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June 18, 2007

train adventure traveling to Bologna

Monday, June 18th
Ciao! I am now in Bologna. I still need to catch up with my days in Venice and also my stay with my friends in Coccaglio. I am only here for one day and have a dinner reservation in an hour but I wanted to at least check in.

I arrived at the train station in Rovato about 15 minutes early. I validated my ticket and I was set to say goodbye to Katia when we saw that my train was 50 minutes delayed! That made my connection in Verona impossible. Rovato is a very small train station with one ticket booth with a man that is not very friendly. After buying a ticket from him a few years ago, I always buy my ticket in advance when taking a train from this station so that I can avoid him. I was not very hopeful that he would be able to help but surprisingly, he was able to suggest an alternate train that should still get me to Verona in time. He told me that I would not have to pay anything more since the train I bought the ticket for was now canceled.

Katia had to leave to go to work and so I sat and waited. This train ended up being 5 minutes late also. I arrived in Brescia and saw that the Eurostar City train was going to Verona and would get me there on time. I told my story about my cancelled train to the conductor but he would not let me on the train. He said I had to wait for the IC train which would get me to Verona in time for my connection.

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June 22, 2007

so far Rome is very peaceful

Buon giorno!

Thursday, June 21st
I arrived in Rome Thursday afternoon. I took the bus, which was 10 minutes "in ritardo" (late), from Cortona to Camucia where I caught the train to Rome. The bus drops you off in the town of Camucia and then I had to walk (about a 10 minute walk) to the train station. I took the bus the day before as a practice run. Because the bus was late, I only had 10 minutes to get to the train station and so I jogged partway, reaching the station in 5 minutes, only to find out that the train was also 10 minutes "in ritardo"!

The train was a newer regional train and was quite comfortable. I had a 1st class ticket. The 1st class section was full but luckily I found a great seat before it filled up at the Terontola station. We arrived in Rome 20 minutes late. I decided to go to the Trastevere station instead of the Termini to avoid the craziness and long taxi lines at the Termini station. This meant a change at the Tiburtina station. I printed out all the train options in case the train was late for my connection.

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June 24, 2008

planes & trains

Saturday June 21 - Monday June 23

I checked in for my flight from home (with only one quick moment of panic after realizing that I initially typed in the wrong passport number). The only line (just 4 people) I encountered at the airport was the agriculture screening. No line at the kiosk where I checked in my bag and amazingly no line at the screening area. In fact, I was the only one there. At first I thought I must have been at the wrong place because on one else was there and, I guess because I was the only one there, I was the lucky recipient of a full pat down in the special pat down area.

After collecting my bags, putting my shoes back on, and heading towards my gate, I realized that I forgot my pillow in one of the gray tubs at the screening area. I raced back, retrieved my pillow and then headed back to the gate.

My flight from Honolulu to Newark had to be one of the best flights I have taken in a long time (except of course the few times I flew first class). I sat next to a nice couple from Germany. We chatted a little until the food arrived. I decided on Kosher meals for this trip after having one of the best Kosher airline meals on my last trip from Newark to Honolulu. I always order special meals, since they usually seem to be a little fresher and I get my meal first. On my last trip, they messed up on my order, which is how I got the Kosher meal. Well, on this flight, they messed up royally once again. I was given some sort of sandwich with frozen mystery meat inside. I could have sworn it was ham, which puzzled me since I am pretty sure ham is not Kosher. I ate the bread and left the frozen mystery meat on the plate. My meal also came with a chocolate whipped dessert that looked wonderful, but I could not eat (chocolate = migraines for me). After my meal, I watched about 5 minutes of some movie and then fell asleep. I slept for 6 straight hours!

After arriving in Newark, I spent about 5 hours wandering the airport. I love my new rolling bag! It made such a big difference walking around the airport not having to lug a bag on my back. I had a wonderful raspberry and cheese filled pastry at Au Bon Pain and a pretty good espresso at Jakes and later a slice of pizza which was just ok. Once at my gate, I checked in showing my passport to get a special mark on my ticket saying documents were shown and a little security sticker on my passport. I surveyed the area and saw babies and little children! Now I love babies and little children most of the time, just not on planes.

