Madness: Cellist is fined on Italian train for travelling with cello

Madness: Cellist is fined on Italian train for travelling with cello


norman lebrecht

January 16, 2019

The Genoa musician Francesco Raspaolo was fined by an inspector on Intercity 687 of 21.10 on the Milan Central-Genoa Piazza Principe line.

Here’s his account:

I just came home after spending the weekend in Portogruaro for the January appointment of the annual cello masterclass of the “Accademia Santa Cecilia”. To participate in this course I travel always by train, and I’ll tell you what happened yesterday in the Milan Central-Genoa, Intercity Train 687 of 21:10 .

The Controller, in the ticket control tour between Milan and Pavia, disputed the presence of my instrument for its excessive length and for being a public danger in the upper rack.

After leaving me from the place where I was sitting, and after taking pictures of my instrument, … I was fined 50 euros. With the threat of bringing me down to Pavia station and with the risk of having to spend the night there, stating that it was his kind concession to let me complete the journey.

It would therefore seem that for the cellists, but also for the contrabbassisti and for many other instrumentalists, the train trip is an unworkable solution, unless you travel exclusively on regional trains, where it appears to be allowed transport. Then I will enjoy verifying how many days you can reach portogruaro from Genoa, only with regional trains… and always that there are usable combinations.

In Italy there will be several thousands of cellists between professionals, Neo Graduates, students, amateurs, and many of these, like the undersigned, use the train normally… I really hope my case remains the only one, in the ” country of music “.

Cari amici. Vi prego di far sapere a tutti quello che mi è successo!!
Il fatto è molto grave, e rappresenta un caso da non sottovalutare per i miei colleghi musicisti.

Sono appena tornato a casa dopo aver passato il weekend a Portogruaro per l’appuntamento di Gennaio della masterclass annuale di violoncello della “Accademia Santa Cecilia”. Per partecipare a tale corso viaggio sempre in treno, e vi racconto ciò che è accaduto ieri nella tratta “Milano Centrale-Genova Piazza Principe”, treno intercity 687 delle 21:10 (l’ultimo che mi avrebbe potuto riportare a casa).
Il controllore, nel giro di controllo biglietti tra Milano e Pavia, ha contestato la presenza del mio strumento per la eccessiva lunghezza di quest’ultimo, e per la sua pericolosità nel porta bagagli superiore.
Dopo avermi allontanato dal posto nel quale ero seduto, e dopo aver fatto foto al mio strumento, senza interessarsi minimamente del contenuto della mia “navicella di guerre stellari”, così è stata etichettata dal suo collega, sono stato multato di 50 euro con la minaccia di farmi scendere alla stazione di Pavia e con il rischio di dover passare la notte lì, dichiarando che fosse una sua gentile concessione il lasciarmi ultimare il viaggio.

Sembrerebbe quindi che per i violoncellisti, ma anche per i contrabbassisti e per molti altri strumentisti, il viaggio in treno sia una soluzione impraticabile, a meno che non si viaggi esclusivamente su treni regionali, dove pare ne sia consentito il trasporto. Poi mi divertirò a verificare in quanti giorni si possa raggiungere Portogruaro da Genova, solo con i treni regionali… e sempre che ci siano combinazioni fruibili.

In Italia ci saranno diverse migliaia di violoncellisti tra professionisti, neo diplomati, studenti, amatori, e molti di questi, come il sottoscritto, usa il treno abitualmente… mi auguro proprio che il mio caso rimanga l’unico, nel “paese della musica”.


  • Ricardo says:

    I’m pretty certain the conductor kept the money for himself. It is becoming harder and harder to actually be able to be a musician without being criminalised. And in this case with corruption almost certainly thrown into the bargain. Arseholes…

  • Ainslie says:

    Just another reason that the United States is a great country. We got rid of all our intercity trains, so this could never happen here.

    • Bruce says:

      😀 🙁 😀 🙁

    • Sharon says:

      We got rid of out intercity trains? Amtrak is always full (for the routes it still maintains). However Amtrak or Greyhound (bus) might require the cello to be kept in the luggage section. This would probably be unacceptable to the musician.

  • Tito Gabbi says:

    Next time ask the conductor for a written copy of the specific regulation governing luggage and the (paying?) alternatives to the overhead rack.

  • Viola da Bracchio says:

    I hope you kept a Receipt for the 50-euro fine? Hopefully signed by this so-called ‘inspector’. You should submit a copy of it (keep the original, do not send it to them) with your official complaint and demand for a full refund of the fine, the price of your ticket, and compensation. It’s time Inspector Bertozzo learnt that fare-paying passengers pay his wages. Sadly it’s just another reflection of the cultural values of the Lega Nord. Their pals in Brazil have abolished the Ministry of Culture there entirely.

  • John Kelly says:

    Bad luck. A small-minded bureacrat with nothing better to do than assert that the cello in the rack is more dangerous than a (likely much heavier) suitcase. As a Brit I might suggest this sort of thing would never happen in the UK. But then again we have Brexit

  • Anna says:

    How outrageous. Lack of education plus lack of imagination. Why not just provide a strap or two to guarantee it cannot fall off.

  • Harrumph says:

    These situations seem like metaphors for the general antipathy/skepticism of the arts and artists in today’s culture. Very sad.

  • SVM says:

    People travel by long-distance train to *avoid* all the hassle/unpleasantness associated with flying (security, luggage handling, financial extortion by airlines, distance from city centres, &c.) and to make their travel less damaging to the environment. Train companies forget this at their peril!

    Even if the ‘cello had been positioned dangerously, could the guard not have found a better solution than to fine the ‘cellist €50 and not actually solve the alleged problem? But, if fines are necessary to avoid raising train fares, how about fining the selfish cretins who talk on their mobile telephones in the quiet zone (no shortage of such people on the long-distance trains in the UK)?

  • Michael B. says:

    It’s a good thing he wasn’t transporting a viola; the fine would have been 250 Euros!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    I’ve never heard of on-the-spot fines and would never pay it. My experience of Italian trains was aversion therapy; I’d never do it again in a million years.

    • CJ says:

      Well, that is an exageration. I had positive experiences with Italian trains, they were on time and some of them are quite cheap (regionale veloce).
      But then I never tried with a cello.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Not sure what you have against Italian trains. They mostly run to time and the trains are reasonably well-built and comfortable. And the fares are reasonable. In other words, similar to the rest of Western Europe.

  • Diane Valerie says:

    What’s the Italian for “jobsworth”?