From impossible transfers to breaking the language barriers, backpacking in Europe can build stress and heartache. While I backpacked for a month and the journey was exciting, whimsical, and amazing.
But, only one problem haunts me today and I swore after it occured, I would inform future backpackers about the so called “Italian Transportation System” that failed, disappointed, and pissed me off.
Italy has a lot to offer travelers, but if theres one thing they fail to give tourists is the benefit of the doubt.
After arriving in Rome on May 31, 2002 we purchased our metro ticket and were informed that the ticket was also good within its time limits on the busses as well.
While riding the buses or metro trains, you are instructed to validate the ticket to ensure the ticket can be used for the ride. The bus drivers never check the ticket, nor do any workers at the station. We thought the city was runnin on the honor system. When we discussed this with travelers at our Rome hostel, the informed us that they never bought a metro or bus ticket, they took their chances and saved the money. However, as we understood from signs on the buses and metro trains, the tickets will be looked at on random times and places and their will be penalties. We didn’t want to take our chances, so we always bought a ticket and we always validated it.
Through our 2 days in Rome, a ticketing man never entered the metro or buses to examine it. Upon our departure from Rome, we bought our ticket and boarded the Rome bus. We valdiated it, and patiently waited for our stop at the metro station.
As I stood next to the validating machine, it kept shaking, rattling, and bouncing off of its hinges. It was annoying me, so I just put my arm on top of the validating box to keep it from making the loud banging sound. We then exited the bus in order to catch a metro train to the Rome Termini for Florence.
As we made our way to the train, several tables were setup and men in suits stopped us and asked for our tickets. We quickly took them out and handed it to the man. He then asked for our passports. Strangely, we took them out. I thought it was some sort of customs check for some strange reason. He then said in broken English “this ticket is dated for yesterday, you do not have a valid ticket for today, 51 euros fine.” I never felt my heart jump nor so shocked in my life. I said “What?! We just got off the number 32 bus 3 minutes ago, honest.” The man turned his head and repeated, “51 euros please.” I then shouted (and thinking in the back of my head, I could get arrested for my angry outburst) “That’s bullshit, you need to call the bus right now, we have bought tickets every single train and bus ride since we got here just to avoid this! You have to call the bus, because I’m not paying for your cities shitty validating box.” My friend then started crying and saying “The machine looked like it was broken, it kept shaking and rattling. You have to call the bus cause we bought new tickets.”
He completely ignored every word and said that we should of checked the ticket and seen the date was wrong. I then told the guy “Why should I have to check the ticket? Shouldn’t the machines be working?” The guy wouldn’t listen and if we stayed any longer to protest we would miss our train. I then gave him the last of our money and told him to write down his name and employee number because I was going to contact the embassy and report how he was unethically stealing money from paying tourists and I hope he could live with the fact that he just robbed 2 innocent travelers of the last of their money.” He simply ignored me, took our money, and gave me and my friend both tickets. Outraged, people around us waiting for the bus, shouted at the ticket man also protesting at their lack of care and ability to check the busses validating machine. Two local Rome residents told us that they´re doing this because we’re not from there and they would surely have checked it for residents of the city.
They told us to inform other people of this unjustice so that they don’t steal other peoples money. I agreed, and hence this article.
Upon boarding the train completely mad, I told the ticketing men that they should be doing an honest job for an honest living and I would deter all people from visiting the city ever again. I then said that “your city surely depends on tourists, I will inform every traveler I know of your swindling, robbing, and thieving, of innocent people looking to enjoy Rome. I’ll have you know, I will never return and this is the shittiest place I’ve ever visited.” With that the doors closed and there the man turned, robbing more people, and giving Rome a bad name. I wrote this article and hope to pass it on to more travelers.
Rome does have great sites, the Sisteen Chapel left me speechless for hours, but please apply the knowledge I’ve given you here when you visit. I don’t want you to feel the way I did when I left Rome, completely tainting any vision of a spectacular cathedral or the unique sites of Rome.
By: Allison Herbon
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