Monday, August 30, 2010
Tree Trunks and Train Station: Milano
We were late leaving the hotel because one man, for whatever reason, was late getting out the door to the shuttle.
The highlight of my morning at the hotel was asking the concierge for a safety pin, but not knowing the name for it in Italian, having to draw a picture and explain it. Do hotels even keep such things? Well, sure enough, the lady downstairs (a cleaning lady perhaps? I never knew for sure) had one, and the young man at the desk went down for it and taught me to say spilla da balia. Funny how I could live two years in Italy and never need a safety pin, or at least not need to know how to say it.
The shuttle took us to the airport, where I caught the bus that takes people to the train station. No problems there.
My plan was to buy a ticket to Florence at the train station. I could have bought one while in the States, but since I didn't know for sure what time the shuttle would go, what time the bus would go, and what time I would be able to catch a train, I figured it was better to just wait and get the ticket at the station, as I had generally done when buying tickets from Florence to Milano.
I hoped for the 11:00ish, a slower train, which would cost less and get me to Florence in time for supper. I turned the corner and went down the hall, following the signs for BIGLIETTI (tickets).
GASP! GASP! And a long sigh.........
The line for tickets was the longest I've ever seen anywhere in real life. It came out both doors to the ticket area, spilling into the huge hallway. People and their bags as far as you could see.
After a moment of surveying the situation, weighing pros and cons, I headed for one of the many automatic machines over in the corner, where the lines were only 5-10 people at each--only to have one machine break just as I was next in line, and a second deny my credit card once I'd finally navigated my way through the many screens and choices to the point of purchasing.
I gave up and entered the real-people-will-help-you ticket line. I counted approximately 150 people in line! Fortunately it turned out to be two lines, and there were three or four counters for each line.
I was in line behind a nice gentleman. I asked if this were typical for the station. He said he didn't know: he had lived in Milano his whole life, but it was his first time to take a train out of the city, as his car was in the shop. At least I had someone pleasant to talk with, making the wait seem shorter.
So....an hour and a half after entering the station, I finally had a ticket in hand. But I'd missed the morning and earlier afternoon trains and had to wait a couple of hours before my train left.
I decided to exit the station and get some lunch. I found a nice little pizza place with outdoor tables, so there was room for the huge suitcase I was rolling around behind me.
I'm not a great admirer of the city of Milano. Especially driving in from the airport to the station, it seems you see the ugliest areas....And then all around the station is just traffic and crowds and noise. I imagine a hundred years ago when they were planning to build it, it was a lovely area, but the automobile changed that.
So this row of trees really caught my eye, a bit of green in the midst of all that manmade chaos. I just thought they were lovely with their wavy branches, so I took the picture seen above.
Then it was back into the station to wait. Jetlag had hit by this time, and I fell asleep more than once in the big Sala di Attesa (Hall of Waiting.)
It was the first time I'd ever sat and waited there, rather than just rushing through. So between naps I enjoyed looking around--and mostly up. The train station at Milano is quite an accomplishment.
I just read that 320,000 people a day use the station; so maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised at the line for tickets. Maybe I got off easy, who knows?
Looking up from my napping place.
Looking up and over.
Looking toward the opposite end of the Sala di Attesa.
And looking out toward the tracks, looking for my train.
A nice site by the Italian train system is available if you'd like to see more of this architectural marvel of a station (you'll have to open a new browser and cut and paste, as I've forgotten again how to add a link: www.grandistazioni.it)
Just click on the map, on Milano, and click on "English" (at the top) if you want to read about it. I just thought you might like to see the photos, since I didn't take any of the outside of the building.