As the boarding process began, I went over to the boarding area to wait since my row was going to be called next. As those in the very back of the plane started to board, it started to hail. Boarding stopped and those on the plane were asked to get off the plane. This was not a good sign. I spoke to this guy sitting nearby and he said that the storm, which caused many flights to be canceled was heading our way. The hail was loud and lasted about 20 minutes. We could see the hail bouncing off of the windows on the ceiling. For some reason, hail is always associated with Italy for me. The only other encounters of hail I have had besides hiking in Colorado many many years ago have been when I have been in Italy. Fortunately the hail at the airport stopped and we were once again allowed to board the plane. As my row was called, a group of Italians started pushing their way through the line. I am always amazed at how waiting orderly in line is something that Italians seem to have missed in school.

On this flight, I sat next to a very nice older Italian man. It looked like it was going to be another peaceful flight...until the two rows of families with their babies sat down. The crying began even before we took off. It continued throughout the flight. The babies took turns so that there would not be more than 15 minutes of silence throughout the flight. I was not able to sleep longer than an hour on this flight. I even tried blasting my iPod to drown out the crying. And to add to the crying, a grown man who sat behind me kicked my seat off and on throughout the flight. The feature movie starring Kate Hudson and Mathew McConaughey was not working. The other choices were pretty bad. I ended up watching a movie called Penelope twice, first in English and then again in Italian. It was a LONG flight.

Although we were delayed for 90 minutes because of the hailstorm we only ended up arriving 30 minutes late. We arrived at 8:30, I retrieved my bag by 9:20 and was on a bus heading to Milan at 9:30. The bus arrived at the train station at 10:30. There was construction blocking the main train station entrance, which meant I had to walk around the building to a entrance on the other side. Again, I was so thankful for my new rolling bag! After waiting in line to purchase my ticket (the automatic ticket machines were either blocked off due to the construction or were in a location that was a mystery to me), I headed up to wait for my 12:10 train. I bought a bland eggplant and cheese sandwich and had my first espresso macchiato.

My train was one of the newer IC plus trains with comfortable first class seats and plenty of room for luggage. I sat across from a very chatty Italian woman. On any other occasion, I would have been thrilled to practice my Italian, but because of my lack of sleep and it being 12:30 - 2:30 in the morning Hawaii time, I could barely keep my eyes open.

Trying to understand Italian requires my full attention, which was quite a challenge and this woman continued to talk to me until she finally departed in Genova. Because my eyelids were heavy and I was nodding off, I got up and stood for the rest of the trip. I chatted with a very kind older Italian couple while waiting at the door for my stop. The man helped me with my second bag as I departed the train.

My hotel was a short walk from the train station, mostly downhill. It was easy to find. When I made my reservation, all of the single rooms were booked for my first night in Santa Margherita Ligure, so I booked a double room for the first night. Because I was going to move into a single room the following day, I only unpacked a few things. The double room was clean and quite large, with a nice bathroom and comfortable bed.

After a wonderful shower, I headed out to explore Santa Margherita Ligure. It was a beautiful day and still quite warm. I walked from one end to the other end of town by the ocean, taking photos along the way. By this time, I was fading fast. I found a bar that served pasta and asked if it was possible to order some dinner early. It was 6:30 and the earliest most restaurants serve dinner is 7:30. The man in the bar told me that the cook would be arriving in 5 minutes if I could wait. I ordered a pesto dish with trofie pasta (a typical Ligurian pasta) which was wonderful!

After dinner, I headed back to my hotel and was asleep by 7:30. I did remember to eat some cherries before falling asleep. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and was able to go back to sleep about 4:30 or so and then slept until 8am.

I am so happy to be back in Italy once again!!!

July 2, 2008

arrival in Acqui Terme

Monday, June 30th

After my last wonderful breakfast at Hotel Jolanda in Santa Margherita Ligure and some last minute packing, I gave the front desk the key (I already paid my bill the night before), was refunded for the internet access problems (which really worked out in my favor), and headed to the train station. The walk was not far although there was a steep hill at the end of the walk just before reaching the train station. I figured out a way to hook all my bags together. I have been very happy with my new system of 2 rolling bags (both a bit smaller and lighter) rather than a larger backpack on my back and a larger rolling bag. So far, I have always been offered help when getting on or off a train and it has not been that difficult carrying the bags down and up the stairs in the underpasses at the train stations.

