Saturday, June 4th & Sunday June 5th:
Saturday morning, after eating one more wonderful breakfast at Hotel Canada, I finished up my last bit of packing and asked the hotel to call me a taxi. I had an interesting ride to the Milano Centrale train station. The taxi driver, who was very nice, spoke rapidly in Italian with a very distinct lisp. It was pretty difficult understanding him. He talked on and on asking me question after question. I was glad that the ride was not too long.
When I arrived at the station, I headed for the automated ticket machines. I had read that US credit cards no longer work, or at least the majority of them, as a chip is now needed in the credit card, which I guess the US banks do not include in their cards. I have not tried to purchase a ticket using my credit card and so I cannot confirm this.
The Milano Centrale train station is huge. There are a bunch of automated ticket machines on the first floor. I cued up to wait for a machine to become available. While I was waiting, I noticed two strange men hanging around the machines. One of the men was writing down things as people purchased their tickets. Next thing I noticed was the screens on all of the machines one by one turning red with a notice in Italian that the machine was out of order. It seemed to happen when one of the men started punching buttons on a machine next to the machine going out of order.
I left the area and searched for either a ticket window or more ticket machines. I found another row inside a big room that I think also had ticket windows. I cued up for a machine. The strange men then appeared in this room. One of them asked if he could help me. I told him, "NO" and proceeded to purchase my ticket.
I was very careful to keep an eye on all of my belongings while purchasing my ticket. Just after I purchased my ticket, I noticed more of the screens turning red. STRANGE! Never figured out what was going on.
I looked for the escalator and headed upstairs to the train arrival/departure area. There, I saw more ticket machines. Good to know for next time I am at the Milan train station. The last time I was there, they were still doing renovations and the ticket machines were moved downstairs.
I purchased a first class ticket (interregional train/cheap upgrade) so that hopefully I would have more room for my bags. The train was already sitting at the binario (platform). I headed down looking for the first class car. It seemed to be pretty full already. The second class car at the very end (front of the train) was empty, so I decided to sit there instead. After the train left the station and then stopped at the first stop, tons and tons of people board the train. It was almost standing room only! Fortunately for me, a very nice young Italian couple traveling to Venice sat in the two seats across from me. I sat in a single seat next to the door. They offered to lift my bags up onto the baggage racks. I told them that I was getting off in a few stops if it was ok with them. They were fine with that and we ended up having a very nice conversation.
At one point during the train ride, there was an announcement about a sciopero (strike) on Monday! Just what I needed. I was planning to take the train to Venice on Monday. The couple was very kind to ask the train ticket guy info about the strike for me. They ended up being more affected by the strike than I did. The strike (which did happen) was a regional Veneto strike. Since I was taking one of the fast trains, which started out in another region, my train would not be affected. The couple would have to buy a more expensive ticket to return to Milan on Monday instead of taking the slower, cheaper train.
I almost got off at the wrong stop (Chiari instead of Rovato). I somehow counted the stops incorrectly. I did not realize that the train was delayed. It arrived in Chiari, which was the stop before Rovato, when it was supposed arrive in Rovato. Fortunately I saw the sign. It would not have been a huge problem however, since Chiari is not too far from Rovato and Katia could have driven there to pick me up.
After hugs and dragging my bags down and up a bunch of stairs, we headed back to Katia's house, where we made a delicious pasta dish for lunch.
Later in the day, after Guido returned home, we drove to Brescia to visit the Museo di Santa Giulia to see the Matisse exhibit. We had to park the car a ways from the museum. It was a nice walk until the sky opened up and and it started to pour. Fortunately for me, I had my handy little plastic fold up into a little square raincoat with me. Poor Katia and Guido were soaked. We all thought the Matisse exhibit was just ok. The fun part though was revisiting the Roman ruins of two Roman Villas.
The museum guy asked us if we would like to go outside to take a look at some of the ruins in the garden (sorry it is late and I am tired/I know there is a better name that museum guy).
After leaving the museum, we walked to the center of town (or at least I think it was the center).
This is a photo of more ruins in Brescia
(close up one of the ruins)
and this is a photo in the center of a theatre.
We went to the Feltrinelli store to visit Simona, a friend of theirs who I have known for many years now. Simona was living in Bologna the last time I was in Bologna. We had a nice dinner together and also caught the train to Coccaglio/Rovato together. It was really nice seeing Simona again. When we left Feltrinelli's to head back to the care, it started to downpour again. We were all soaked (even with my handy little raincoat) by the time we reached the car.
That evening we had pizza. Here's my pizza.
We started watching a movie on TV after dinner but my eyes would not stay open. Bedtime for me. Their new cat, Lulu slept with me while Zara slept with Katia & Guido. Around 5 am, Lulu and Zara decided to go wild in my room, first snooping around into all of my stuff, and then attacking each other under my bed.
We spent a few hours on Sunday at Katia's parents' house.
It is always so nice to see Katia's parents. Her mother always makes me this wonderful chicken dish. Lunch was fabulous as usual. For dessert, we had some delicious little pastries from the pasticceria in Coccaglio. YUM!! I was so full when we finally finished eating. I could not move!
Later in the day, we met Katia's brother Samuele and his wife Roberta, who was due any day.
Left to Right: Guido, Katia, Roberta, Samuele
Our plan was to drive to Lake Iseo to take a walk by the lake but it started to downpour again. The roads were like rivers! Instead we went to another pasticceria a few towns away and chatted for a while while eating more little pastries and other goodies.
We ate dinner at a restaurant nearby with a very nice couple and their two children. The daughter wanted to meet me since she has been learning English in school and was going to be taking a trip to England in July. She wanted to practice speaking English with me but as soon as she met me, she did not want to say a word. She was very sweet. Her little brother also started out being pretty quiet, but he warmed up after awhile. He has learned a few English words in school that he was proud to share. He also drew some hearts and wrote his name on one or the restaurant cards for me. I think he just finished either Kindergarten or First Grade. He was very proud when I told him that I was going to put his card up on my bulletin board at school. I had a fabulous spaghetti with seafood dinner (did not take a photo).
Great dinner and great weekend. It is always so nice spending time with Katia and Guido and visiting with Katia's family again.
Congratulazione Roberta e Samuele. Un bacione a Benedetta! Their new baby girl was born this past Thursday.