Friday, July 11th
After finishing up some last minute packing, I brought my bags down to the lobby. One of the things I liked about Hotel Porta San Mamolo was the family type atmosphere there. When I walked into the breakfast room each morning, I was greeted kindly, usually by name, and by Friday they even knew what type of coffee I prefered. After finishing up my last wonderful breakfast at the hotel, I thanked everyone working in the breakfast room, and then went back to the lobby to wait for my taxi. I thought about taking the bus to save a few euros but then decided that the taxi would be much less stressful.
By Friday, I knew most of the people working there. One of the guys working that day asked me where I was going next. When I said "Coccaglio", he gave me a blank stare. He, as many Italians, had never heard of this little town. I told him it was located between Bergamo and Brescia. He was so curious about this town that he went on the hotel computer and searched on google maps. While he was on the computer, I went onto my blog on the computer for the guests and showed him the Coccaglio photos I had posted. We talked a little bit about Coccaglio and then the taxi driver (I think it was a driver the hotel used since he was not driving a regular taxi car) arrived. I said goodbye to everyone in the lobby area that worked at the hotel and thanked them all for a wonderful stay. The driver was very nice. The ride to the station was quick and cost 12 euros.
I arrived at the station a little bit early for my 10:16 train because I wanted to buy a ticket for my last journey (Rovato, the town next to Coccaglio, to Milan). I forgot to buy this ticket earlier. The ticket window at the train station in Rovato is closed on Sundays and it would be easier to have the ticket in advance rather than to try to buy the ticket on the train.
When I walked into the train station, the partenza board said that the Eurostar train I was taking was on time. I bought my ticket for my train ride on Sunday at one of the automatic ticket machines and validated my two tickets for the train ride from Bologna to Rovato in the automatic ticket machine instead of the regular little yellow validation box. The tickets were stamped in the middle instead of at the end of each ticket.
As I waited for my train, the dreaded "in ritardo" category had a 5 under it, meaning that the train was now arriving 5 minutes late. I was thrilled that the train was arriving on binario (track) 1 because that meant no stairs, but stressed that the train was now arriving late. I originally had 15 minutes and now only 10 minutes to make the connection in Milan. If I missed the connection, I would have to wait 2 hours for another train to Rovato OR buy a ticket to Brescia and pay 20 more euros.
I tried to find the board that showed the train makeup to figure out where my car would arrive. I couldn't find the train makeup board but did notice that there were little yellow signs with the carrozza (train car) and an arrow pointing to that area of the binario up and down the binario. That was a big help since the Eurostar is a pretty long train and if you are at the wrong end, it is a long run to get to your assigned train car or a difficult walk through each train with your luggage.
Once again, a nice man helped me with my bags. During my trip this year, I never had any difficulty getting on or off the trains with my 2 roll on bags. They were easier to handle in most instances than my backpack on my back which was quite heavy and my larger roll on bag. The only disadvantage was the amount of space was a little smaller overall. I did end up expanding my check in bag when leaving Bologna, although I think it was due to poor packing rather than the amount of items I bought since I really did not buy that much stuff on this trip. I also had the package of pastries in a bag to carry and try not to tip too much from Lagagna.
The train ride from Bologna to Milan was about 90 minutes. I sat in first class and found spots for both of my bags behind seats as the train car was not full. I called Katia while on the train and asked her if she could figure out the final destination of my next train. Trains are listed by their final destination when trying to find the correct binario. Because of my short connection time, I thought it would be helpful to be able to just look up at the big board in the station which listed the destination and binario rather than to have to find the yellow partenza board, find the train time, and then the correct train for the binario. Katia drove to the train station and asked the man at the ticket window in Rovato (which we both call "crabby man") the final destination of my train from Milan to Rovato. He told her "Verona" in a tone of "what else would it be". She called me back to let me know and I thanked her. That made me a little less stressed.
I headed to the area by the door to wait for the train to arrive in Milan about 10 minutes before it arrived. A woman seemed a little confused when I walked by with my bags asking if the train was already in Milan. I explained to her that I had a short connection and wanted to get off first. This ended up being a very good idea since Milan was the final stop, which meant everyone was getting off at this stop. Once again, someone helped me with my second bag when I got off the train. I heard them announcing my train over the loudspeaker but I was not sure why. I hoped it did not mean some type of long delay. Since I had time, I checked the partenza board and saw that the binario was listed as number 16. The big board said binario 18. I then heard them announce my train again and realized they were announcing the change in the binario. This happens so many times and I am sure is quite confusing for tourists, especially when the announcement is made only in Italian.
