milan

Things I hate about Italy. Part 1.

Anyone that knows me, knows that as much as I have a love affair with Italy, there are equally as many things that drive me crazy. For some reason, there are certain things within Italy that are seem to be intentionally designed to be as overly complicated as possible.

There seems to be no apparent reason for this, Italians just say

“that’s just the way it is”

when I query it. I could easily write an entire series of these on different topics, so to start with, here are my top 2, of many, overly complicated Italian ways to do things relating to transport.

  1. Public transport. Bus and train in particular. Let’s start with the bus. Firstly, I can’t buy my ticket as I get on the bus. I need to go to a shop, a tabacchi, to purchase it. More than one Bus Company running the route you want, don’t know which will arrive first? Tough, got to chance it. All the local tabacchi shut for lunch? Oh well, no ticket.

When I ask my Italian friends why I can’t just buy my ticket on the bus the most common answer is:

“Well, if everyone wanted to but their ticket on the bus then the bus would always be held up and late”.

Or,

“bus drivers can’t be trusted with money”.

Which I think is a bit harsh! The only saving grace from what I’ve gathered so far is that all bus journeys are created equal, so you don’t have to worry about having to pay based on distance like you would in England, so you can bulk buy a bunch of tickets the next time you go to a tabacchi if you know you’ll be taking the bus regularly.

Oh, one last thing, bus tickets need to be validated before your journey. Most times this means that you’ll board the bus, find the validator-y machine thingy near the entrance, then push your ticket into the slot, arrow-end first, until you hear the mechanism grind away. This is to stop you from reusing the ticket. If a conductor comes on and finds you without a validated ticket you’ll be subject to a fine. And the bus driver just gets on with his job of driving, not caring if you validate or not, I mean it’s not in his job description right?!

Then we move onto trains. So I’m at the station. Go to use a ticket machine, there’s inevitably a queue, everyone seems as clueless as me, I always seem to get stuck behind someone who is taking AGES. Get to the front, helpfully the machine asks me what language I require, I select English and then helpfully the machine absolutely bellows out, in English, that I should not accept help from random people, only from official station employees…spot the tourist! Upon this siren of FOREIGNER, all the ticket touts and beggars home in on me, circling me like vultures. Grazie ticket machine! I manage to fend them off and turn my attention to the machine again. I want the train to Milan and I checked my phone app before and know there’s one at 13.30. My first problem is you have to pick a ticket for a specific train, so if you’re last minute and think you might chance it running across the platforms like a mad woman to jump through the doors as they shut, think twice as your train ticket may not be valid on the next train. Ok, so I’m looking for my 13.30 train. Can’t see it on the options. Curse. Realise that it’s a different train operator that runs the 13.30 train, so have to find the other machine and wait in line for that one instead, whilst constantly panicking and checking the time as now it’s 13.22 and your train departs from platform 12 right on the other side of the station!

Ok, vabbè. You’ve got your ticket now, plenty of time. Saunter over to the platform smugly, the train hasn’t even arrived yet. Enough time to have a cigarette on the platform (yes, that’s allowed overlooked here). Train arrives, about to board. Cazzo. Don’t forget to stamp your ticket before you get on. So now you’re running down the platform waving your ticket manically trying to find a stamping machine that actually works so you can validate your ticket before you get on the train. What do you mean, that’s the job of the conductor? Not in Italia! He just checks that you’ve a) got the correct ticket, and b) that you remembered to validate it before you got on. I really do not understand this system! I’ve heard of people being thrown off trains, or at least getting a real telling off from an irate conductor for forgetting to validate their ticket.

“Yes but you might try to reuse your ticket if you don’t validate it”.

Well, not when it’s for a specific day, possibly even a specific time. Just another one of those Italian mysteries!

“That’s just the way we do it”.

  1. Ok, so you’d think with all the hassle on public transport, driving might be the way to go. Well, Italian drivers aside (in fairness I do enjoy driving in Italy, I think they’re actually very good drivers – albeit very very fast, and fearless), if you’re brave enough to drive over there, the next challenge is the petrol stations. I do not understand them. At all. I honestly get some kind of anxiety attack before I have to fill up at one. They are RIDICULOUSLY complicated! First up there are either self service or manned pumps. So at the manned pumps, a guy asks you how much you want, and he’ll fill up for you without you having to step out of your car, and you pay him directly and drive off. Fine, even with basic Italian this is pretty painless, either tell him a price in Euros, or tell him full – pieno. It does seem like he’s only there in order to create a job for someone, I’m perfectly capable of getting my lazy ass out the car to fill up myself, but ok, I can live with that. The trouble starts when it’s lunchtime and the man is on his break, or it’s quiet and he’s gone for a nap out back. If you’re lucky, it’ll be similar to the UK. Fill up the car at the pump, and go inside the kiosk to pay. Easy. The problems really start when you have to use the machines to pay. So these machines, in my opinion are pretty badly designed. Usually there’s one machine for the whole forecourt. So first challenge is figuring out which button to press for your pump, then making sure you select the right type of fuel .Don’t be putting unleaded in a diesel car, especially when it’s a hire car!

