Saturday, June 02, 2007


Rome-Florence train
Originally uploaded by
I was curious yesterday about the price of a train ticket from Rome to Zürich (ok indulge my stupidity - you all know from last week's postings why I might want to come home from Rome via Zürich).
I had first looked Ryanair but they don't fly there and then I remembered I had often taken that very beautiful train ride in my students days, so on to I went. This has to be one of the worst websites I have ever tried to use in my life. It asks if you want it in English or Italian so being lazy I opted for English. It asked where I wanted to go from and to - I typed Rome-Zürich - it gave me some wee village miles from Rome called St-Rome-de-something-or-other, I realized that though the website was in English, you were meant to know the Italian place names. Fine, Roma is easy enough but if you are average Mr Thick-Englishman, with the linguistic aptitude of a jellyfish, then will you guess Firenze or Venezia? Anyway I am also not convinced Mr Thick-Englishman wouldn't have clicked on 'buy' for St-Rome-de-wherever-it-was...well, that is of course if he could find 'buy' to click on. I spent a whole half hour trying to find how to ask the simple question - how much? I seemed to have to register (God save me - this means I will be bombarded with crap from them for all eternity), then 1 minute after registering it told me my password, issued by them, had expired and I needed a new one - huh? I tried in vain clicking 'cart' - it told me my cart was empty. Having told me 3 times there was a train at 23h every Sunday, that timetable suddenly disappeared and I was being told the train was at 20h40, then it told me when I arrived at Zürich Flughafen - give me strength - who mentioned the bloody airport? I want to go to the town. I know Zürich well, I lived in Konstanz for 6 months. I just wanted to go to the bloody city. Every time I typed Zürich, it told me that for the airport I had to change in Zürich - aaaaaaaaaarg - and still I couldn't get a price. I'd tried the purchase button, the pricing button - every obvious place. It even had a column marked price but it wasn't clickable! Oh and then it became more fun - I had a 5 column chart at one point, four of the column headings in English, the fifth in Italian. It was definitely one of those English interfaces you couldn't use unless you spoke Italian (20 year old rusty uni Italian was beginning to fall back into place after half an hour on this 'English' website).
Eventually I pressed something, I have no idea what and a price appeared as if by magic. It was too expensive, which is probably just as well as I would never, ever have been able to find it again even if my life depended on it!
It really can't be this hard - I've used the SNCF webpage from time to time and it is so intuitive, you could do it in your sleep, even if you don't speak French. What is the Italians' problem? At this rate, the entire train network will need to be shut down in Italy because no one will be able to use it. Maybe Ryanair should jump in to even more Italian towns and help the poor buggers be able to travel intercity!

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