When I arrived at the train station, I was very glad that I purchased my ticket the day before since the ticket window was closed. I read on the monitor that the train would be 5 minutes "in ritardo" (late). I found a nice bench to sit on and waited for the train. A few minutes later an older but very feisty woman sat next to me. As the mystery woman announced that the train we were both taking to Genova would now be 10 minutes late, she started rambling on to me in Italian about how all the trains in the area are always late and that the next announcement will tell us that the train will be 15 and then 20 minutes late. She must have taken the train that was 30 minutes late on Wednesday since she was referring about that train while telling me about the Italian train system.

After a few minutes of train conversation, she asked where I was from and then started talking politics. She wanted to know why the US did not want a woman to be president. Then she wanted to know what I thought of Obama and his wife. She then asked me what the name of the "vecchio" (old) man was that was also running for president. We talked politics until the train arrived. She said it was a miracle that the train was only 10 minutes late. That was perfect for me since I would be able to still catch my connecting train if my first train was only 10 minutes late.

As the train arrived, we both went to board. She boarded first and then grabbed one of my rolling bags for me. I was surprised with her strength. Another kind man grabbed my other rolling bag. I followed the woman into one of the train cars. I debated whether or not to sit with her since I was ready to move on from the conversation about politics. I thought it would be rude though to not sit with here. The train was a regional train and so there are only 2nd class train cars. It was not very full so there was lots of space for luggage to be kept right by your seats which was nice.
I changed the subject to Genova once we sat down. She wanted to know what I did when I visited Genova. The train ride was quite pleasant. As we went by each station, she told me more about that area.

The train gods were looking out for me. We arrived on binario (platform/track) one! I LOVE binario uno because that means no stairs!! My connecting train was at the tronco place - a walk down to the end of binario 1 where two more little tracks were on the left with no stairs!

As I walked toward the tronco, I saw that there was a train at binario 2. I asked a train person (you can tell who they are by their green and blue outfits) if that was the Acqui train. He seemed to think it was and I figured that it had to be since it was set to leave in 10 minutes. I boarded the trian and found a seat by the entrance inside one of the train cars with a space for my luggage. A woman and her little dog got on board and sat nearby. She placed one of those little diaper paper things on the seat and then her dog hopped on. I snuck a cute photo of the dog while she was busy talking on the phone. She probably would have posed for me but I was too shy to ask.

The train ride was very pleasant. I worked on a couple of sudoku puzzles until we arrived. Jan (jgk) called me the day before offering to pick me up at the train station. I was thrilled since I was not sure how to get to the little place where we were both staying. I am still lost today (Wednesday) after being in Acqui Terme for 2 days and so I am sure that it would have made for an interesting time if I had to find the place on my own. I don't remember seeing any taxis at the station when I arrived.

I met Jan at the entrance of the train station when I arrived. We drove to a parking lot near our place. We are staying in rooms above a restaurant called La Loggia. Jan got the single room (booked ahead first) and I have a double room. My room is huge and quite comfortable. There is a great bathroom and a wonderful hairdryer!! Having a good hairdryer is not something that often happens, even in the nicest hotels.

After unpacking a few things, we went out to have a gelato. The gelateria had huge mounds of many flavors, both fruit and creme flavors. I introduced Jan to peach gelato. It was my first time having peach on this trip. We walked around the town some and then headed back to our rooms since everything was closed for the afternoon.

Later in the afternoon, we went out to Diana's for a short visit. I was so impressed with her new kitchen. It was great seeing her again. For dinner, we ate at a place that had a wonderful pesto, pomodoro (tomato) and creme sauce. I ordered spinach and ricotta ravioli with this sauce. I also ordered a caprese salad. This caprese salad was missing the basil. The buffalo mozzarella was one big mound in the middle and the tomato slices surrounded the cheese. It was really a meal in itself.

Well, that sums up my first day/night in Acqui Terme. I will write more soon.

Ciao!!

July 7, 2008

long travel day

Saturday, July 5th

Saturday was going to be a long travel day. Jan was driving to the airport to pick up a friend. I asked her while planning my trip if I could catch a ride with her to the airport. This way, I could take the bus to Milano Centrale and then the train to Bologna. My other option was to take the train to Alessandria and then wait 2 hours for a 3 hour train to Bologna. Jan's friend was arriving early in the morning and so we planned on leaving at 7am.

