Let’s go: Piacenza!

I love hopping on a train in Florence and exploring new areas (to me). In November of 2021, I wanted to get to know Emilia-Romagna better, and decided to begin at the end of the train line that travels from Rimini in the east to Piacenza in the west.

Little did I know that I was joining a long line of travelers over the famous Via Aemilia (Via Emilia in Italian; the Aemilian Way in English) was a trunk Roman road in the north Italian plain, running from Ariminum (Rimini), on the Adriatic coast, to Placentia (Piacenza) on the river Padus (Po). It was completed in 187 BC. The Via Aemilia connected at Rimini with the Via Flaminia, which had been completed 33 years earlier, to Rome.

I am, as always, an accidental traveller on storied lines.

Schematic map of the Via Aemilia through the Roman Empire’s Aemilia Region VIII

I was completely enjoying my train ride, admiring the red and golden grape vines that flew by my window, and noting this guy’s foldable bike.

What I could not have known as I got on the train to go to Piacenza in November, was that it would not be the simple journey that I planned. I bought a ticket on the fast train from Florence to Bologna, and then would connect on a regional train which would take me over the ancient Via Emilia, with stops along the way in Modena, Parma, etc.

Unfortunately, fate had other plans that day. Apparently a truck collided in some way with the train tracks between Parma and Piacenza. All I knew was that my train on the way to Piacenza stopped as expected in Parma, but then it did not go again. I sat waiting on the train, oblivious to any problems as all until about 30 minutes had passed. Then I started to become aware that all my fellow train travellers were stirring and exhanging frustrated comments after the constant new announcements made over the train’s loud speakers.

I’m used to hearing these announcements in Italian over the speakers and 90% of the time I can neither understand more than a few words nor do they seem to have any significant consequence for me. Usually the train ride continues with me no wiser.

But this was different. I tried really hard to understand the announcements and knew that something big was up. I saw a nice mother and teenage daughter not far from me and asked them what was happening. They explained that the train could not go any further because of an accident on the tracks and that the train company, Trenitalia, had made arrangements for busses to take passengers from Parma to Fidenza, where we could presumably rejoin the train line.

Yikes! this was fairly serious. I asked the mother/daughter duo if they were going to Piacenza and they were, so I asked them if I could follow them on the next few steps of the journey. They kindly agreed and the next hour was a melodrama. I learned that life in Italy can be just as confusing for Italians as Americans (I already knew this after my forays into the medical system in the country, but it was reinforced on my trip).

No officials were around as we got off the train in Parma. So, none of us knew where we were supposed to go to catch the bus. The Italians in my train car kind of clumped together and moved as a group through the train station, first going into the underground underpass to get to the station and stopping to read all of the departure signs along the way. Still no officials appeared to direct us.

We waited as a group in front of the Parma station for a good 20 minutes, waiting for the bus that was to take us to Fidenza. Then someone realized this wasn’t the right plan and as a group we went back into the station and waited as a confused, murmuring group, exchanging worried looks and angry comments, outside the window for the train company. Of course, no one manned the desk!

The video above shows my little group of confused travelers. Eventually we found out that we had to go to another section of the terminal to find the busses. So, as a group we found our way under the station but outside it. The sign below told us where to go with its one arrow.

Once outside, we waited, where it seemed like 100s of busses came along over the next 20 minutes. My group murmured and worried about when our bus would come. People needed to get to Piacenza!

Eventually the mother in my guide pair noticed a large sign across the street from where we were waiting, and it had another arrow, pointing us to what turned out to be the city’s bus terminal. My group walked the 10 minutes up and down stairs to get there. Eventually we located this bus, whose driver, I might add, did his very best to be unhelpful.

Finally we were bussed the 10 miles or so to Fidenza, where we got off the bus, walked to the train station and saw the sign below. As you watch the video, please note all of the cancelled trains. They say “cancellato.”

Below, we wait in Fidenza for the hoped for trains to Piacenza.

Piacenza or bust!

Eventually, I arrived safe and sound, if a bit exhausted, in Piacenza. It was getting dark and I had a hotel reservation, so I hustled to the hotel.

Then I went out for a quick look at this new place.

Chiesa di San Pietro Apostolo

In my next posts, I will share the wonders that I saw!

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