We almost didn’t make it to Pisa. In retrospect, I can label it a comedy of errors and laugh about it. But at the time, it seemed less like an adventure and more like the universe was conspiring against us *cue panic attack*.
Though short on time and money, the crazed tourist in me was insistent upon squeezing Pisa into our itinerary. Add another city to the Euro Trip without having to go out of the way and take fun photos to boot? Yes please! It made perfect sense in my head.
The original plan? To make a quick stop in Pisa on our way from Milan to Florence, get our dose of tourist-y photos at the Piazza dei Miracoli (home to the Leaning Tower) and be on our way. What could possibly go wrong? The travel gods must have sniggered to themselves as they squealed, “Everything!”
I could write about each mishap in excruciating detail but I don’t want to drive you away. Wait, are you still here? Phew. Okay. So yeah, instead I’ve done this:
Our Very Own Series of Unfortunate Events
Part 1: The Unfriendly Woman
We reach Milan Centrale in the nick of time. Our train is scheduled to depart in 15 minutes. I dig into my crossover bag for my Euro Rail Pass and we get in line to get our passes activated. The line is, of course, moving at a snail’s pace. Eventually I reach the counter where an exasperated-looking woman snatches the pass from my hand. She looks even more vexed once she takes a look at it. Long story short, my pass is missing a crucial page and cannot be activated. She thrusts it back at me and moves on to the next person. I try to ask her what options I have but she just points me towards the Informazione counter where an even longer line is snaking its way towards a man who looks like he’s about to give up on life.
Part 2: Not all is lost
So, My Euro Rail Pass is basically useless but my friend’s isn’t and she’s still booked on that train that’s about to depart. On the verge of tears at the though of all my money that’s gone down the drain because of the stupid pass (talk about misplaced frustration!), I manage to get myself a ticket for the same train from one of the automated machines. With new hope, I silently exclaim, “Pisa, here we come!”
Part 3: Bad Timing
Ahh, finally on the train. About time things started looking up. From what we could gather from the announcements, Pisa Centrale would be the last stop. So I settled in for a nap.
A little more than three hours later, we heard the announcement for Pisa Centrale. People were ready with their luggage and got off as soon as the train came to a halt. We were planning to leave directly for the Leaning Tower so we thought it might be a good idea to freshen up before we got off. As I attempted to brush out stray strands of hair, using my front camera as a mirror, the train slowly started to move. We glanced up at each other in horror. Was this not the last stop?! Apparently not.
Part 4: Where Are We?
About an hour later, the train finally stopped again. This time we weren’t taking any chances. We grabbed our luggage and got off. I don’t remember now which station it was. But to get back to Pisa we had to buy another ticket. Or we could just give up on the whole thing and buy tickets to Florence where a nice hotel was waiting for us. At this point, my stubbornness had kicked in. Alright travel gods, what other nefarious plans have you laid out for us? Making it to Pisa had become more about proving a point than anything else. It had to happen! Some Indian men who saw us looking flustered, suggested that we get onto the next train without tickets and just hide if anyone comes to check (they rarely ever do!). I was desperate enough to consider this option but then sanity kicked in. So we bought tickets back to Pisa and set off.
Part 5: Triumph
Finally arriving at the Pisa Centrale station felt like a moment of triumph. In your face, travel gods! The triumph, however, was slowly replaced by boredom as the bus that had to take us to the Leaning Tower refused to arrive. An hour later, it appeared in the distance, already full to the brim with barely any space to stand. Lugging our backpacks and other stuff behind us, we squeezed our way in.
Was that an abrupt ending? Sorry. But travel lesson number 1: when it comes to travel, expect the unexpected. Many lessons were learned that day. Hopefully, some of them will help me make smarter travel decisions in future (or not). Either way, I can share them with you and you can be the judge! But remember those touristy photos we had set out to take? Yeah, they happened:
- Don’t leave behind part of your Euro Rail Pass, even if it looks like a useless piece of paper.
- Get off the train as soon as your station arrives! EVEN IF YOU THINK IT’S THE LAST ONE.
- Do NOT act upon the advice of random strangers. Saving a few Euros on a ticket is not worth getting fined or worse.
- And finally: don’t give up. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen (this applies to life in general, too but you already knew that).