Jan knocked on my door at around 4 in the morning. At first I thought I must have overslept. She said that her friend's plane was delayed and so we could leave at 11am. I was glad for the extra sleep since my head was not a happy camper after the 2 glasses of wine. After a couple of tries, Italian wines just don't seem to agree with me unfortunately.

I finally crawled out of bed around 9 am. I went in search of coffee and then headed back to my room. Jan was out at the internet cafè and came back to the room soon after I returned. We decided to start packing up the car and leave a little early. We ended up leaving around 10 am. We got stuck behind a slow driver until we hit the freeway (I know it is called something else here but you know what I mean). The scenery was beautiful. The freeway drive was not as pretty but it was nice not being on a train for once.

Once we took the airport exit, we looked for a gas station. Filling up the gas tank can be in interesting experience. At our first gas station, the gas would not pump. We found a guy that seemed to work there or nearby to help us. He was very helpful. Because we did not have the appropriate card, we could only use euros. The problem was that the machine did not seem to like Jan's euros. After manh tried, the machine finally took 20 euros. That did not fill up the tank. We then tried to put in more euros with no success. Because Jan needed to fill the tank up, it was going to be a guessing game as far as just how many euros she would need. We finally found out that there was another gas station nearby that took credit cards. The second gas station was a breeze. It was a full service gas station where the guy that worked there pumped the gas and afterwards, Jan paid with her credit card.

The next stop was to return the rental car. This was a very stressful experience for Jan. First we came up to a spot where there were 3 different lanes going 3 different places. I did not see the turn in time and was not very descriptive in the correct lane. We circled again and took the correct turn. Then we saw the sign to turn left, but there was a machine that seemd to be like a parking ticket machine. We saw the car behind us trying to back up. Jan tried to do the same thing. I was so glad at this point that I was not driving and this confirmed for me to never drive to an airport. Jan finally was able to back up into the traffic but we then found out that we were in the correct place. She had to turn around and return, take the ticket and then put the ticket in the next machine. This made no sense at all. Once we parked the car, we went up to this little van with a window. Jan stepped on a big cement block and gave the woman the rental car papers. After a 3 hour journy, we we were on our way to the airport.

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July 11, 2008

daytrip to Modena (part 2)

Sunday, July 6th

Here is the rest of my day in Modena...

As I was leaving the Galleria Estense, I stopped to thank the woman and the two men who checked my ticket when I entered the museum. I thanked them and told them how much I enjoyed my visit. They asked where I was from. I said "Hawaii". The woman could not believe it. She kept saying "Hawaii?!!" in a very animated voice over and over. She could not even imagine what it would be like to live in Hawaii and started asking me all kinds of questions about what it was like to live there, the weather, the food, the beaches, the temperature, etc. etc. She then asked me what I did. I told her that I taught children ages 3 & 4 and that school started again in the end of July. She could not believe that we had school in August. She again said over and over "agosto?!!" She was so animated and just could not believe this.

We then talked about the euro-dollar difference and I said that now is a good time for them to travel to the US. One of the men wanted me to write down the difference between the euro and the dollar and then started calculating the cost if he traveled to the US. Next we started talking about different places to visit in the US.

And finally...the converstation turned to politics. It is so interesting how just about every person I have spoken to here in Italy is so interested in the US politics. At one point, they asked where Obama's mother was from. I told them Kansas. No one knew where Kansas was. I tried to explain and then thought of the movie, The Wizard of Oz. The conversation became quite animated as I tried to explain the movie, talking about the tornado and the house, and then everything in color, and finally Toto and clicking the shoes 3 times. The woman in one of the rooms in the museum who was working there and not so friendly, came over to us and said "SHHHH" very loudly with a grumpy face. She left, and we continued our conversation. They asked me to write down the name of the movie so they could look it up later on the internet. Once I wrote it down, they realized I was talking about "Mago di OZ". At that point none of us could even remember why we were talking about this movie. IWe finally remembered. I don't think they ever figured out where Kansas was located.

An hour had passed and I said that I had to leave to catch a train back to Bologna. I asked to use the bathroom first and had to walk by the crabby lady (there were only 2 other people in the entire museum when she came out to shush us). I smiled at her as I walked by her. She was not so friendly. As I left, I thanked them again for a wonderful time. They apologized for keeping me so long. I told them that it was not a problem for me and that I really enjoyed talking to them.

