Well, I arrived in Verona yesterday and will be here for the next seven days. I wish I could say my trip here was all ease and grace but sadly, it wasn’t.
I left the AirBnB apartment in Perugia with Riccardo (the owner) and Sonya (the other traveller staying there) waving to me from the door as I awkwardly shuffled my luggage into the tiny lift. They both got up especially to see me off and I was touched (particularly as they looked as though they could easily sleep for another three hours).
I boarded the train from Perugia successfully and then found myself in conversation with three Americans (a couple and another woman). The couple were a little older, well-travelled and he was a lawyer with a passion for food, Italy and travelling in general. He reminded me of that actor Robert Klein in Two Weeks’ Notice. Their daughter was flying in later that day and they would take her shopping in Milan for her wedding dress over the next week- what a lovely engagement gift. He talked about the importance of creating experiences his children would remember. I loved that. Experiences are what you take with you.
The other woman was friendly and clearly enjoying her trip after indulging in some wonderful shopping for scarves and wine. However, she did spend a significant amount of time talking about how AirBnBs aren’t really clean (i.e. dust under the bed) and how the food in Italy doesn’t taste the same as it does back home (e.g. tiramisu). Why people expect things to be the same as they are ‘back home’ is beyond me. If you want things to be the same then don’t go anywhere. However, it was clear she was doing her best to push her own comfort limits generally and she was nice enough.
Unfortunately, as we pulled into Firenze (where I was to catch my connecting train to Verona), they all took a while to get their bags and I, being the polite person I am, waited for them. As a result I made it to the train exit doors just as they locked.
As fate would have it, I couldn’t catch my train from the next station and my ticket was non-transferrable. Fortunately for the Americans, the station didn’t overly affect their travel plans so they were fine. Serves me right for being polite. Ha! Ha! As the lawyer also pointed out, this was an occasion when I just needed to go with it (I’d mentioned during our earlier conversation that I try to take this approach whenever I travel…ha bloody ha Universe!).
So I had to buy a new ticket (37EU). This time it would take me via Bologna where I would need to change trains to get to Verona. Cue two-hour wait in the train station.
My next train was one of the high-speed deluxe trains and it was a fabulous. Ultra-modern, new and clean. But the trip from Firenze to Bologna is relatively short so I couldn’t enjoy it for long. I did have a great chat to an older Columbian couple sitting across the aisle though. They both had lovely energy and had spent about a month in Italy so far. They were loving every minute of their holiday and recommended I visited the towns of Turino and Lucca.
Unfortunately, the stylish train was 15 minutes late leaving Firenze. The train conductor kindly rang ahead and asked the driver of the connecting train to delay his departure for a minute or two as we would now be arriving precisely when he was due to leave.
Unfortunately, Stefania (another passenger) and I leapt from the Firenze train and sprinted to 2 est platform just in time to see our connection pulling out at the other end.
We then bumped into Rita (another passenger in the same situation) and after perusing the timetable we established that it would be two hours before we could hop the next train to Verona. Fortunately, our tickets would still be valid by then.
We retreated to a bar where Stefania, a civil engineer who also weaves (yes, on a loom to create beautiful rugs and blankets, etc.) and Rita downed an expresso or two in tiny white cups while I indulged in a hot chocolate (not appropriate for mid-afternoon by Italian standards but by this stage I cared nought for that!). Stefania generously shouted the round and then in true Italian style she and Rita smoked up a storm while we chatted about life. Smoking is still de rigueur here whereas it’s increasingly rare back home in Australia. Italians of all ages smoke anywhere, anytime, near children, while pregnant, at dinner. What can you do but accept…when in Italia and all that.
Anyway, we had a wide-ranging conversation, me with my stumbling Italian, Stefania with her good English and Rita with her no English at all – Stefania translated for her at various times.
Eventually the hours passed and we finally boarded the train for the last leg of our journey. Rita disembarked before me – she travels to Firenze once per month (and has done for 17 years) for experimental treatment to prevent her going blind from a rather nasty condition called retinitis pigmentosa. She and three of her sight-impaired friends had just this week decided to write a book about all the ‘train stories’ they have experienced/learned during their monthly trips. Rita uses Google translate extensively and my resounding memory is hearing her say “Okay, Google” as she would speak into her phone and ask for a translation.
I got off at Verona and said goodbye to the fabulous Stefania (we will definitely stay in touch). I made it easily to the Tabacchi to buy my bus ticket and then, with the AirBnB man What’s App’g me instructions and then asking “Where are you?” I boarded the number 11 bus. Following the instructions on the Moovit App I got off at Porta Vescovo and the two transport inspectors on the footpath made room for me as I maneuvered my suitcase and my person out the bus doors. One of them subsequently asked me for my bus ticket.
Over the next five minutes I unsuccessfully searched for that piece of thin card on my person and in my bags to no avail – picture me crouched on the footpath with my belongings strewn around me as the two inspectors (and Lord knows who else) watched on. Eventually, he took pity on me and said don’t worry about. My humiliation as I stuffed my belongings haphazardly back into my bags was complete and it was only the third time that day that I’d felt like crying from tiredness/frustration/overwhelm. Last year I’d had a similar experience on a bus in Ischia so it seems I am a magnet for transport inspectors. Next time I buy a ticket I’ll staple it to my forehead or something.
The AirBnB man was conspicuously absent throughout this incident and when I rang he said he was at the bus stop we’d discussed but could not see me.
I had got off one stop too late – thank you Moovit app.
Olindo eventually found me and with his minuscule English (far less than my Italian skills), he grabbed my suitcase and walked me to the apartment – kindly carrying my rather heavy luggage up a flight of stairs to get there.
He showed me around the apartment (it’s very modern), gave me a map and said he’d What’s App me the details for good places to eat. He also asked if I spoke Spanish (because apparently my Italian sounds like it’s Spanish). I’ve never spoken Spanish in my life. Clearly my accent is deplorable.
When I recounted the day’s debacles to a friend she said, sounds like you’ve been taught a lesson in patience today. She’s probably right. I also learned that the best laid plans can go awry when you’re too polite.
Lucretia Ackfield is a published author, psychic channel and transformational teacher who is currently traveling through one of her favourite countries in search of adventure, inspiration, transformation and space to write.