The B's building in Milan
We have never taken a train in Italy and having read an American mum's recent account of her (seemingly complicated, danger-filled) ticket-buying experience, I was needless-to-say a little worried about having to do the same myself.
In fact, after 3 trainless years here in Modena, I suddenly found myself, in a matter of weeks, faced with the need to buy train tickets to Zurich and to Milan.
For the former, I went to the station
armed with accompanied by a French mum and we were both surprised at how pleasant the whole experience was. Certes the queue was particularly long, but we were well received and the ticket seller did all she could to help me plan my trip, find the best connections at the best prices etc. I bought my tickets Modena-Zurich in less than 15 minutes which I thought was fast for Italy. And at no time did I feel endangered by any person next to me gypsy or not.
Then at the beginning of the week, braver after the last experience, I decided to try buying my train tickets to Milan online. From choosing the trains to paying up, it took me about 10 minutes and I even printed my own ticketless tickets. Was the system easy-to-use or was I a genius?
Of course Hub had to tell me a few days later that he had a change in plans and would in fact be able to drive us to Milan where he had a meeting. Here I had a few complications simply because I didn't want to trust the Italians and decided to physically turn up at the train station to try to have my tickets reimbursed. I was told that it could only be done online since my tickets had been purchased online. Sure.
With 24 hours to go before we were due to leave for Milan, I doubted if the Italians would be capable of reimbursing me in time. I was wrong, of course. In one click, the website cancelled my ticket and reimbursed me. 20% less what I've paid (and those tickets have been expensive), but they accepted my cancellation with no questions asked. How's that for efficiency?
Hub drove us to San Donato to take our metropolitan to the French Consulate. He dropped us a few hundred metres from the metro and as we walked through the bus bay, I checked to see if there were cameras (I drove through there the last time). Of course they had to be where I actually stopped my car at the zebra crossing to let the pedestrians cross the street. You can be sure that they'll be able to even admire my person when they check the video for violations of my sort. Sigh...
We had lunch in this Japanese restaurant Tsukimi opposite the French Consulate and it was quite good. The ambiance was nice and the set lunches were value-for-money. Milan does have nice restaurants. Not to forget the nice shops that we walked past on our way to Turati. Armani has this huge flagship store complete with a chic café filled with chic people. How's that?
Then we met up with the B's who used to live in Modena. They live near the modern French School where their 3 girls are now studying and it is amazing to see how much the girls have grown and changed since the last time I saw them! We had dinner together in a small Indian/Nepalese restaurant Namaste and once again the food was quite good. It was lovely seeing the B's again and I still feel sorry that they had opted to leave Modena over the schooling issue. But isn't that what most parents would do for their children?