The walk to the train station was another 15 or 20 minutes. I then had to wait about an hour for the next train. The train station was packed. There was a huge crowd waiting for another train (everyone with luggage) and when I returned to Bologna, I could not believe how crowded it was. At 9pm until the following night at 9pm all trains and buses were going on strike (lo sciopero) and so I guess everyone was trying to travel a day earlier.

I was not able to figure out the bus schedules yet and could not find any Tabaccheria shops so I ended up walking back. My feet were soooo tired when I got back to my hotel 30 minutes later. Because it was Sunday night, many restaurants were closed. The hotel recommended Le Mura, an osteria across the street from my hotel. That sounded wonderful to me since I don't think I could walk much farther.

The restaurant or osteria was ok but not one of my favorites. First it was very smokey inside. No one was actually smoking when I was there but there was no air circulation and either the people that ran the restaurant smoked inside before the restaurant was open or the smoking right at the doorway left the smell. The menu was meat based. The waiter and perhaps the owner was extremely nice. He offered to make me some penne pasta with a tomato and cream sauce. I also ordered some grilled vegetables. The food was good but not anything to rave about but I was too tired to really care.

My day in Modena was wonderful. I definitely would like to return there again someday. Leslie, I thought of you and even re-read your posts about Modena before I left for Italy this year. I expected to like Modena, but I really did not expect to love Modena.

July 16, 2008

travel day to Coccaglio

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.

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July 5, 2009

trains in Italy...friend or foe?

Although it was a challenge to get here, I am finally in Bologna. My hotel has free wifi as well as computer and printer access.

Before blogging about my exciting Pisa tower climb, I have two train stories to share.

Train story 1:
Last Tuesday I took the train from Lucca to Pisa. I followed my map route to the train station but could not seem to figure out how to get out of the city (passing through the wall which surrounds the city of Lucca). I don't know how I missed the little passageway, but ended up taking a route that veered farther away from the train station.

When I finally arrived at the train station, I was five minutes late for the train I planned to take. Fortunately the train to Pisa was running 10 minutes late. There was a line at the ticket window so I attempted to use the local train ticket machine. I was not sure how to purchase a roundtrip ticket, so I only purchased a ticket to Pisa. I validated my ticket and then checked the little TV to find my binario (train track number). Binario 4 was the train for PIsa.

Even though Lucca is not a big train station, it is a somewhat confusing train station. Usually the stairway to get to the other train tracks is easy to find, but I could not find the stairway at the Lucca train station. By the time I finally asked someone, I heard an announcement saying that the binario (train track) changed to number 1. That was easy. No need for any stairs. I got on the train and waited. I realized after a few minutes that the train I was on was the train that left in 30 minutes after the train I wanted to take. Meanwhile the train that was running late, leaving on track number 4 left. Oh well, not a huge deal. The train was fast, taking only 20 minutes to get to the little train stop (Stazione di Pisa San Rossore) near the tower in Lucca.

After a wonderful day in Pisa (will blog about my day in Pisa and tower climb next), I headed back to the little train station that is located near the tower. I thought about walking to the main train station so that I could see a bit more of Pisa but my feet were tired after a long day of walking all around Pisa.

I realized when I got close to the train station that I had no idea where to purchase the ticket. I saw a building that I thought might be the train station but it was not near the train tracks. As I started to walk towards the building, I heard the train arriving. The train station was pretty deserted and I did not want to end up hanging out for 30 more minutes for the next train, so I decided to run to try to catch the train.

The train guy was standing by one of the doors and saw me running for the train. Just as everyone else was boarded the train, somehow I tripped and fell. It all happened so fast but it also seemed to happen in slow motion. I first fell on my knees and put my hands out to break the fall. I also hit my head as my knees and hands hit the ground. I can't remember exactly what part of my head hit the cement but I do remember hearing the thud. I ended up with a bloody left knee, I bruised the side of my left foot pretty badly, I somehow got a raspberry mark on my upper chest (right were the V neck of a t-shirt is located), I cut up my left palm a bit, smashed my watch and bruised my right wrist, ended up with big bruise under my right jaw, and smashed my camera which was in my right hand.

I could see in the distance that the train guy was concerned. Thankfully no one else saw me fall. I jumped back up and continued to run for the train. I am happy to say that I caught the train. I would have been really upset if after all that I missed the train.

