For those who have never been to Milan, ATM (which stands for Azienda Trasporti Milanesi) is the company that runs public transport in Milan. And in true Italian style public transport here isn't the most reliable.
Take last night for example. After going out for an aperitivo I decided to take the tram home instead of the metro. When I go out I almost always take the metro home, purely because normally where I go I can't get a tram straight home. And after a couple of drinks the logistics of figuring out where to change trams is just too much effort. Last night the metro stop was closer to the bar, but by taking the tram it meant that the stop I'd get off at would be much nearer to home, and I'd spare a 15-odd minute walk down streets that aren't exactly well-lit (and past prostitutes to boot...). It was only around 10pm, definitely not late by Italian standards, but I decided that walking that extra bit of distance down a busy main street - Corso Buenos Aires to be precise - was better than walking home through my neighbourhood. So off I went to the tram stop.
I started regretting making my decision when I looked at the timetable. I'd missed one tram by about six minutes and had nearly a quarter of an hour to wait until the next one. Still better than walking home from the metro stop I thought, so I got my iPod out and waited.
Then at one point during the journey everyone got off. I was still listening to my iPod and was completely oblivious to what was going on around me. I'd taken that tram countless amounts of times and knew the route like the back of my hand, so it seemed strange to me that everyone would get off at that stop. When I was the last person left on the tram I heard the driver ask me over my music.
"Where do you have to go?"
I said to the end of the line.
"Eh, it's not going there. You'll have to get off and get a bus."
I was too tired and slightly worse for wear to bother asking why. It was one of those situations where I decided that I'd be better off just accepting my fate, and I knew that even if I did ask for an explanation more than likely it wouldn't satisfy me. I got off the tram and made my way over to the pavement where all the other passengers were waiting. When another tram arrived for a different route the passengers also got off, and the driver helpfully pointed out that we were waiting in the wrong place for the replacement service, and pointed at the bus which was already waiting for us at the other side of the crossroads. So everyone from the two different trams trooped over, to the same bus. Luckily the two different tram routes are very similar from where we got thrown off, but the two capolinee (the ends of the respective lines) are about 15 minutes' walk from each other. Luckily for me it followed my tram home, and I got off at the same piazza that I would have done had the tram gone all the way to the end of the line.
For my own sanity I checked the ATM website this morning to see if there were any planned roadworks or anything that would have meant that the tram had to stop where it did. I follow a twitter account that gives updates from the website about changes in routes or schedules (amusingly it's not official, the official ATM account hasn't tweeted a word) so I was fairly sure I hadn't missed anything. No matter how much I looked I couldn't find any news that specifically mentioned my tram. So it remains a mystery. And it isn't the first time that something like this has happened to me at night either.
So the moral of the story is: don't take for granted that you'll get where you need to go when taking public transport in Milan.