So since my travels have gone perfectly thus far, I though I would fill you in on a few things that made me nervous yesterday.
As I mentioned, yesterday was a travel day. The plan was to leave Chiusi around 10:00, train to Firenze, train to La Spezia, train to Monterosso. With all these connections, I wondered if all could go smoothly.
The Chiusi stazione was definitely my kind of station; clean and free restrooms. The downside was there was not as much people watching, but that is an upside too…not as many people to watch out for.
Travel Tip #1- For train travel days, may I suggest a nice, lightweight travel pant. Mine, Isaac Mizrahi for Target, seersucker, circa 2002. And a nice, wrinkle-free button down shirt. ( Just make sure the shirt’s buttons button securely,,,as being strapped and crossed with luggage….things may shift in transit…Prego Chiusi! ) Nice enough enough to look sharp but not calling attention to yourself…unless of course your shirt unbuttons….
I boarded the train and got myself a seat that allowed the Ferrari to be parked right next to me.
We had been moving for about 15 minutes when I thought perhaps that was all too easy. Was I on the correct train? I asked a group of young students, english speaking, where they were headed. They named a place and I am sure the look on my face gave me away. One of the girls asked, “Where are you going?” I said Firenze. She said that yes this was indeed the correct train. Shweew! Two hours later and molto stops, I arrived in Firenze.
Back in 2007 (I believe) Avery, Dalton, my mom and I came to Europe. We did not stay in Firenze in the true sense of the word “stay”, but we did stay at the train station for quite some time waiting for our connection. We have some funny memories here. For what seemed like hours, we watched a very drunk (picture one of those plastic, segmented toys on a base connected by string. You push the bottom of the base, the string slacks and the person or animal slumps. You release…and it magically comes back to attention) homeless man and his pigeons. This amused, frightened and disgusted us for hours.
I had about an hour between trains, so I tried to look purposeful as I waited. Although the polizia were patrolling…
I think it was more of an “interview” process. Here these….residents…prove their purpose by showing they had purchased a carton of juice from one of the kiosk. This seemed to work…
so they played on. This image brought to mind “The Old Guitarist” by Pablo Picasso.
At one point, I saw “officials” run off two girls, apparently for hassling travelers.
Travel Tip #2- Go to the restroom when you arrive at the station AND then again….no matter if you need to or not…as they post your train. This will, hopefully, prevent you from using the train’s facilities. Worth the 2 euros!
When they posted my train to La Spezia, I walked over to platform 3. There was a train, there was a “conductor” but there was also this guy standing around. When I would approach a car, he would approach, when I would move down, he would move down. When I would stand back, he would enter an empty car and watch through the window. So, I am thinking, “What the heck”. At one point he says, “Signora…La Spezia?” and waves his hand at the train like, “Yes, this is it, welcome.”
I continue to stand around. Finally, an American couple boards and I board along with them. I was sure they were wondering why of all the cars I chose theirs, so I explained. “Good instincts!” the woman said. Oh and when I did board, a woman magically appeared to “help” me with my luggage and then ask for money.
As the train moves along, often the rail attendant comes by to check your ticket. I have been using the same method with each leg of my journeys. I noticed the time before last, the attendant looked and looked at my printed pages, flipping, reading, mumbling… and then he returned it. The woman next to me just shrugged. This time, the attendant asked me which of his many languages did I speak….english (I feel ashamed), he tells me that next time I need to print off the ticket. Although he was very nice, this makes me nervous for my next leg.
Italy is famous for its lovers. Young lovers are everywhere. On benches, in Vespas, in parks, on fountains, on a train in the seat 2 feet across from you….seriously. How many places can I find to stare? At this point, I am thankful I do not understand the language! My theory is that the men live with their mammas so long, they can not bring their girlfriend home, so, the streets (or seats) will do.
Travel Tip #3- Choose a seat facing the direction you are traveling…if not the motion can cause issues. **Take this opportunity to leave the giovani amanti and relocate yourself facing forward.
Out the window, the hills, towns, trees blur by like something from a movie. Village after village is perched into the mountains of this beautiful region. I write down the names of our stops so I can research later. But one I am already familiar with…
Pure, white marble from the quarries of Carrara is what Michelangelo used to carve his most famous sculptures. A visit to Carrara, a town in northwest Tuscany, allows travelers to see the marble quarries and see the type of tools Michelangelo used in order to transform pieces of rock into artistic treasures.
The American woman I had boarded with kept taking photo after photo. She thought it was snow. I told her about Michelangelo….more photos followed.
During this leg of the trip, more beggars. One would sit for awhile then move to the next group of people and simple whisper noises….Avery would have loved this!! It was definitely creepy.
Travel Tip # 4- Always have either earphones in (thanks Avery) or something to read in front of you. It can create a barrier if needed.
