In Italy chaos reins supreme, or not… Maybe chaos is at lunch for a few hours… He might be back at 3.30, or perhaps he’s cancelled because the economy is in the toilet, or the drivers are on strike… Meh – get the bus to chaos instead – you can take your bikes if you want to shove them underneath, whatever, another train to chaos is coming soon, maybe.
We first realised things were not going to run seamlessly in Italy when we took the train from Innsbruck in Austria to the Dolomites. The shiny Austrian station with designated bike carriages and ticket machines and station staff that functioned made getting onto the train a dream for a tourist noob lugging a bike.
We were sold the first part of the ticket and told to change trains at the border and buy an Italian ticket for the next leg. When we got off the brand new S-bahn train at Brenner it was like arriving in a post apocalyptic ghost town. It was 9am on a Monday, yet there was nothing at all to indicate trains ran through this station… ever. There was nothing on any of the platform signs to indicate the next train time – they were all blank. The timetables were printed on paper and pinned to a notice board with tacks – it said there were trains coming but were they really?
Further investigation under the platforms found the only electronic device on the station – a tiny screen scrolling through a list of what we deduced were cancellations or delays in German and Italian – we knew the words ‘bus substitutio’ were bad news for bikes and expected the worst.
Then miraculously at 9.30ish a person in a uniform wandered by. We asked in very dodgy Italian if the 9:45 train was running to Bolzano? Si! So what does this cancellation sign refer to? Oh, that… The helpful station attendant asked his colleague who was also just arriving. ‘ Si si the trains runs from platform 1’ – and the substitutio bus sign? Oh that – you need to catch the bus – track works. (I guess that’s the Man in hi-vis gear sitting on the tracks hammering at something) But we have bicicletti? Oh no you can’t take them in bus – wait three hours for the next train. Ok…
So we wandered around the deserted border town and found the carabinieri stopping cars to inspect the contents of their car boot. We saw some other German cycle tourists loading up to set off and thought about following them as it may be the only way out of this town.
Then the substitution bus arrived. A Shiny new coach with massive storage compartments underneath. I asked tentatively if bicicletta ok? Sure, no problem! So we actually got to our destination… A little later than planned, later in fact than if we’d waited for the next train. But it was a pleasant journey all the same, and free!
I guess we should abandon all hope of sticking to a time table or catching a scheduled train. Today the train to Venice arrived without and bike/luggage carriage – meh, just shove them in this corner – it’s ok!
Can’t complain – No worse than in Melbourne really. Though we’ve been spoilt by the German/Swiss/Austrian efficiency now, it’s hard to go back!