Next question is “how much?” Well it’s a hire car, I’m about to drop it off at the airport, I want it full. Sorry, Computer Says No. Not an option. *Sigh*. Ok, 20€. Back to the car, fill up 20€, the pump stops automatically at 20€. Get in, turn on the ignition. Not full. Repeat the process until actually full. The final 20€ you might not be able to spend the entire 20 as you’ve finally reached full. If you’re lucky it’ll only be a couple of euros because there’s basically no way of getting that back. The machine doesn’t give change, it’ll give you a receipt that has your change amount on it, but to claim it back you need to go into the kiosk and wake up the attendant from his mid-day nap in the hammock out back, plus by now after you’ve figured out the machines and managed to actually fill up the car then you’re running perilously late for your flight so you cut your losses, just thankful that you’ve got a tank of petrol and leave. Well played petrol station, well played.

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I asked my friend to take a nice photo of me driving, to prove I can do it in Italy. But I just look terrified!

Can anyone else relate to these? Have any more examples? Or is it just me?!

9 thoughts on “Things I hate about Italy. Part 1.

  1. Public transport can be difficult for the uninitiated, but it quite good once you get used to it. Most bus drivers will sell you a ticket if you are stuck, but some can be a bit mean.
    I had to get an Italian driver’s licence a few years ago, quite possibly the worst thing I have ever had to do

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  2. If you’ve read my experiences in Italy you know that the train system drives me mad. Our son and his new Iranian family didn’t get their tickets validated. They bought the tickets from a machine on the platform. They didn’t see any signs saying they had to validate their tickets. When the conductor came by he didn’t care that they were tourists and charged them 100Euros. After some haggling he brought it down to 33 but the ticket was one way to Rome on a specific day. Tempers flared. It had to be the worst part of our trip. In Rome we never saw the locals validate their tickets on the tram and we never saw anyone come around to check.

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    1. Ouch! 100€ is crazy! This is what I cant understand. Surely it’s the conductor’s job to check the ticket, and as you said, who’s going to reuse a ticket that specifies a time and a date?! Madness!
      Again though, when I speak about it with Italians they all say “but it’s just the way we do it”. To them it’s completely normal to remember to validate your ticket and can’t see what I’m complaining about!

      Speaking of Iranians, an Iranian family were sat in front of me on the coach last time I came from the airport to Milan and I was absolutely impressed that they all switched seamlessly from Farsi to English to Italian. Sometimes one sentence for each language. It was amazing 🙂

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  3. Haha yes I relate to this so much!!! I really don’t like the *foreigner alert* on ticket machines! And I found it so hard to get bus tickets- when I first got a bus I bought a ticket off a nice old lady- otherwise I’d have ended up paying a fine cos subwoofer got on to check tickets a so later!

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  4. I can totally relate to your post!

    My partner and I drove from the UK to France, Spain, and Italy, then back again to the UK in ‘Reg’ our motorhome (https://imageearthtravel.com/2016/02/29/meet-reg-home-away-from-home/ ). The panic attacks were mostly at the Toll booths as inevitably, something always went wrong.

    Reg is safely stored back in the UK for a year now and we’re marooned in southern Italy. We tried the same route in July this year in ‘Lola’ the older Peugeot, which died in central France and went to the scrap heap! Four buses and 36 hours later, we arrived at our destination in southern Italy. We now take buses, trains, and anything, to all destinations. The advice I can give? Give yourself plenty of time!

    Down here you have to know what buses go where as there doesn’t seem to be any timetables and if you find one, it’s changed! 😉

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  5. The thing that drives me mad is when I need to catch 2 trains to reach my destination.
    The ticket machine will say Milan Pavia Allesandria.
    My printed ticket will just say Alessandria
    The train information board won’t have any information for the destination, Alessandria…. only Pavia. I obviously have forgotten the name of the station where I have to change trains!!!!

    If I ask a station employee, they just point at the information board..

    So I have to go back to the ticket machine and pretend to buy a ticket, just to find out the station where I need to change trains… and then try to find the correct train that is passing through the station. And of course validating my ticket…

    Gosh I need a glass of wine

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