Yes, it is true and absolutely real, but how could this happen? The Swedish University professor is, of course, me.
Strong side winds had made it impossible for the airplane to land in Florence, and the pilots decided therefore to land instead in Pisa. This was nice in some ways, because I could see more of Italy, but it also delayed me by about two hours. I had hoped to get to Perugia around 4 pm so that I could see something of the city before it got dark. But things turned out a bit different than I had planned.
When I finally arrived at the railway station in Florence, I had about 5 minutes before the train to Rome (to Roma Termini – isn’t the sound of these words gorgeous? It reminds me of the first Italian words I had learned) left. The queues at the ticket office were long, the queues in front of the ticket automates were also long, and where there were no queues, the ticket automates were out of order. I really did not want to miss my train, so I jumped on the train to Roma Termini (without a ticket), so that I could get to Terontola, where the connecting train to Perugia would be waiting. The train to Rome was completely packed with people. It was not even possible to walk around and even finding a place where I could stand was difficult. But I was lucky to find a small little corner where I could stand for about an hour and a half, until a seat became available. When the conductor finally came, I told him that I did not have a ticket. “You should have told me before”, he said, “because people who don’t tell me in advance will have to pay a fine of 40€”. Ok, I pay I thought, no problem. But then he went on “since you obviously did not know about this, I make an exception. I assume that you just came on the train on the last station and this means that you will have to pay a lower fine, 3.10€ for the ticket and 5€ for not having told me in advance that you don’t have a ticket”. 8.10€ for a 2.5 hour train trip, including a fine for not having a ticket! I thought this was a great deal, and happily paid.
I just managed to catch the connecting train in Terontola, and of course I did not have a ticket either. But I guessed that this problem could also be solved easily again. I sat down in the almost empty compartment and when the conductor passed by I told him that I had no ticket. “Aha, no ticket, ha, ha” was his answer. “Yes no ticket”, I said. And that was our whole conversation from Terontola to Perugia, a 30 minute train ride, in first class (as I later noticed). He never came back and never asked me to pay a ticket or a fine for not having a ticket. I reckoned that he had already started the railway strike ahead of time, it was 7 pm and the strike that had been announced for today would only start at 9 pm, but for him it had obviously already started.
If it is possible to travel with the Italian State railway standing in second class for 2.5 hours, and sitting in first class for 30 minutes, and paying 8.10€ for this, then I understand why the Italian state finances are in a bad shape!
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