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Only in Italy :-)

How I enjoy navigating the ticket counters in Italy (joke). Had to laugh when we went to the ticket counter in Firenze SMN to purchase 18 regionale tix to Pisa and return the next day. Not really wanting to navigate the kiosk (which is about 85% English) we stood in the short line at the ticket counter at the window clearly labeled "Tickets". When we finally made it to the window a little old lady kindly asked if she could just jump in front of me to ask a quick question to the ticket counter clerk. Of course I said yes. 15 minutes later....she finally finishes her "quick" question. Finally my turn to buy tickets, and the ticket lady behind the counter says "No Tickets! Use Machine". I explain that I would rather just buy them at the counter and she huffs and says "No Tickets!". I pointed to the sign over her window that said "Tickets" and she huffs back about it's too late to buy tickets from the counter (it as was about 10:00 pm) and I MUST buy from machine as she shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes. Ahhh - to be in Italy.

So I navigated to the kiosk which required me to put in all the dates and times of the 18 tix I needed (and you can't buy 18 all at once). After putting in all of the approximate times of course it spit out the tix with no times printed on them - I know, I know, because it's a regionale train. But why did it force me to put in the times? Ahhh - to be in Italy.

After we have all of our tix purchased the 2 of us sat on the bench to put everything away and just happened to look up at a sign that said something to the effect of "Pay Attention To The Time" of your other words don't be late. Then as I glanced around at the 3 digital clocks in the room NONE of them had the same time. Ahhh - to be in Italy.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Posted by
5063 posts

Even a "bad" day there is better than a good day here. Ahhh - to be in Italy.

Posted by
33 posts

Hysterical! We just had a similar experience at the same train station. My 14 year old especially enjoyed the tirade of Italian expletives from the older men trying to navigate the ticket machines and counters. One man assumed I knew Italian and went on to me for about 5 minutes, cursing the ladies at the ticket counter. Ahhh, Italy:)

Posted by
23472 posts

Don't you think buying 18 train tickets a little unusual? I would have found a local travel agency to purchase the tickets a day or two in advance. Machines and ticket agents are not set up for bulk purchases. I would hate to have been the next person in line.

Posted by
16894 posts

Rick has compared Ireland to "Italy with rain," and our Ireland co-author just recently told me the same story about being turned away from a Irish train ticket window, after a good wait, again told to use the machine.

Posted by
2252 posts

I absolutely agree with TC's post! When we encounter not-so-nice weather during our travels, we always say how lovely it's whatever-country-we're-in rain when it very well could be Colorado rain. What a great story!

Posted by
15489 posts

Well. I experienced the same years ago at the window of the Alameda County clerk's office in Oakland.

I was at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco, where, after a long wait in line, the Italian Consulate clerk asked me for yet another document to register my second marriage. After swearing that I would never move back to Italy after dealing with the Italian bureaucracy, I proceeded to cross the bay to go to Oakland and get that damn document.

About half hour later, at the Alameda County Clerk office in Oakland, I proceed to get that document (don't remember what it was, maybe my previous divorce decree). After a long time in line at one of the windows, finally, when it was my turn, I walked to the window and here was the interchange between me and the clerk:

Clerk: "Why did you come to the window? Did I ask you to come forward?"
I: "Well, the previous customer was done and the window is now available with you inside, so I came forward."
Clerk: "Yes. But did I ask you to come forward to the window?"
I: "No Madam. I came forward on my own. You didn't ask me to"
Clerk: "It's now 12:00pm o'clock sharp and this is when my lunch break start. Go to the next available window. Good bye!"
And she closed the window shade in my face.
Went back in line (a very long one again) to the only available window during lunch time.

When I was done, I swore I would move to Switzerland as soon as possible, because I couldn't handle the bureaucracy and the attitude of Gov't employees in the US either.

Posted by
635 posts

I experienced the same years ago at the window of the Alameda County clerk's office in Oakland.

There used to be a hand-lettered sign at the filing window in the County Clerk's office in San Francisco:
"We don't care how they do it in Los Angeles!"

Posted by
337 posts

I was in the post office in Venice, two years ago and got into trouble for
1. A walking up to the counter before I was called and
2. Leaning over the counter, I was having trouble hearing what I was getting into trouble for in 1.

and multiple railway clocks the world over are never correct, except in Germany.

Posted by
33336 posts

It is rare if all railway clocks on platforms and departure screens in the UK do not all match and tell the correct time to the second.

They are very reliable.

Posted by
118 posts


Growing up in Alameda county myself... I feel your pain. Dealing w/ government agencies located in Oakland was always a bad day.

Posted by
15489 posts

In the interest of fairness I must say that Italian bureaucracy has come a long way and now it is often more efficient than the government in America. Last year I went to the Italian consulate in SF to renew my passport (with an appointment made a couple weeks earlier). I walked in 5 min before my apptm and walked out 20 minutes later with a brand new passport in my hands. It took much longer to find parking up there in Pacific Heights. You sit with the guy in his office, he fills the form on the computer, takes your digital fingerprints, the printer spits out the passport book and arrivederci. I was impressed. Good luck doing the same with my US Passport.

Posted by
5260 posts

I hope your trip was wonderful aside from this frustrating experience!

Your story reminds me of what happened to me in France...
Many years ago (before the Euro), we had traveled from Spain to France & had arrived there in the evening, just before the banks closed down for the day. I entered a bank and noticed that the customer in front of me was taking his sweet time making his bank transaction & carrying on a conversation (in fluent French, of course!) with the bank teller. Once this happy customer left, I approached the counter only to hear the teller exclaim; "ferme!" (closed!). Mind you, I did notice a bank employee lock the bank doors behind me while I was waiting for my turn. Needless to say, I was at the teller's mercy, so I explained in my non-fluent French, that I had no Francs, (as I showed her my Spanish Pesetas & U.S. Traveler Checks) to pay for food or for the hotel that evening.
She kept insisting that the bank was closed & she would not exchange my traveler checks.
I explained my dilemma once again, then I waited patiently, as her supervisor had hear her loud remarks, and asked her what the problem was.

She finally proceeded to help me at her supervisor's request. Once the transaction was over, I smiled & said, "Merci beaucoup!" followed by, " have a nice day!" Ahhh- to be in France...

Posted by
10344 posts

Remember, in Italy and France: the customer is always wrong.
And it's still worth it to be there.