Catching the Train to Venice

Milan Train StationWe had made plans to take the train from Milan to Venice.  Having been warned by friends beforehand regarding how crazy and complicated it can be to navigate the train station–particularly with the language barrier–we arrived more than two hours before our 11:35 a.m. departure time.  This would allow us to figure out where we were supposed to be and have all of our ducks in a row well ahead of time–or so we thought.  The place was huge and crawling with people!  As luck would have it, our departure details were not posted until fifteen minutes or so before time to board.  Once we finally had that information we located our platform, train, and coach.  I had pre-purchased our Trenitalia tickets online–First Class, Coach 2–so all we had to do was make sure we were in the right place at the right time.  Easy enough, right?  We boarded the coach with the large “2” posted on it, stowed our luggage (even tipped a man to help us do that), and prepared to get settled.  We were slightly disconcerted to discover a lady already sitting in one of our seats.  As I rechecked our tickets, the lady began speaking in Italian and holding up two fingers.  I nodded in agreement–acknowledging that we were supposed to be in Coach 2.  I showed her the seat numbers on my ticket, but she shook her head and continued to talk and hold up two fingers.  As we were trying to decide what to do, a man showed up and began gesturing and speaking to us irritably in Italian.  It wasn’t difficult to discover that–according to him–we were in the wrong place.  He, too, spoke mainly Italian but with enough English and sign language for me to catch “Coach 9.”  I showed him our ticket and indicated the “Coach 2” then referenced the large “2” on the outside of the train.  He talked and gestured some more (in Italian), insisting that we were in Coach 9.  After what seemed like ages, he–in a very exasperated tone–told us that we were in SECOND CLASS, Coach 9.  Quite a bit of time had passed by then and I was panicking, thinking that we would never manage to grab our stuff, de-board, and get to the correct coach before departure time.  I hastily thanked him, we snatched up our luggage, and booked it down the platform toward First Class–expecting any moment to see the train pull away without us!  Everyone but my mom and I had boarded when suddenly the doors snapped shut in my face.  Talk about panic!  Fortunately, they reopened and we were able to get to our seats with mere seconds to spare.  I wish I had known that the large numbers posted prominently on the outside of each train car identify class and not the coach number.  We eventually discovered that the coach number is posted on a very small sign beside the door.  That was the most stressful and nerve-wracking incident during our eleven day trip, so it could have been worse.  As they say, all’s well that ends well…

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