Not so impressed...
Trip Start Sep 08, 2008
40Trip End Dec 16, 2008
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Well, it is finally December and we have had our first taste of Italy. Our first stop here (after many train transfers) is Milan, a highly fashionable city with a very high-culture attitude. To put it bluntly, Milan has not warmed us up to travelling in Italy. Our hostel is full of hobos, the people are standoffish, we can't take most trains here, and nobody seems to like to use any kind of heating system.
Point the first: We are the only backpackers in our hostel. We are staying in an independant palce in the far south end of the city, and judging by the rest of the clientele, it is like a rooming house or a Homeless shelter or something. Every other person in our 16-bed-dorm is a middle-aged Italian man who can't seem to keep himself or the room (or our ensuite bathroom) clean. When I take a shower in the morning, I have to clear out everyone else's half-empty shamppo bottles, bar-soap, razors and used band-aids from the shower stall. I also have to empty off a hook or two so I can hang my towel, they all seem to be perpetually taken by used towels and dirty clothes. The common rooms in the hostel are constantly haunted by these same denizens, hollering at the top of their lungs to each other in Italian. All in all, it is relatively unpleasant to be at the hostel at any time of day. I hope it isn't this way at any of our other hostels. We're having alot of trouble booking other places because a surprisingly high number of Italian hostels are closed for some random period such as November 26th to December 21st, meaning we're left out in the cold. This means we have already booked some rooms which are a bit more expensive than we should have to, and that we haven't found any place at all for Verona (tomorrow night - yikes!) or Bologna.
Number two: The people (with some notable exceptions) here are not very helpful for the hospitality-industry. Waiters and waitresses we have had ARE very nice and patient, helping us out, which is awesome. People who work at newsstands or tabaccherias are downright rude and brush you aside if you don't speak Italian. The grand post office near the Duomo doesn't appear to sell stamps, or at least three different people shoved us off by giving us hasty directions in Italian as to where we should be to buy a stamp. The people on our side of the counter aren't much better, nopbody appears to want to wait their turn, and they just step right up to the counter, even when us and a couple of other people have formed a line. Usually, they place a very complicated order too, making us wait even longer.
Point three: Our "global Eurail pass" which should be GLOBALLY valid for all trains, is endorsed by Trenitalia, the national train service. However, there is a LONG list of trains we can't take unless we pay a hefty supplement of 15 euros (which os more than half the fare anyway). And, there appear to be very few regional trains going anywhere useful that we can take without a supplement. I didn't pay 1,000 euros for a trian pass just to be forced to pay a supplement for every ride! It actually makes me very angry.
Finally: Everywhere is cold. Everywhere. I appreciate the fact that in Winnipeg it is currently colder than the +3° I have to put up with, but I do think a museum should be heated. Well, not the Museo Nationale della Scienza e Tecnologica. Or how about a train station, or the train itself for that matter? None of the Italian trains we've taken so far are heated (maybe that's what the supplement would get us).
Anyways, needless to say, we are hoping for more luck in Verona. We will be spending our day looking for a place to stay, so wish us luck! Hopefully it will stop raining.