Yes, already. I have to admit to being surprised, and even a little disappointed. Dozens of people told me to be very careful because I would surely be robbed in Italy, and I believed them because the first time I came here I was robbed, but I did hope it would at least take a day.
The day started off cold – I had a four hour wait at a train station that was all closed up, so I was on the platform. I got into my sleeping bag, lay on some seats and tried to sleep as well as I could. When my train finally came it was late, but I wasn’t worried. I knew I had to change to a different station at the other end and it would be tight though. When I booked the ticket the woman selling me the ticket had pointed out that the system allowed 50 minutes for the walk, so it could be quite long. I confidently replied that I would have a bike, so it would be fine.
The walk turned out to be a little over 10km. The train being 10 minutes late obviously didn’t help, but I still thought I would be ok. The problem was navigation. With my garmin still being utterly useless in that regard I was relying on my memory of the map I had looked at earlier. When I suddenly found myself joining a motorway though I knew I was doing something wrong. I had turned a bit left, where I should have turned a lot left. I did have the live-track running, so if you are quick you can see my mistake here (you have to be quick, the livetrack is only available for 24 hours after the end of the ride, so maybe 12 more from when I post this). I did actually try to post the livetrack link before the ride, but didn’t stop to check it had posted (I knew I didn’t have much time) and it turned out that it had failed. Anyway, that mistake meant that when I got to the platform the train was still there and stationary, but the doors were closed. Before my eyes, it started rolling away. Disappointing.
Now, instead of one long train ride to Livorno I was changing three times. It should have still worked though. I went to the platform for the next train, and waited. No train. Suddenly, the sign was for a different train. Uh oh.
There was another guy on the platform with a bike. A pretty fit looking guy with a nice Trek Madone, complete with electronic shifting. As I made for the ticket office to find out what was happening he called me back, and eventually explained that the train was 15 minutes late. We got talking, and ended up spending the whole journey chatting about various things, including which train I was catching next, and the fact that there was meant to be a 32 minute change, so I should be fine. Then we had another delay. Suddenly, we were 35 minutes late.
The guy was very helpful, coming with me as I got the bike ready and then racing through the station to find the right platform. I was now a minute late, but could see the train at the top of the stairs. For the second time of the day I lifted the bike and took the stairs two at a time. This time though I made it. With time to spare. The train sat for another 10 minutes. The annoying bit was that if I had known that, I would have taken time to say a proper goodbye to the Italian guy, rather than just a shouted “Ciao”. And at least got his name and said thank you. If you are reading this though, Italian guy with the Madone, thank you!
So then I was on a train for a couple of hours, and I had barely slept the previous night. The bike was in the bike compartment, and I was sitting right outside. I decided to snooze. It was a bad decision.
The good news is that I was at least semi-prepared. The bike was locked to its hook, and I had all of my valuables in my panniers, which were under my legs. At one point I noticed someone moving, and opened my eyes to find an old guy coming down the corridor. He stopped and we had a chat (in Italian) about the need for the triple chainring on my bike. Then he wandered off. I glanced to see that the bike was still there, and it was. He got off at the next stop, and I got off at the one after. But as I went to unlock the bike I noticed that something was wrong. The charging system was half disassembled, and all but one of the connectors was gone. These are little 10cm lengths of wire, with various plugs on the ends. You couldn’t sell them for a euro. But now I can’t charge either camera, my GPS or my lights. Fairly disappointing. And less than 6 hours after my arrival in Italy.
Now I will have to find an electronics shop and spend hours MacGyvering (one of my favourite verbs) together replacements. It will almost certainly involve the use of my Swiss army knife and duct tape.
For now I still can charge my phone, although it seems to be playing up in every other way. Still, I’ve met some great people, it’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and I am enjoying a train ride down the spectacular Tuscan coast. Can’t complain too much, can I!
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