When I was in Modena on Sunday, the binario was never listed on the big board. Ten minutes before the train was scheduled to depart, I finally just went to the binario listed on the yellow partenza board. I asked a girl if she was also waiting for the train I needed. I found out I was at the correct binario or at least I hoped I was. About 2 minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive, there was an announcement that went something like this: "....arrivo al binario tre invece al binario due" and the fifty or so people standing at binario 2 all turned to binario 3. It would have made a great little video clip had I thought to get my camera out right at that moment. If I had not understood the announcement since there was no English translation at this train station or if I had not realized why everyone all of a sudden moved over to binario 3, I would have missed my train. The more confusing situation and definitely more difficult situation if you have luggage is when the binario is changed to one that involves going under the underpass (which means going down and then up stairs).
What the announcement said was that the train was now arriving at binario 3 instead of (invece) binario 2. My Italian translation may not be completely correct but the word "invece" is the important word in the phrase. If you hear that word, pay attention to the announcement if you can understand it and if not, watch what all the people waiting at the binario do.
Back to Friday...I made the connection with time to spare. The train was on binario 18 as announced and listed on the big board rather than the yellow partenza board. I asked one of the train people standing by the train just to make sure. I sat in one of the first class cars in one of the end seats that had one seat missing, which meant a little extra room for my luggage.
The train guy came around checking our tickets a few minutes after the train departed from Milan. He questioned my ticket at first as it was not validated at the end of the ticket. I told him that I used the automatic ticket machine to validate the ticket and showed him the stamp in the middle of the ticket. He said that was fine. He checked the ticket of the two guys sitting across from me and then went to the next row where a Chinese couple were sitting. The couple had a second class ticket and were sitting in first class. I have seen this happen quite a few times over the years. Usually the person or people with the second class ticket know they do not have a first class ticket but sit in first class anyways, hoping the train guy won't come through to check. When the ticket is checked, they claim ignorance, pretending they did not know that the car was a first class car or that they needed a first class ticket.
With this couple, at first I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I thought that they just did not understand. They started out only speaking very little Italian and mostly Chinese to the train guy, pretending that they did not understand. The train guy was not a happy camper about the situation and was telling them they either had to pay the difference (and perhaps a fine) or move. Eventually the couple paid the difference. I think they also had to pay a fine as the woman became very upset and started yelling at the train guy saying that he seemed like a pig ("sembra un maiale") in Italian. One of the guys sitting next to me was also watching this all take place and kept looking at me as if to say,"Can you believe this is happening?". At that point, I knew at least the woman spoke enough Italian to know what the train guy was saying and was faking her ability to not understand him as the phrase she said to him was not basic 101 Italian. She was very upset and continued to yell things, mostly in Chinese after they paid and he left. It made for an interesting instead of boring ride.
Although the train took off on time, it sat for a while at the first stop, which made it arrive in Rovato 10 minutes late. I was so happy to see Katia once again. We hugged and kissed (the 3 kisses on the cheeks thing) and then headed to her house. Her mom made me some pasta for lunch.
After lunch, we went to the mall to see if I could find the DVD, il Pesce Innamorato. We went to MediaWorld and il Feltrinelli but neither place had the DVD in stock. We also stopped at the TIM store. I wanted to recharge my phone so that my number would last until the following July 11th before having to recharge it. The two girls working at the store were amazed when they found out I lived in Hawaii. It was wonderful having Katia with me to translate when necessary. The girls were very nice and the store was not busy, so I had them show me how to use the website so that I could recharge my card online. I could never figure out how to register when trying to use the website in the past. The girl told me I had to send an SMS (text message) to i.box with the password (8 numbers) that I wanted to use. The user name would just be my phone number. I would have never figured this out on my own. I sent the SMS while in the store and received a message back in Italian which basically just said that they received my password. I can now check each individual phone charge, see my current balance, and recharge my card using the internet with my charge card. I was SO happy that I went into that store and learned how to register on the TIM site.
When we returned to Katia's house, she gave me Jovanotti's new CD. AND she had another surprise for me...8 stories that she wrote for children that have been published! I was thrilled for her. What an accomplishment. Each book addresses a problem such as bullying, rage, being afraid of going to school, being abused, etc.
For dinner, Katia, Guido, and I went to my favorite place, an agriturismo called Albarelle. We go there every year when I come to visit. Luca, the owner always remembers me. I love the atmosphere there and the food is always great. For appetizers, we had bruschetta, torta salata, and some cheese for appetizers. For our primi, we each ordered the ravioli filled with ricotta cheese, basilico, and pinioli (pine nuts). We were all too full for the secondo and knew that we wanted to save room for dessert. Guido had an apple cake and Katia and I had the rotolo panna e lampone (sponge cake roll with raspberries and cream), which we both remembered having last year. It was just as good!
It was getting dark when we arrived so I only took a few photos at Albarelle. I don't know any of the people in the photos.