When I boarded the train, I walked through the four cars and looked for the train guy to buy my ticket. I could not find him so I found a seat, knowing that if I was caught without a train ticket, I would be fined a pretty big fee for not purchasing a 2.40 euro train ticket. There was not much I could do at that point though and I was pretty shaken up and more worried about my camera. Fortunately, my camera seems to be working. Hopefully there was not any damage to the lens.

As I sat and assessed the damage, I noticed my bloody knee. A few minutes later the train guy walked through the train cars. There I was sitting with a bloody knee, all shaken up, without a train ticket. In my 10 years of traveling in Italy, I have never been on a train, bus, or boat without a valid ticket. As he walked through the cars, I tried to think up an excuse hoping that he would take pity on me as I sat there with my bloody knee. I guess it was my lucky day because he walked from one end of the train to the other and then back to the front of the train and did not check anyone's tickets.

When I got back to Lucca, I headed to the Farmacia to purchase something to clean my knee. I usually bring some neosporin with my but forgot it this year. I bought these cool antiseptic cloths that come in individual packets. I also bought some square bandages that fit perfectly over my cut. Giulio, one of the owners of the B&B, gave me some ice from the kitchen for my foot. I rotated it between my foot and my knee. I also took some ibuprofin.

I still could not figure out just where I hit my head but was very aware that hitting my head could have been very dangerous. After going out for dinner, I stayed up past midnight to make sure I was not showing any head injury signs. Of course I had no idea what I would have done if I did start to show any signs. I am addicted to my solitaire game on my iPod Touch and played quite a few hands. I was making quite a few mistakes which had me a little concerned but realized I was just tired and it was not a sign of a head injury.

The following morning, the swelling went down a bit but my foot was very sore. Today is the first day that I have been able to walk on it without it being very painful, although it is still very bruised.

Train story 2:
Today, I traveled from Lucca to Bologna. I ordered a taxi 40 minutes before my train was scheduled to leave so that I would have plenty of time at the train station in Lucca to board my train.  I even walked to the train station the other day and did a dry run figuring out where the stairway passageway was to get to the different train tracks.  I purchased a Eurostar ticket for the train that goes from Florence to Bologna leaving least 30 minutes after the train from Lucca was scheduled to arrive in Florence.  I thought I was all set for an easy train travel day. 

When I arrived at the train station, I looked up at the little TV and saw that my train was set to leave on time.  Although the yellow partenza board listed the binario as number 4, the TV listed it as number 3.  Usually the little TV has the updated train track number.  I went down the ramp and then walked up the short flight of stairs with my luggage and saw that the train was already there. 

I asked the train guy to make sure that it was in fact the train to Florence.  I got on the train and waited for it to leave.  The train car I was sitting in was empty.  Perfect!  I would not have to worry about room for my luggage.  The scheuduled departure time was 10:32.  I did not hear any announcements that the train was running late.  

At 10:35, I heard an announcement that the binario for Florence changed from number 3 to number 4 (which was the original train track listed on the partenza board).  Just as the announcement was made a train arrived on track number 4.  The train was the same type of train that I took from Florence to Lucca.  I dragged my luggage off the train and looked up at the little sign by track number 4.  The little sign by track number 3 still said Firenze (Florence).  I asked a guy on the train I just got off of if that train was going to Firenze.  He said it was.  Major confusion set in.  Just as I attempted to lift my luggage back on the train I was originally already sitting on, the doors shut and the train started to move.  I could not believe it.  There was my train taking off and I was no longer on it!  

Let's just say that at that very moment I was not very happy. Now if I did not have a Eurostar reservation in Florence (specific train to catch with seat reservation) it would not have been a huge deal since the trains go to Bologna hourly from Florence but since I did, I needed to figure out a plan quickly.

I was not the only one who got off the train that left for Florence. An Italian woman did the same thing. We both went to the partenza board and saw that there was another train leaving for Florence in a few minutes. This was a special train that I think only runs on Sundays and possibly on holidays. It was a slower train that had more stops and was scheduled to arrive in Florence 15 minutes before my Eurostar was scheduled to depart. This train was located on binario 5 and was set to depart any minute. That meant I had to lug my bags down and then up a flight of stairs with the possibility that the train could have already taken off. 

