Updated: May 24
Italy is a beautiful country. In Puglia today the sun was shining, the mozzarella in my panzerotto was melting, mixing perfectly with the red tomato sauce. A perfect combination. I went to Trani in the afternoon to do something different. Trani is about a twenty minute train ride from Bari. It’s a cute little town with a gorgeous historical center. I sat by the port enjoying my Spritz and writing one of my blogs. I ordered my little happy hour and the relaxing began. Nice weather, a Spritz, what else?
That’s a lovely story, but it’s not how it ends. After mass, yes we have to thank Jesus for his goodness. There were your typical choir ladies screeching out some hymns, most of the notes weren’t really audible, and those that were, well, one wishes they weren’t, but that’s ok, God forgives. I left the Cathedral in Trani ready to head back. It was around 20,00, time to call it a day. I took my pictures and watched the sun as it started to set.
As I walked towards the station, about ten minutes on foot; I saw people waiting for the train. A lot of people. My eyes went straight to a train that was stopped in the middle of the tracks with fire fighters in the distance. Apparently, one of the cars had caught fire, and they had to stop the train. I didn’t see actual smoke coming out of the train, but I did see the passengers leaving the train with their luggage. Not only was there a fire, but a problem on the tracks. I heard the announcement of the cancelled trains, one of them was mine, of course. I see that the passengers from the abandoned train were moving towards the platform and heading towards charter buses ready to take them to their destination. All of us on the regional train saw that we are going nowhere and followed the crowd. After the chaos of finding the bus to Bari, we eagerly got on the bus.
After we got on the bus, we were getting these horrible looks. I guess they were all friends after being stopped for an hour and a half and sharing their heroic exodus out of the train made them feel like the superheroes in the Marvel comic books. The other passengers made it known to the driver that some of us were not on the Frecciarossa, but on the regional train. An elderly man glared at me, turned his head and said, “lei non stava sul nostro treno.” (you weren’t on our train). I thought to myself, “your train, sir? Did you purchase it? Do you own it?” The driver gets back on the charter bus and says “biglietto” (ticket). Oh no! They were checking tickets, and the man glared at me again. These people knew who apparently every passenger was on that train. All of us poor regional train plebeians had to get off the bus. Except the homeless man who was annoying people with the guitar. He could stay on. There was a nurse from Bisceglie, a lady with high heel sandals who eventually took them off because her feet started to swell. There was a young couple from Bari, two lesbians, two people from God knows where, and me, the Italian American girl from New Jersey cursing to herself that I should have “stayed the fuck home.” Maybe it’s time to apply for jobs in Milan?
Now, Italy is beautiful, but efficiency is not one of its finer points, to put it mildly. They just cannot seem to get it together. At first we were joking and trying to make light of what happened. All of the stranded passengers tried to stick together and make the most out of a stressful situation. I kept thinking the whole time, “I should have never gotten off that bus, the homeless man with the guitar stayed on! Next time, do what he does and keep your mouth shut. They threatened to look at our tickets or the bus would not leave, apparently that was not the case.”
Hours went by. I arrived in trani at 17,15. It was now 23,00 and I was getting tired. We tried to call a taxi. There were no local taxis in Trani so you need to call a private taxi which costs 120 euro. Why should we pay the taxi? It’s a public service and somehow they have to get us home. It was a back and forth with the local police. Is there a bus, is there a train? We were in limbo for a while. One local officer stayed with us and really helped us. It was interesting to see how the system really doesn’t work. Maybe in the third world things would have gone smoother. The police were blocked because the prefecture wasn’t giving them an answer. A bus did come eventually but it was for Foggia, we needed Bari, which of course was in the opposite direction. There was a girl from Berlin who said, “In Germany, we would have been home by now.” I guess each country has their strengths. In Germany it’s wurstel and organization, in Italy it’s pasta and beauty.
Every train light we saw we cheered, but it ended up being just frate trains passing. We saw a light in the distance, but it wasn’t moving. It was there to move the blocked train.
In the end, I finally got back to the apartment. It was 1 am. So I started to write about this experience. I stopped mid way because my eyes were closing, and I thought to myself, “It’s time to get that Italian driver’s license.” At 2 am my nightmare in Trani had finally ended.
The Port in Trani, the reason why one stays in Italy the scenery and the food.
The bell tower in the Cathedral, Trani.
Annamaria Borelli is a blogger, English teacher, actress, and singer. She has been living in Italy twelve years, and no matter the hardships can’t seem to leave. Stay tuned for more of her adventures, or in this case nightmares. Follow her on facebook (Annamaria Borelli) and on instagram Not My Grandmothers_Italy. This is her profile picture. Thanks for reading, and please hit the like button at the bottom of this blog.