Due to Vueling running more like its horrid parent company, Iberia and less like an efficient budget airline, I found myself with a four and a half layover in Rome on my way to Split, Croatia from Barcelona. I thought, “I’ve seen a sufficient amount of interiors in airport terminals (LAX being the worst) so let’s go in to Rome for a few hours, have lunch, and run back.”
For those who haven’t been to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, there is a decently-situated train terminal at it that takes you to Roma Termini which is Rome’s main train station. There are however two trains that arrive at this bench-less wonder of a mega train station from the airport. The first is the “Leonardo Express” which a sign proudly states at the train platform takes a mere 32 minutes to reach Roma Termini. The other train is “Local” train and is gauged to take 47 minutes as it makes several stops although you’ll notice all the Italians taking this one.
Beyond the time difference there is the price difference as well. The Leonardo Express costs 14€ and the Local 8€… and that’s each way. Keep in mind that the airport train from Barcelona to the center costs 3.90€ and is the same distance. This is even more than the bloated price of the Bart train from SFO to the center of San Francisco.
Taking my chances, I came in on the Local had a panini, looked around a little bit and then realized I really needed to head back and Rome was really making me sweaty anyways. Time was short and I figured that the Leonardo Express would probably be best as it was the next train. I bought a ticket and stuck it in to the validation machine although the guy selling it to me on the platform didn’t even mention that you needed to. I boarded and the train left, a couple of minutes late.
Shortly after leaving the control came up the train surrounded by three goons. It took him forever to reach me as he spent a long time with each passenger on the train. I handed him my ticket and he said,
“There’s a problem. There is no validation on this ticket.”
“I put it in the machine and look, here’s my ticket from three hours ago as well as my plane ticket. I just came in to have lunch between flights.”
“Well, I’m sorry but that’s not acceptable.”
“What do you mean, ‘not acceptable’? Do I sound like I’m from here and am trying to ride the train for free? I have a ticket. I paid just now and I validated. It’s not my problem that your machine doesn’t work.”
At this point he conferred with his goons talking about how I was trying to use an excuse to get out of paying–Italian is amazingly similar to a mix of Spanish and Catalan–they rolled their eyes and said it was his turn to enforce it.
“There will be a penalty.”
“Why? I paid for a very expensive train ticket on a train that’s not even going to arrive on time.”
“You have to pay the penalty. Everyone else has.”
“Why are we all being fined for taking the train?”
“I’m sorry, this is just the way it is.”
This went on for a bit more and resulted in nothing. If they were to throw me off the train it would have been at the airport so I guess I should have complained more but didn’t have it in me. I received a 5€ fine that I had to pay on the spot although I amazingly got a receipt for it. I guess I was lucky. This can sometimes be up to a 50€ fine although it’s obvious that’s just a shake down as I watched every other passenger on the train going through the same thing. I can only guess that the people who didn’t pay had been to Rome before and knew the scam, although they still took this damned Leonardo Express which arrived 20 minutes late and thus took as long as the Local train albeit for 6€ more plus a 5€ fine.
Moral of the story, don’t take the Leonardo Express and make sure you get something printed on your train tickets from their crappy validation machines. Also, Italy is a lovely place, but taking the trains there can ruin just about any trip unless it’s the high speed train from Rome to Udine. That things runs like it’s in Germany.