Public transportation in other countries is usually simple and wonderful. After that first ride.
The complication usually only comes in understanding the bus schedule and figuring out how to buy tickets. It’s not always the same in each country.
However, once you know the system, it’s friggin’ awesome.
Buying Bus Tickets
In Italy, you typically buy bus tickets at the Tabaccheria (tobacco shop), or you can pay cash on the bus. Paying cash slows the bus driver down especially if he/she has to make change, so getting tickets in advance is always a better idea.
In Rovigo, one bus ticket costs 1.30 euro. From the time you get on the bus, it’s good for unlimited rides for 75 minutes. Which means, if I can do my shopping and hop on a bus, I don’t pay for the return trip. Though this requires a certain degree of planning and efficiency, as the bus only stops at my store every 45 minutes or so.
The first time I braved the bus in Italy was with Kamea, as Greg had to stay home.
Through all our travels, I rely on Greg for logistics and navigation (my job is keeping my eye on Kamea). However, with his hip hurting he’s been staying home while I go out to explore either alone or with Kamea. Therefore, on my first bus outing, I had Greg figure out where I would pick up the bus and how I would get home. He studied the bus time tables online, hoping they were accurate.
Time to Try Our First Italian Bus
I bought a bunch of tickets, and armed with a notepad detailing the times for the bus, as well as the names of the stops I needed, we headed out.
Our goal? Lidl grocery store. We needed beef, yogurt, olive oil, and much more.
We went to the bus stop and looked for bus #10 and it arrived – on time! Wow… this is all working out!
We stepped onto the bus, and I asked if the stop I was looking for was indeed on this route. In other words, am I on the right bus?
Si! (Yes!) I was.
I stood a little taller in that moment, feeling pride and a sense of accomplishment. It’s these little things that make living in another country so exciting. I feel like a winner when I get something small like the bus system right.
Next step: validating the bus ticket with the machine on this bus. This stamps the ticket and is required, or you can get hit with a hefty fine.
Lidl: A Great Grocery Store
We made it to Lidl in about 7 minutes. Lidl is a German-owned chain of 10,000 great discount grocery stores located all over Europe. They’re kind of like Trader Joe’s – discounted foods, pretty great quality, and you’ll never get everything you need – lol.
Kamea and I carefully timed our trip so we could be back outside at the bus stop on time. If we didn’t time it right, we’d end up waiting an hour for the next bus, which wouldn’t bode well for my beef and yogurt. In truth, we had plenty of time, but time flies when you’re having fun, so we had to keep an eye on the clock.
Timing Is Everything
We spent so much time studying everything Lidl had to offer, translating things via Google Translate that – uh-oh – I actually lost track of time. Sh*t.
We quickly made our way to the cashiers, where there are about 10 lanes, but only 2 or 3 of them are ever open. We got in line and I started sweating, having no idea if we’d make it. I tapped into my inner Taoism and tried convincing myself that whatever happens will happen and it’ll be neither good nor bad.
After all, there wasn’t anything I could do at that point other than prep Kamea that the minute we’re done with paying we’re running out of the store like true Americani.
Minute by minute… slowly the line moved. Finally, it was our turn. We got through the line, bagged our groceries like our hair was on fire, I paid, and we took off.
The next small challenge was that the bus stop was located across a very busy, high-speed road.
We ran outside and through the grass in front of the store (making me think most people don’t walk here – no paved walkways – was I doing something wrong? Probably.) Now it was time to play Frogger and cross the busy road, where there is no crosswalk. I can’t figure out why the bus stop is there when it’s not easy to access.
We made it across, albeit a bit harried… and with more than 10 minutes to spare. Ha – I had had nothing to worry about. Plenty of time.
Then, we saw a bus coming – only it was bus 8 and not bus 10. I was sure I needed bus #10, but the time for bus 10 had passed, leaving me dumbfounded and sending frantic text messages to Greg – DO WE TAKE BUS #8? WHAT IF IT DOESN’T LET US OFF NEAR HOME?! I HAVE BEEF AND YOGURT!!! TELL ME WHAT TO DO!
He didn’t respond. I decided to take my chances.
Getting the Bus to Stop
As the bus approached I made eye contact with the bus driver but he wasn’t slowing down. WTF? We’re clearly standing under the bus stop sign, but he was about to pass us. I stepped closer to the street thinking maybe he just hadn’t seen me like I’d thought he did.
And, he stopped.
We stepped on and I asked if this bus would take us to the stop we needed. He said something in Italian and I didn’t think I heard the word “no” so I gambled that we were good to go. He made some gestures, true to Italian communication but my knowledge of those isn’t good yet either. I was able to make out, I thought, that the reason he didn’t stop right away was because I didn’t flag him down.
Come again? My standing at the bus stop isn’t enough of a sign to stop that I have to flag him down? I was confused, thought I must be misunderstanding him, but oh well. I’ll figure it out later.
Which I did.
He was right. There are many buses that use that stop. Why should they all stop if I’m not going to get on them as I’m only waiting for one in particular. That explains, I think, why I was also able to grab the bus #8 instead of the bus #10.
Noted: I will flag down the bus I want in the future.
Leaving an iPod on the Bus
To make our Italian Urban Bus Adventure even more exciting, Kamea left her iPod on the bus. We didn’t realize this until we got home. This was pretty serious business. It generated family discussions about personal responsibility, mindfulness, identity theft, something called… SecOps? (Greg), the value of money, and the ethical nuances of “finders-keepers.”
And then the most wonderful thing happened.
Somebody turned the iPod into the bus company’s lost and found!
Thank goodness for the ICA legal team helping us with our dual citizenship because they were there to help us. They handled calling the bus station to inquire about the iPod. The driver had turned it in at the end of his route. The next day, I walked the mile to the bus station and retrieved the iPod. Woohoo! — mini-disaster averted, and kudos to our diligent bus driver!