Once upon a time, two little girls decided to take a sleeper train from Rome to Venice. What would have been one of the most lovely experiences yet (it really was) quickly turned into a journey of fear and panic.
…okay clearly my story-telling skills need some brushing up after months of non-writing (boo finals), but this isn’t a horror story I promise.
You know how every time before you embark on an epic travel adventure to leave your mark on the big, big world, your mother would suddenly burst into your room, wild worry etched upon every fine line on her face, demanding you to double-check your insurance plan, compartmentalise your money into separate pouches and purses until you don’t even know where it all is anymore, and oh – bring more toothbrushes?
Well. She’s right.
Before boarding the sleeper train, we were giddy with excitement;
omg I’ve never been on a sleeper train before!!
do we really get to sleep?
do we really get beds??
We got to our cabin, threw open the door and squealed.
Well it wasn’t super gorgeous, but it had double decker beds, fresh white sheets, pillows, a lovely ladder to the overhead storage area, and even electric sockets. For budget travel, this wasn’t gorgeous, this was luxury. The corridor outside was narrow and there were strangers hanging around suspiciously, but the cabin (with its LOCKING FEATURE) was like safe haven.
On one of the beds was a lady with slivers of grey in her hair, probably in her forties or fifties. Her frame was plump but she had an exuberance about her, and she wasted no time in trying to help us two lost little girls get settled into the cabin.
The upper bunk was about eye-level, and I made a subconscious note that the lady’s black handbag was nested comfortably on one of them. As our cabin companion for the night stepped outside, I finally decided on one of the lower bunks and started fishing around my bag for my camera to take some pictures. Travel buddy Umi was helping us keep our luggages in the overhead storage area and we were feeling great.
Until the lady stepped back into the cabin.
She took one glance at her bunk, and suddenly shouted, eyes wide:
WHERE IS MY HANDBAG?
Where once was her bag, was now an empty space, sheets clearly marked with the indentations of a medium-size purse.
Woah, was my mind racing.
My first instinct was that she was a fraudster and she was going to try and put the blame on us. She was freaking out at this point, but all I could do – and I knew this was of not much help – was solemnly swear that I did indeed see her handbag when I first stepped inside the cabin, and even more solemnly swear that we did not leave the cabin at all
so please don’t suspect plsplsplspls we are just two noob Singaporeans who want to get to Venice in one piece heavens help us.
On and on her freaking out went. She called the train conductor over, whose eyes shifted to us for a brief moment after she relayed her story to him in rapid Italian. Meanwhile, we just sat there helplessly, praying that this nice lady could somehow get her possessions back, and somehow not blame us for the theft too.
Suddenly, the lady stopped and blinked. It was like a light went on in her brain. She turned to us, urgently, and asked if there were people hanging about at the corridors when we came in.
Uh. Some teenagers, we supplied dumbly.
In black shirts. They were looking at us when we entered.
She blinked again. He shook his head.
Grabbing whatever was left of her belongings, she hurriedly conversed with the conductor as she burst into the narrow corridor, Italian words flying faster with every passing second, and practically jumped off the train. We never saw her again.
The train left the platform an hour and a half late. It was a silent journey to Venice, and our door was kept firmly locked the entire way. I think we were just in shock at how sudden it was. It was probably our first brush with theft in Europe (oh yes this was only the first), and it’s scary how nobody saw it coming. I had my back turned to the door for maybe all of five seconds, and barely ten seconds before that this lady was just telling us to secure our luggages in the overhead compartment before she exited.
I was exhausted, but my mind refused to rest. With every bump in the track, or every slight sound besides the chugging of the train, I’d startle – eyes wide – staring unblinkingly at the door, waiting for someone sneak in and rob us blind.
At about 5 in the morning, the conductor knocked softly and kindly passed us some snacks and juice for breakfast (I later realised the breakfast is part of the package haha maybe I was hallucinating the kindness). Half an hour later, we finally pulled into Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, the main train station in Venice.
We bumbled out, vision blurry from lack of sleep, and took in a deep, deep breath of Venetian air.
And now… #itsadventaretime
We walked the whole darn Venice that afternoon, from the train station (marked with a circle) to St Mark’s square. See map above. It was a long, long walk and it was bloody hot, but we had (a few) ice cream(s) along the way so it was okay 🙂
We went up the Campanile, a tall brick bell tower next to St Mark’s Basilica, and then wandered aimlessly between the narrow aisles of Venice. There was a leather-bound first edition Harry Potter hardcover on display in a shop window, and famous Venetian masks and glassware in another. Beside it, a shop hung a “€7 ONLY!!” sign next to a bundle of cheap plastic selfie sticks.
We were much too poor to afford the €80 gondola ride on the canals, but we took the vaporetto (public ferry bus) pretty often because we stayed in a hostel on Giudecca, a separate island to the south of Venice, about as far as Sentosa is to Singapore. It was hot for most of the time we were there, but the narrow streets on the main island offered plenty of shade.
ON THAT NOTE. While many online guides said it was “impossible to get lost in Venice”… I cannot disagree more. Without our data plan guiding our path and showing us the light, I swear I would have broken down and cried. To say navigating the narrow alleyways was CONFUSING would be putting it lightly.
Thank you Internet. Thank you Google Maps. I owe you ❤
Oh and, we took a vaporetto to the beautiful, beautiful BURANO!
The houses were short and squat, but so vivid it was almost otherworldly. It was bursting with tourists (then again… where else isn’t?) but it was a lovely afternoon spent, admiring the locals’ appreciation for colour and cuteness.
They probably also appreciated the tourists’ wallets, but we managed to snag a simple meal of pizza and pasta at a relatively more quiet restaurant
and sneakily smuggled the biscuits on the table in our bags hehehe before we grabbed even more ice cream to combat the heat.
We went to Murano after that, but because it was late, we didn’t see much. We managed to get couple necklaces with a teardrop pendant made of famous Murano glass though, so I’d say all is good and beautiful ❤