September 1 – Camp Miraflores to Rome (465 km, 289 miles) – by train
Yesterday was pretty much the end of the biking portion of my trip. There are still 440 kilometers to go to Rome, and not enough days left to ride it. But that’s pretty much how I figured it would turn out, and I had already planned on taking the train from Genova to Rome, so that’s what I did today – although from Rapallo rather than from Genova.
Italians don’t seem very customer-service oriented. I went to the train station in Rapallo to get a ticket to Rome for myself and my bike. The ticket agent just said gruffly, “No bike. Not possible to Roma. No bike.” and then he handed me a train ticket anyway without any explanation and waved for the next person in line behind me. I walked away shaking my head with a perplexed look, trying to figure out what he had given me. Fortunately, a woman from Holland, who spoke English and had experience with the Italian train system (and with Italians), witnessed the transaction and took pity on me and helped me understand what had just happened. It turned out that the ticket agent was referring to no bikes being allowed on the fast, non-stop express train. He had given me a ticket for the slower regional train which does allow bikes, but he failed to mention that critical fact to me. So all seemed fine after all – I had a ticket for myself and my bike to Rome. Or so I thought. When I got to Rome, the train car that had my bike in it was locked. Before the train agent would unlock the door he asked for my bike ticket. I showed him the ticket the agent had given me in Rapallo and he said it was not for the bike – just me. Turns out the agent in Rapallo didn’t give me a ticket for the bike after all, even though I told him I needed to take the bike on the train. So I had to pay 3 Euros to get the door unlocked so I could get my bike off the train. I suppose it could have been worse.
I arrived in Rome at 6:00 pm and needed to find a campground to spend the night. Fortunately there was one just 6 kilometers away, on the northeast side of town. Seemed easy enough – until I got out of the train station and into the utter chaos that is everyday traffic in Rome. Imagine the worst traffic that you might have seen in Los Angeles or New York City, and then multiply that by three orders of magnitude – that’s Rome. The streets are not only in a grid pattern, but also include diagonals as well, so the intersections are a combination of roundabouts and signaled intersections, with roads at the signaled intersections often coming from more than four directions, which is not what we’re accustomed to in the U.S. On top of that, there are very few painted lane lines on the streets, so people just drive wherever they want – even on the few centimeters next to the curb where bicyclists are forced to ride. It’s a wild situation all around and it’s a miracle I didn’t get run over on the way to the campground. But I made it safely to the campground and had the usual shower and dinner at the restaurant.
Tomorrow’s plan is to do some sightseeing and figure out how to box up my bike for the flight home.