[ blog » 2021 » 07_Tour_Italy ]d00: Odyssee ( by Philipp Gesang, location: La Superba)

Plans and reality, it's as much a cliche as it is true how much they diverge. The plan: Board the train at 8:33 in Zurich, get off at Genua just past noon and spend the rest of the day with touristy things like sightseeing the old town and generally relaxing at the sea. Considering I made it safe to Zurich yesterday and the train is Swiss operated, how could this plan be anything but infallible? Well there's always a catch. In this case it was the reliability of the train, or more precisely the complete absence thereof.

After a normal seeming first hour of cruising through the spectacular countryside of East Switzerland the train stopped between two stations next to a lake. The crew shut down the engine and booted the entire train back up before continuing. Unfortunately only for another fifteen minutes or so. Three such stops and reboots later we stood at the entrance to the Gotthard base tunnel, the longest in the world. With the train in that unpredictable state the crew wouldn't risk the twenty minutes passage so they turned around and drove back to Schwyz where they told the passengers to get out and board the next train. Whose terminal station was at the Italian border at Chiasso and nowhere near Genua.

In Chiasso again we received instructions to wait for the next train which would come pick us up an hour later. Using that time to do a little sightseeing in Chiasso my disappointment grew that they had made us wait in that place as there's really not much to see there especially compared to the world famous town of Lugano where we had stopped one station earlier.

That was just a minor outrage, the worst was still to come. When that replacement train finally arrived the Italian crew refused to take in any more bicycles. Even a vivid discussion in broken Italian would not change their minds. So all passengers from that broken down Eurocity boarded the replacement train except for myself and a Swiss couple who also went to Italy for a bike tour. That's the first time I've seen the SBB play as dirty as the Deutsche Bahn, leaving me stranded in Chiasso without a means of continuing the travel.

Since there aren't any other direct connections from Switzerland to Genua we had to improvise and decided to get on the next Italian regional train to at least reach Milano where we'd have more options. While doing that I furiously tried reaching customer support of Deutsche Bahn AG on the phone to check back with them if my ticket would be valid on those trains as it would be in Germany. To no avail. I had waited in line for ten minutes when the call from Switzerland disconnected some time after we crossed into Italy. Subsequent calls were interrupted by tunnels or the service line just hung up for no discernible reason. What a waste of more than 15 Euros for nothing at all. So without a ticket we had to convince the train staff to let us travel to Milano with them, which they did. A friendly local guy who overheard the conversation volunteered to help me buy a continuation ticket to Genua online because the connection there was scheduled to leave just a few minutes after our arrival. The online form on trenitalia.it refused bookings for that train though, so at the station we sprinted to the next ticket machine which hilariously also refused to sell tickets for just that one train to Genua. Taking the next train still left me with plenty of time to reach the ferry but I had to cancel my plans of doing some sightseeing in the afternoon.

From what I read online I actually expected the ferry to be the number one point of failure of the entire trip, but the opposite was the case: Check-in and boarding of La Superba went as smoothly as one could imagine, especially with the bicycle in tow. I accidentally booked a four-person cabin all for myself thinking I had reserved just one spot on that cabin so I even recovered some sleep deficit in a quiet night without any noise whatsoever except the rumbling of the massive engine in the background.


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