Being Naughty is Expensive in Italy - Jo-Ann Carson

Being Naughty is Expensive in Italy

I like this aerial shot of Lucca from the Welcome Tuscany website.

It poured rain here yesterday, the kind that comes down so hard it bounces back up and leaves rivers with currents on the roads. Ours shoes are soaked through, but not our spirits. We have great memories of our red umbrella and our day in Lucca.
We took the train to the small town famous for it’s medieval feeling, surrounded by a wall dating back to  Roman times. We walked along the top of the wall, stopping only once for a downpour, and visited a couple of churches. They were not only stunning, they were dry.
The air was cool and fresh. It felt like autumn. There were trees and plants everywhere. The view from the top of the wall was fantastic. The mountains were clouded over most of the time, but the town inside and outside the wall was visible, old buildings with tiled roofs that date back centuries.
There were fewer people on the streets than in Florence and I felt like I could finally relax my strangle hold on my purse. It was a great walk except for the weather. What started as a sprinkle turned into shower and then a storm with lightening and thunder. It came down harder and harder. The sky darkened. We were socked in. We bought a red umbrella and ran for the train station thinking Florence was still in the sunshine. It wasn’t.
We got to the station. A train was leaving within minutes. The machine wouldn’t give us a ticket,I think because the departure time was so close. We went to the ticket booth and purchased tickets. The woman said with great urgency, “It’s leaving now,” and pointed to the train. We ran in our soggy clothes with our umbrella, and squeezed into a full compartment of teenagers and assorted adults.
The train that runs between Florence and Lucca is one of the older ones. It stops every eight minutes at a different town and riding it reminds me of the Toronto subway. The trip takes about an hour and half and is quite scenic (both in terms of the countryside and the characters that gather inside).
It costs 6 Euro each. That’s not much, if you do it right, but we didn’t do it right.
Please note: I love the sound of the Italian language, but I can’t even pretend to write it so I’m going to use yadas to explain what happened. I hope I don’t offend anyone.
Half way back to Florence a train conductor asks us for our tickets. No one asked on our way there, but we know that they check intermittently, so we’re not concerned. I pull out my ticket feeling smug for being organized and knowing what she wants.
The woman, tall, severe, and in uniform, looks at the ticket looks at me and lifts an eyebrow. “Yada yada yada yada,” she says in rapid Italian.
My throat tightens.
She looks at me like I’m a slice of bad bacon. “Yada Yada, you speak English,” she says.
“Yes,” I say with glee allowing myself a breath.
“You didn’t validate your ticket.”
“We bought it from the la…”
She shakes her head and pounds her finger on my ticket. “It says here in English.”
We knew about validating tickets, but we thought we only had to do that if we bought one from a machine, not a woman who was telling us to run for the train. “I’m sorry,” I say.
“Yada yada.” Her head shook and her eyes darkened with a solemnity befitting a funeral. “A fine.”
Fine. Okay I can handle a fine. I blink “How much?”
“Yada yada yada…” she lectured me.
I thought she said 4, so I say, “Four Euro.” And reach for my purse.
She shakes her head violently. “YaDa YaDa YaDa,” she barks.
“Fourteen?” I offer.
“YADA YADA YADAY…YADA.” she shouts with vigor, taking her pen and writing on my ticket 40.
“Forty Euro?” I say.
“Each,” she says.
An 80 Euro fine on a 12 Euro trip! <Shit> But what can I do. I blink.
She melts. Was it my blinking? Am I in an opera? Her whole body loses it’s rigidity and she says, “Okay. It’s okay this time. I let you go, but next time.” She pounds my ticket with her finger again. “Next time.”
I nod my head like a school girl.
“We’ll validate,” I say.

0 Replies to “Being Naughty is Expensive in Italy”

  1. As I am sure you have figures out Italians …love passionately….hate passionately and I guess we can add… lecture passionately.

  2. Lucca (which is really lovely) is one of the places Lorne and I visited on our trip to Italy and I remember the train…Lorne sat inbetween two very large men and kept his arms crossed the whole trip, and I kept the smile plastered on my face when the woman with kids didn’t mind WHAT they did…yada YADA!!

  3. The picture is amazing. Are there no roads? It’s just like a giant apartment complex all connected. Your story is so entertaining and funny only because it ended out okay. Your woman needs to show up in a book sometime.

  4. Found your blog through Karen Docter on twitter – great site, Jo-Ann.
    Living in Italy for half the year, I have had similar experiences to yours on several occasions, the most amusing being on a local train in the Cinque Terre (wonderful spot, you must go there if you haven’t already). We’d forgotten, genuinely, to stamp our tickets heading one way and on the return forgot again. Along came hot and bothered inspector who promptly lectured us and wanted to impose a €25 fine. We argued, said we had no money and so he threw us off the train at the next stop, keeping our tickets. But of course we still had the unstamped tickets from earlier so we rushed to a machine, stamped them and jumped back on the train in another carriage. Along comes hot and bothered inspector and blows a fuse, but of course can’t fine us because we have stamped tickets. But he did throw us off at the next stop, which was where we were going anyway!
    The Italian train system is a pet hobby-horse of mine – frankly the ticket stamping etc are an embarrassment, as are many other features of the system – late trains, stupidly short connection times, and wildcat strikes being among them. I have blogged on the subject as well at
    However, don’t let any of this put anyone off coming to this wonderful country. Every piece of bureaucratic idiocy is totally outweighed by the many positive and redeeming features and experiences.

    1. David
      Too funny. A pet hobby-horse, indeed! PJ laughed hard when I told him you got the boot off the train.
      I agree, any snaggle is worth being in Italy. It is a lovely lovely country.
      Happy travels

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.