Years ago I had a fight in a toilet in Rome Termini station. That, I suppose, has predisposed me to think somewhat negatively about the place. Last night I read the reviews about the station on Trip Advisor which form a litany of stories of people being ripped off, robbed and generally taken for a ride. So over dinner we told the boys to be especially careful of their bags and agreed that we would not be accepting the help of any helpful locals along he way.
Today we had already been travelling for six hours by the time we got to Rome. The last couple of hours had seen Declan sitting with a pale, pale face staring fixedly out the window while I hovered beside him with an airsickness bag we’d filched from Egyptair some months ago.
Rome Termini itself is a scam artist’s delight. The layout is confusing and the signage is bamboozling. It just generates confused tourists wandering about waiting for someone to provide them with ‘assistance’. We, for example, spent a good ten minutes bouncing between contradictory signs in search of a ticket office. So I have to admit we weren’t in the best of moods by the time we made it to our train to Naples.
We found our reserved seats and then actually saw a scam roll out before us in glorious technicolor detail.
There were four Americans sitting in our seats. As we arrived they were giving 40 Euros to the nice man who had found them seats together on this extremely crowded train. It was clear they were surprised at the price, but didn’t feel they were in a position to refuse while ‘helpful local’ blocked the aisle and a long line of people got increasingly impatient behind him.
They paid; he moved on a bit; we moved up and explained that these were, in fact, our booked seats. (I should point out here that we only realised what had been happening in retrospect, we weren’t in a position to step in earlier.)
“No, we were told we could sit here.” explained the Americans “it’s OK isn’t it…” They looked for the helpful local who was now receding rapidly into the distance folding his success fee into his pocket.
The Americans shouted after the helpful local who, rather than stopping, seemed to speed up without actually moving his legs any faster and was gone. A genuinely helpful Italian gentlemen stepped in and tried to explain in broken English that they couldn’t stay in the seats. The Americans argued the toss for a while, clearly taking the view that they could do so while being talked to in accented English. My sympathy for them started evaporating around about that point.
Finally I have to admit my tiredness showed through and I explained to them in, er, forceful but fluent English that they were in our seats and really had to move.
Last seen the unfortunate four were heading off down the train in search of an empty seat, 40 Euros poorer than they started out.
To be fair to Italians for posterity, we also had the wonderful experience on other trains today of two people give up their seats when they noticed that Declan was suffering. Rome is a special case.