first, to set the scene:
characters - Regina and Cory
goal - 12:47am train from Rome (where we celebrated NYE with our friend Adam) to Milan
scene - all over the city of Rome, Italy (background: old stuff)
we left Adam at Hostel Lido (the site of our magical NYE celebrations) feeling like we were sitting pretty. it was only about 11pm and we had almost 2 hours to make it to Tiburtina. we walked fairly quickly to the Lido station, but naturally had to wait until 11:30 until our train left -- Hostel Lido's one downfall is that, being not really Rome but a major suburb of Rome, it's a bit of a trek from Rome proper. well, that's okay, we still had an hour and fifteen minutes. we get off at the EUR MaglaakldgaklfdgnuItalianItalian stop shortly before midnight and saunter up to the metra stop to wait for the subway. two train station security guards wave to us from the other side of the platform. we smile and wave back.
they wave back more aggressively. "chiuso. chiuso. la treno, chiuso." (or whatever's Italian for "the train is not running anymore.")
if you have ever seen two balloons deflating...
we run down from the platform. the security guards repeat "the train is closed!" to us. of course NOW we remember the signs we'd all been seeing for the past 3 days: about how the metra stops running at 11:30pm on weekdays...when we tell them we're trying to get to Tiburtina, the one who seems to speak no English makes a very pitying and exasperated face at us. i think he says something like "can't be done," in Italian.
the other guy is more positive. "night bus n2. take this train." he shoves us toward the train going in the opposite direction, which has just arrived on the platform. "you go. you take. last train. take one stop. get off. one stop. bus n2. Viale Beethoven. you go. take last train. go! go!" and he ushers us on. Regina makes it. the door closes on me and my backpack gets stuck, and the helpful guard pries the door open to pop me through. did i mention this was the last train?
shell-shocked, we get off one stop later. we aren't sure that he said "Beethoven," can't find it on the map, and it's now shortly after midnight...we have 45 minutes to make it to Tiburtina on the other side of the city. Regina runs to look at the nearest bus stop to see if the n2 stops there while i sprint into a still-open cafe. neither of the guys at the counter speak English but i manage to tell them we are looking for bus n2. after some rapid Italian exchanges the younger one tells me, with appropriate hand gestures, but all in Italian, to walk to the left, make the first right, go 4 streets, and make another right.
Regina and i sprint off, following his directions, which do happen to lead us to Viale Beethoven and an n2 bus stop. the bus comes at 12:11am. we have 36 minutes to get to Tiburtina. we do not talk to each other during the ride, other than to make pseudo-cheerful comments like "we'll make it," "we're morons," "maybe we'll sleep in the train station," and "hey, we can always hang out at the Trevi Fountain at 3am!"
12:39am: we pull up to Termini. the bus pulls into its stall and chills. it is not going anywhere. we wait two minutes before evacuating the waiting bus. with six minutes to make it to Tiburtina before our train's scheduled to leave, we run frantically around the construction-littered parking lot until we find the taxi stands. "how long from here to Tiburtina?" i ask one of the drivers.
"no, how long, how many minutes!"
he considers. "seven...ten minutes."
Regina and i exchange desperate glances. "that's too long," we say. but then Regina says, "should we risk it? maybe the train will be late?" we both remember how sketchy Tiburtina was and consider how terrible it would be to spend the night there. it's the dumbest possible choice, but we say, "yes, take us."
after ridiculing us lightly with his fellow taxiers in Italian, the driver books it to Tiburtina. it's 12:51am when we pull in, yank our luggage out of the back, and sprint -- without hope -- into the deserted station. up on the board we see our train number, 830, to Milan. still listed. with a 15 minute delay.
we arrive on the platform panting like idiots and laughing hysterically (/practically crying) from relief to be greeted by the stares of fifty pissed-off Italians who are less than happy about that 15 minute delay. "i could KISS this train for being late," Regina gasps. here we are, being thrilled:
9 hours later we pulled back into Milan, on a train we had no right to be on, after having walked, ridden a train, ridden the metra, ridden a night bus, hailed a taxi, sprinted, and faked a lot of Italian to get there. i will never complain about a late train again.
and now, to share the great musical discovery of our trip:
thank you, Italian Döner and Pizza shop...for saving us from our NYE famine and for bringing us Barbra Streisand.