Rome, Italy to Paris, France


We bought the tickets online a month ahead of time. That’s what they say to do for the Rome-Paris sleeper train. We got to the station an hour ahead of time. That gave us forty minutes to stare at the display at the Roma Termini station. Track 7! We push our selves and bags over to the track and get in the car. In each compartment a bench of three seats sits across from a bench of three seats. Two levels of beds are above on either side, the middle one folded up to allow seating. Our tickets are for the two bench seats in the middle, corresponding to the two middle beds. The window seats are the beds on the very top and the corridor seat is the bench we will sit on.

We are in the middle seats facing each other when an Italian couple sits in the window seats. The train starts moving. The steward, speaking French and English, comes by to collect our tickets and passports. Another man comes by and hands everyone non-sparkling mineral water and a cup. We eat our cold, last-minute supermarket sandwiches. The Italian couple looks about our age. They are wearing leather jackets, They look like they have jobs.

Their sandwiches look so much better.

Top Bunk

The train is half-full into Firenze, and then everyone else gets on. A quiet man takes one of our corridor seats. The train leaves Firenze. It’s 8:53. The Italian couple begins to prepare their beds. The quiet man leaves.

The quiet man is wise to leave. The top bunks lie flat horizontally and the blankets and pillows are stored on top of them. To take your place on the top bunk you must find an empty place to store the extra blankets and pillows. Then anyone sitting must rise so you can access the ladder that sits under the bench seat. The ladder hooks into the top bunk. It does not hook in readily, but eventually. Mister Chen drags down his middle bunk through a complicated series of levers. And I open my bed, and the quiet man comes back. We would have been fine sleeping in our seats.


The transformation of beds back to seats never takes place. Mister Chen remains sleeping until we pull into Paris Bercy. The steward returns with our passports and tickets. We get off the train. We have no idea where we are.


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