or flying.

We got there 10 minutes late. Accepted Trenitalia’s apologies (it takes a 30 minute late arrival to ask for a free ticket) and embraced my dear family and friends. I thanked progress for shortening the trip.

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