Italy just held its Regional elections -- and that’s something else to be thankful for. The kilometer-long eyesores of political slogans and signs with their huge faces staring out at us next to insipid slogans will finally be over. Although, as late as 1985, 90% of Italians used to vote, thanks to general apathy, disgust, and most likely rampant cynicism, that percentage this year descended to American levels – 50%. In ravaged Aquila, of course, the figure was even lower – people didn’t know where to go to vote (che sorpresa) but, did they even have their voter cards on time??
The Bella Cosa about elections is that in Rome, two women faced off for the Governorship of the region. In a country where women don’t even make it to the sitting position at conference panels (the standing ones are the eye candy to ease the view of the pot-bellied octogenarians all talking on cellphones while at the presenters’ table), lest it be considered ‘non una cosa seria’; well, this was nothing short of a miracle. People may actually start taking what women have to say seriously. Score one for working women – one down for the “party of amore’ of yesteryear. And, considering they're taking the place of the guy ousted after having a long term affair with a transvestite hooker in her / his drug den…well, things can only be looking up.
While traveling, I discovered that the illustrious TrenItalia has a new phone app that will allow you to check schedules, heck, even buy a ticket with your phone. Right now it’s being offered for free – get yours before they change their mind. But, take my suggestion and read the fine print: that ticket feature will probably cost you some exorbitant surcharge.
Trenitalia is busy advertising ‘from’ 39 euro on the fast train to Milan/Rome. You only need to try booking a month in advance…(try being the operative word). But, forewarned is forearmed.
And speaking of train travel, at Milan’s train station, they’re rethinking the escalators and you can now sort of make it up to the tracks from the front of the station, as long as you don’t actually need the escalators – meaning, you have no luggage. But, it’s still an improvement on the 20 minute (slightly) moving sidewalk up to your train.
Newspapers finally made a cause celebre’ out of the fact that in the aftermath of the station’s restoration, they simply did away with the waiting rooms for the hoi-poloi while building sumptuous waiting rooms for the Club Eurostar passengers. Made in all glass, you can feel just like the third class passengers on the Titanic as you stand in the freezing cold or sweltering heat with your luggage and little kids. Pretty soon we’ll be seeing an orchestra playing bars and people in tuxedos eating caviar in there. But for now, you’ll have to fight with the homeless for a slice of bench, one of the six lining the walls.
Another wonderful sight at Milan's train station was a policeman actually ask the loiterers who accost you at the electronic ticket machines to leave the premises and stop shaking down travelers. It was a scene out of Norman Rockwell, and it warmed my heart. So much so, I’m almost ready for a new trip on TrenItalia – especially if it’s only 3 hours from Rome to Milan!