I think it’s clear that I love Naples. But let’s be honest — I look forward to my departure from this city almost as much as I look forward to my arrival. After a few days, I was ready for a change. And I got one. My next stop is Lake Como, within yodeling distance of Switzerland.
Italy’s reputation for being disorganized and inefficient, while not entirely underserved, is overstated. In this country famous for “trains that don’t run on time,” impressive Freccie bullet trains zip between cities at speeds that put Amtrak to shame. I went from Naples to Milan, about 485 miles, in under five hours, including stops. (Imagine rocketing from San Francisco to San Diego that fast.) They even throw in a welcome drink and a snack.
But I almost missed that train, even though I got to the Naples station with plenty of time to spare. When I spotted my train, I started walking up the platform to my reserved compartment — all the way at the front of the train, car #1 of 11. It was a long hike. Distracted by visions of the serene alpine lakes awaiting me at the other end of this journey, it took me a while to notice that none of the train’s doors was open.
I finally reached car 1 and pressed the “door open” button, and… nothing happened. I pressed the button for other doors and started banging on the windows. The conductor appeared, and she gestured frantically toward the other side of the train. I had walked 600 feet down the wrong platform.
It was just a few minutes before departure, and the next train wasn’t for two hours. I flirted with the simple solution of hopping down onto the tracks in front of the locomotive, then climbing up the platform on the other side. But not wanting to spend the night in a Neapolitan jail cell, I realized that my only viable option was to run the entire length of the train, in three minutes, with my full rucksack on my back. Which is what I did. By the time I’d rounded the end of the platform, hopped on the last car of the train with seconds to spare, then trudged all the way back up to the front of the crowded train to my seat, I was a fountain of sweat. But I made it.
All of this illustrates that now matter how experienced a traveler you think you are, you can still make big mistakes. Carelessness, inattentiveness, or just plain bad luck can put you in some strange and stressful situations. On the other hand, those can wind up being the most memorable experiences of your trip…in hindsight.
Next stop: Lake Como.