Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trains, feet and bicycles

Tuesday, February 8
We have been locking our bikes behind Luigi’s macelleria in the morning and then catching the 10:02 train to Lucca and arriving about 10:25. From the stazione in Lucca to our school is twenty minutes a piedi (now that we know the best way), just in time for our 10:45 class. It would take less than ten minutes if we had bikes in Lucca, but the lady at the Pescia stazione told us that we would have to buy a special ticket for a bike, costing 1.1 euro, each way and for each bike, or about $5 a day.

This is different from the information I had found on the official TrenItalia website while still in the states:

Regional trains
On the Urban and Regional trains, marked in the timetables with a icon of a bike, travellers can choose to take their bicycle.
You can buy:
• a ticket of 3.5 euro, only for the bike, which is valid 24 hours from stamping
• a 2nd class ticket for your same travel .
you can carry your bike for free in the appropriate case.

Too expensive and a bit confusing, so I did some searching to see what some real people who actually take the trains in Italy said, looking at forums and blogs. Several people said it didn’t cost anything to take bikes on the regional trains. But now I had asked an official train clerk, in person, the same person who had just sold us our monthly ticket, and although the cost was not as bad as stated on the website, it was too much for our budget.

And so we walk in Lucca, which for the most part is OK inside the walled part of the city, but outside the walls, distances to conveniences such as large supermarkets and malls can be quite far.

But today on the regionale, we see a ragazzo in the little compartment between the train cars holding on to his bicycle.

Costa qualcosa a portare in treno la biciclete?” I ask.

No, niente,” he says.

And once again I have encountered the pain and beauty of the Italian system. It may indeed cost money, or it may not, but it doesn’t matter, because even if it does cost, the controllers on board the train either don’t know or don’t care. Maybe some day I’ll find out the full truth, but the important thing for us is that we can now zip around Lucca about four times as fast. Tomorrow, anyway. We hope.

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