Sleeper to SicilyJune 7, 2018 in Italy ⋅ 🌬 26 °C
At 20.10 last night, I boarded the overnight sleeper train from Milan all the way to Sicily. A marathon journey of some 19 hours 38 minutes. And if I was expecting a luxurious travel experience, I was about to be sorely disappointed - the Venice Simplon Orient Express this was not. The train resembled the kind of graffiti-decorated transport that you might expect of Italian railways on a short local journey from Roma Termini to San Pietro. My 2 berth 1st class compartment had certainly seen better days with little by way of creature comforts. Unlike the meticulously uniformed crews of the Polish and Russian trains last year, with their peaked caps and efficient welcome, this train attendant resembled an overweight and unkempt Reg Varney from On the Buses. With an ill-fitting uniform and grubby shirt which was too tight to fasten, he sported at least two days of grey stubble.
And if I had expected fine dining in the restaurant car washed down with a glass of Valpolicella, again it was not to be. Not a buffet car nor even a trolley appeared to exist - and on a journey which was to take the best part of 20 hours. How glad was I that I had had that McD’s earlier when accessing their free WiFi. All that was left for dinner was a half eaten packet of crisps, a bag of Mint Imperials and a bottle of water so warm I could have easily have made a cup of tea with it - if only I had a tea bag.
My travelling roomie embarked at Genoa. He was a tall, bearded Italian who spent some time rearranging our tiny space, with a great deal of moving luggage, ladders, toiletries etc, while parading around (if one can parade in such a tiny space) in his briefs - why have Italian men never heard of boxers?
Our Trenitalia ‘Welcome Pack’ included amongst other bits and pieces, an eye mask. After being dazzled by the evening lights outside our blind-less window, I decided to make use of them to get to sleep. The underside of the bunk above me was covered in a full-length mirror, and when I awoke I was startled to see who looked like Lady Isobel Barnett from ‘What’s My Line’ staring down at me.
In spite of this, my lower berth was remarkably comfortable and I got a reasonable night’s sleep. After devouring the last of the Mint Imperials for breakfast, I was amazed to discover by accident that refreshments were available from a cubbyhole at the end of the compartment. A long-life apricot croissant and an espresso later and I began to feel human again. Even Reg Varney came up trumps in converting our two berths into a relatively pleasant sitting area with a few clicks and pulls of levers.
My Italian friend disembarked at Rosarno in Calabria at 10.00, and I had the compartment to myself for the remaining leg of the trip. The train hugged the coast all the way with terrific views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. This wasn’t so bad after all.Read more