I took a $776 taxi ride in Italy after my train was cancelled — but it was worth it

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It was around 1PM on a bucketing wet day.

I was in the front seat of the taxi with my driver, Matteo, flooring it along the A1 Autostrada between Florence and Rome.

The meter had already hit 500 Euro, with a second extra ‘service’ charge blinking threateningly beside it, and we still had at least an hour to travel. My wallet burned a hole in my pocket.

The Americans who were sharing my cab had turned a concerning shade of grey.

This was going to be the most expensive taxi ride of our lives.

It all started when I arrived at Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station, ready to board my train to Rome.


Selfie of Alex Carlton in Florence
Alex Carlton had to take extreme measures to make her flight in Rome after trains from Florence were canceled.
Alex Carlton via Escape.co.au

Immediately I noticed things looked weird.

The crowds and queues seemed massive.

There was a panicked buzz in the air.

Then I looked up at the board listing arrivals and departures.

Cancelled.


Trains in station at Santa Maria Novella
All trains coming out of Florence’s Santa Maria Novella were cancelled due to a train derailment near Bologne.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Cancelled.

Cancelled.

I whipped out my phone and googled.

Turns out there was a huge train derailment somewhere near Bologne, and it had upended rail services across the country.

My heart stopped.

I wasn’t catching a train to head to another Italian destination or to do a bit of joyriding sightseeing in the countryside.


Google maps showing the extent of the fare
Carlton and her American companions were worried as the fare continued to rise.
Alex Carlton via Escape.co.au

I had to get to Rome to catch my flight home to Australia, and it was leaving in six hours’ time.

I considered joining one of the queues at the counters to find out more but they were at least 200 people deep and didn’t seem to be moving.

A bit more googling revealed that no trains would be leaving for at least three hours, perhaps more.

If I didn’t get this train, I would have to rebook my flights.

Oh, and I was due to head off on another trip from Australia within 48 hours of landing.


Receipt of Carlton's trip
Carlton covered 475 of the over 700 euro trip, hoping her travel insurance would cover it.
Alex Carlton via Escape.co.au

I’d probably miss that too.

I was screwed.

I Whatsapped a friend who lives halfway between Rome and Florence, but she had no way to reach me easily and I couldn’t ask her to make that trip on my behalf anyway.

I tried calling my hotel to see if they had any solutions.

They didn’t.

There were no buses.

Hire cars were going to charge four figures.

Wild-eyed, I ran to the taxi stand and asked how much it would cost to take us the 274km journey Rome.

“Seicento!” barked one of the guys marshalling taxis.

Six hundred Euro.

I gulped.

What choice did I have?

At that moment, an American couple caught my attention.

“We’re going to Rome too!” they said.


Taxi leaving Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy.
Carlton had to take drastic measures when trains out of Santa Maria Novella were cancelled – to the tune of a $700+ taxi ride.
Getty Images

We could share a taxi and split the bill.

Three hundred euro was still a lot but I had run out of options.

Gulping, I agreed.

I jumped into the front seat and the Americans got in the back.

I explained the situation to our driver, Matteo, who understood the assignment.

“Si, seicento,” he agreed before adding, “Circa.”

‘Roughly’ six hundred euro, in other words.

Matteo, bless his wild Italian heart, floored it.

We were out of Florence within minutes and speeding along the A1 Autostrada.

As we drove I watched the meter click up and up and up.

There was no way this was going to cost 600 Euro.

I turned to the Americans in the backseat, who had remained almost entirely silent, headphones in their ears.

“Are you guys going to be able to get this back on travel insurance?” I asked.

They looked at me blankly.

“What’s travel insurance?” they replied.

What’s travel insurance?

Er…it’s travel insurance.

They insisted that ‘travel insurance’ doesn’t exist in the US.

(Citation: yes it does).

I exhaled.

I wasn’t entirely sure my travel insurance would cover me, either, but at least the possibility was on the table.

As Matteo screeched the brakes and delivered me to Fiumicino Airport with two hours’ to spare, I got out my credit card to pay for my part of the trip.

The total was over 700 Euros.

I looked at the crestfallen Americans and without thinking I said, “Let me get most of this, you guys have no insurance.”

I paid 475 euro – which worked out to be a whopping $776 Australian dollars, and they covered 225 Euro.

I crossed my fingers that my insurance would cover it, otherwise I was a big softy idiot. But at least I would make my flight.

As I waited in the terminal for my flight back home to be called, I went hardcore with filling in my travel insurance forms.

There are few things I hate more than a form but I knew if I didn’t do it now, I’d put it off forever.

And a few weeks later – relief.

My travel insurance paid up.

I still had to cover the $200 excess so I was out of pocket overall but it was a small price to pay for making my flight.

If I hadn’t, the charges to rebook my flight would have been even more enormous, and my travel insurer would have had to cough up much more.

I wish I’d covered the whole taxi fare now, so that my poor American companions could have escaped without being slugged at all.

Although I guess it’s a lesson to all of us about the lifesaving wonder of insurance.

If you’re reading this, American friends, you do have it in your country.

Get it next time.

Recklessly soft-hearted Australians don’t grow on trees.

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