Nicola discovers that befriending the locals does not just give you access to information about the best local bars, it can also help you get out of an awkward situation.

Piazza San Marco Italy


If you are ever in a sticky situation abroad, contact an Italian first. Your problem is their problem, their friend, their Mama and their Nonna’s problem. Although you might have to fight hard for a scrap of information at times, with their fiery attitudes and network combined you’re guaranteed a solution.

We are three girls on their last night in Venice and are consuming numerous Aperol Sprizters. The next morning at 6am we realize we haven’t booked our train tickets to Florence. Stumbling to reception we book three tickets whilst our receptionist grunts in our direction in his stained singlet and belted chinos. Bothered by the heat and headache we sink into our seats on the train, commenting on how the train compartment resembles the Hogwarts Express. Lucky to have the compartment to ourselves we spread out our snacks and get comfortable.

 It’s not long before an elegant Italian woman sits down next to me. She speaks about a lot in a short amount of time, my Italian is not up to scratch for this conversation but I stumble along which seems to make her content. Soon crowds of people are boarding the train and a group surrounds the doors to our compartment bantering back and forth in quick Italian. They are looking at us and then at our seat numbers, the train guard who checks our tickets tells us we’re in the wrong seats as we’ve booked them for the wrong day. The elegant lady next to me stands up and tries to solve the problem with the guard. I can catch her saying “Oh, just leave them alone. They’ve paid! They’re only young..” Soon the other passengers in our compartment including a young pierced girl, who I suspect is also hitting on my friend, and a very tanned couple dressed in white, jump to our defence.

It’s a lengthy saga and all very dramatic. Hand gestures flying everywhere and lots of insults. The guard walks away and comes back thrice, each time presented with a new argument. Finally, the team effort seems to work as the train guard says “Come with me, leave your bags,” racing us out the door at the next train stop. He leads us jumping out the train door and running across the train tracks to get to the ticket office as, “there is no time,” he pants. As I’m wondering whether the chance of getting hit by a train is worth it, the train guard only makes us buy one ticket for the three of us. When we are led back to the train I am so stunned by his generosity, he shrugs it off and shoos us away.

Sitting back into our seats I look around at our saviours, united in their efforts we all arrive to Florence by train because when Italians band together train guard officials just don’t stand a chance. So next time you’re having a crisis try an Italian first, they will have a friend of a friend who might just be able to help you out.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Anna Fox.

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