So we finally (2 hours) arrive at where my ticket says I get off. La Spezia but with another “M” name after it. I am the only one moving. The American couple says, “No this is not La Spezia Centrale.” But I say this is what my ticket says, so I de board. The station is closed, there is a man sweeping. I approach him showing him my ticket. He looks at it, regarding it as foreign, and tells me to re board the still sitting train. “But…” Ok , I figure the chances of making another connection here are much less than at a “Centrale”…so I hurriedly hop back on. (hop- read dragging my Ferrari against my already bruised thigh)
I stand in the area between cars knowing the next stop cannot be far. We reached La Spezia Centrale and yes, much more action here. I wait in “information” line, show the attendant my stapled copy of information, he barely looks at it and says something. “Scusi?” I reply. “Due” he snarls “Due”. OK, due at 17:00. I am still nervous. Is this the correct train? Will “the note from my mommy” work? Will I incur a fine (this stretch is notorious for issuing fines to silly travelers)? Do I have time to go buy another ticket…I could go on and on…
I start comparing notes with others standing around…we ALL have a story; this couple missed their train and will try to use their old ticket, this group has no clue, and so on. A nice couple from Australia says, “We’ll all get lost together.” In the meantime, I am scoping out La Spezia and thinking I do NOT want to spend the night here.
A crowd is gathering. The Australian once again declares, “What can happen in 16 minutes?” That is the time of the short ride to Monterosso. He says this as he gives me some sort of blessing or absolution with his ticket in hand. I’ll take whatever I can get…
A train arrives….we ALL board. “Every man for himself” someone adds. I again stay in the area between cars. The 4 steps with Ferrari are not worth it.
During this short ride, we are in tunnels most of the time. At one point we emerge for a fleeting moment and the blue, blue waters of Cinque Terre lift my spirits. I look to the Australian couple, this is their first visit here, and we all smile! With our goal in reach, I share with them some recommendations. This of course makes me miss my famiglia. We have beautiful memories here.
We have arrived!
But first….another tunnel…this one though, I am familiar with…I know what awaits me on the other side.
First to find the hotel. I walk from the station passing those that are unfamiliar with the layout. Since the 2011 flood, a few things have changed but I walk with confidence.
Past the hotel I stayed at during my first visit. This was with my mom and brother, Jim. I remember Jim and I enjoying the beach below looking up to the open window where our mom took her riposo. I remember ordering beers on the beach with my toes in the pebbly sand. I remember my first “rapido” panini from Il Castello.
I see the hotel where mom and I stayed with the kids…and cannot believe it when I realize my new hotel is directly across the street. It looks familiar. I remember admiring it during that stay. So here I am. My home for the next 6 nights.
I know a photo of the bathroom might seem…silly…but if you are ever making travel arrangements, it can help with the decision.
As Francesca checks me in, she continues to tell me all my perks that come with my booking. Free wifi, beach towel for days at the beach, wonderful breakfast each morning in the dining area or on the terrace…the people that are checking in after me pay extra for all this…not sure how I swung this, but…ok…
I quickly shower off the grime of the day and hit the streets looking for food (breakfast in Chiusi has long worn off) and memories. Of course, I find both.
It is funny how people can unknowingly become a part of your experience. How their words or actions can be copied by your family for years to come….”Do they have salads!!?? *&%$@@!!!” this was the spot. This memory is for no one to get or enjoy but Mom, Avery and Dalton…
And then I make the big decision to eat at our favorite restaurant on the first night…bold move.
I am so disappointed when I read and remember that our favorite dish, gnocchi with gamberetti can only be ordered for 2…but as seems to be the rhythm of this adventure, things go my way. Yolanda says yes, it is possible for just one…for me. Little does she know that it is really to be enjoyed by 4, Mom, Avery, Dalton and myself.
I remember we ate here twice during our stay. The first time Dalton ordered the spaghetti bolognese…his favorite. I believe we ordered the gnocchi gamberetti for three. When Dalton tasted ours. He loved it and ordered it the next visit. I watch as a mother tries to share a bite of hers to her young son (3 ish) He is reluctant at first,then finally tries it. I watch his eyes light up as he chews. After each following bite he licks his lips…another convert! Avery says if she were ordering her last meal…this would be it.
I enjoy the piccolo bottle of the areas wine just as mom and I had.
Although I am the 2nd to be seated that evening. When it is time for me to leave, the place is packed and people are waiting. I would love to order the risotto al mare another night, but alas, Yolanda says ” no, questo solo per due”….hhhmmmmm.
My pasta pooch says it is time for a walk.
The Nazi pillbox bunker that so intrigued Dalton. When he crossed over these steps to stand on top, the sea would crash over them. His timing, and courage had to be just right.
The beach where Dalton played games with the rocks…and presented me with a perfectly shaped heart one I treasure to this day!
As the sunsets, I decide to follow the sound of the music. “Misty” on the violin is coming from the tunnel.
Him, I tip. What a peaceful ending to a hectic day.
I had tears in my eyes when you talked about your trip with Jim and Rita. Also, when you, your mom, Avery and Dalton toured Europe. I always feel as if I am with you on this trip. You, like Rita, are a great writer.
Glad a nervous day ended in one filled with lovely memories. I have put you in the book of special intentions every Sunday at mass for days like these.
Ike would have helped with your luggage. After getting our luggage onto a train Mike would then be a porter to all the ladies and elderly and help get their luggage on the trains. He would then say they should travel lighter. Now he would say they should be smart like Paige and mail stuff home. After a travel day, it is so nice to stay in one place for several days. Love the color of the water. Good photos and finally one of a cat.