We both took off down and then up those stairs. The train was still there. I boarded quickly while I noticed the woman having a very lively conversation with the train guy outside of the train (I assumed it was about the confusing announcement which by the way was announced both in Italian and English). This was the second time the Lucca train station announced information which caused me to miss my train.

Now that I was on this train, I started to wonder if the ticket I had purchased for the Lucca to Firenze train would work for this train. The train guy said my ticket was fine and told me that I had enough time to catch my train to Bologna in Florence.  

Just as we were about to arrive in Florence, the train stopped in the middle of nowhere. My 15 minutes to catch my next train was in jeopardy. My heart started to race again but after five minutes the train started to move. My train arrived at the farthest binario from the rest of the trains. Luckily, I know the Florence train station pretty well and found my train for Bologna with 5 minutes to spare. 

More train problems ahead...  
There is a scheduled train strike for 24 hours set for next Sunday, the day I am scheduled to travel to Stresa. I am still trying to find out more information about this train strike.  

Trains can be such a wonderful way to travel in Italy when everything goes right and I am very fortunate that the horrible train explosion in Viareggio did not affect my train travel. Just once though, I would love to experience a stress free train travel Italy trip.  I am starting to be too old for some of these crazy train experiences. Keep your fingers crossed for me that the strike is canceled.  

September 7, 2009

leaving Bologna and heading to Stresa

Saturday, July 11th:
My original plan was to spend 7 nights in Bologna. Due to a national train strike planned for the following day, I ended up leaving a day early. After packing my bags, I walked around the centro area of Bologna one last time. I stopped in Eat Italy and bought a panino pomodoro mozzarella basilico (tomato, mozzarella, and basil sandwich) to eat on the train. I really enjoyed my stay in Bologna and at Hotel Orologio and was sad to leave. I said goodbye and thanked everyone at my hotel one last time as my taxi arrived.

Once at the train station, I looked for Simona, Katia’s friend. We both realized earlier in the week that we would be taking the train to Milano Centrale on Saturday. On Friday when I talked to Simona, I found out that we were taking the same Eurostar train! Too bad I was not going to Coccaglio next. We could have traveled the entire way together.

The partenza board with the dreaded strike announcement (sciopero means strike):
IMG_6542.JPG

Although the train station was crowded (possibly due to the strike the following day), Simona and I found each other right away. We had about 20 minutes before the train was supposed to arrive. We were both hungry. I offered her half of my sandwich. As we were eating, I mentioned how I Iike taking the Eurostar from Bologna to Milano because it always leaves from the first binario.

I must have jinxed it because just after I said how I liked the fact that the train to Milan left the first binario, Simona noticed on the partenza board that the binario number changed. Good thing I was with her. I am not sure if I would have noticed it on my own. There is so much noise at that station that it is sometimes difficult hearing the announcements clearly.

So much for leaving from binario 1 and not having to lug my bags down and then up a flight of stairs. Heading to binario 3 ended up being even more of a challenge because our train just arrived from Florence. As we tried to carry our bags up the stairs, we had to dodge a crowd of people descending down the stairs after departing the train. I lost Simona for a brief moment but easily found her again at our binario.

Because we made our reservations at different times (which are mandatory when taking a Eurostar train), we had seats in cars far apart from each other. We decided that we would SMS (text) each other once the train departed and then see if we could find two empty seats together.

As I was walking to my train car, I noticed a group of policemen and train personnel inspecting a big scrape near the bottom of one of the cars and two other men standing on a ladder putting a black plastic covering over the window. That did not make me feel very secure. I noticed a woman taking photos of the event. I thought about also taking a few photos but my camera was inside my bag and I did not want to risk missing my train since it was supposed to be leaving momentarily.

The train ended up leaving 15 minutes late. While waiting, I asked a woman sitting near me, who boarded the train in Rome, if she knew what happened to the train. I tried my best to explain what I saw (lacking vocabulary words such as scrape & metal). The lady started repeating over and over how this is why she does not like Bologna. I really was just curious and did not mean to get her all riled up. Meanwhile another woman chimed in that she thought it must have happened in Florence.

As the train departed Bologna, I left my luggage with the two women who continued to talk about the train situation to look for Simona. We ended up finding empty seats in a car between our two cars. I went back and grabbed my bags. It ended up being a very pleasant train ride to Milan.

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