WARNING, THIS POST IS LONG AND WINDING, LIKE THE DAY IT COVERS
I am now on Italotreno headed from Florence to Salerno which is a 3.5 hour train ride. I have a fear of getting kicked off the train from not stamping my ticket or following some sort of protocol. Or worse, getting on the wrong train and ending up in another country. But the announcer has said Salerno many times so I think I’m on the right track (ha, aren’t I hilarious, the “right track”).
This morning, before departing Florence, I ate breakfast with a woman from Lowell, MA and a couple from Germany. The man’s company makes the adhesive for New Balance shoes which are made near Lowell, MA. He was surprised that we had heard of New Balance so I let him know that they are a flat footed person’s best friend. He encourage me to keep buying them so he can keep providing the glue! Then, the woman from Lowell asked if we could go together to Santa Croce Church so off we went. Well, thank goodness I did not miss this church. I could have spent several hours there but only had one before my train. We saw the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli…
News flash! The train conductor just came through asking for tickets. I showed her a number and she said Grazie and moved on. So I didn’t get kicked off and seem to be following procedure. PHEW!
Back to Santa Croce. This is the hot bed for art historians. I took many a slide quiz based on much of the work displayed in this very church, such as famous pieces by Giotto and by Cimabue. As I exited into the side courtyard, the voice of an angel signing a Les Miserable classic guided me to a vaulted room. There she was, a tourist (perhaps a broadway star?), testing out the acoustics in the room. A few tourists clapped as she finished, she grabbed her purse, and continued the tour. What a treat!
I said good-bye to my morning companion (who was amicable and talkative and clear about her need for English speaking company), hoofed it to the hotel for my luggage and then pulled my bags down the cobblestone streets to Santa Maria Novella train station.
Alright, the train ride was smooth and fast. The man who sat next to me was surly at first, watching me haul my luggage, which required a deep squat and major heave (again, thanks Drew!) to the overhead rack. During the last hour of the trip, I painted a postcard and for whatever reason, he turned into a gentleman! He helped me practice Italian (literally quizzed me with my flash cards), told me he lives and works in Paestum as a police officer and volleyball coach at the local school. And he was very helpful with my luggage as we departed, making sure I was aware of the Salerno stop and hauling my suitcase down the steps and to the platform. However, let me remind you (hi Mom, Dad and Stephen) my guard is up and I am not seeking conversation or companionship from strangers. He was perfectly polite though still distant, just helpful. Oh, and by the way, when people tell you that everyone speaks English, NOPE! Not on this route, at least. Which, so far, is fine with me, I just thought I’d mention it to set your expectations if you travel here. Maybe I’m just going a little more rugged than some which is casting me apart from the high-end service people who probably do speak English.
It was mayhem departing the train and finding the bus for Amalfi. Thankfully, last night I read in a Rick Steve’s book a tip about ducking into the Celeste Globo travel agency right there between the train station and the bus station where the workers speak some English and can answer questions about which bus tickets to buy and where to wait. Entrance on the bus was dicey and I am lucky I got a seat. There were many people standing for the long and winding ride up the Amalfi coast. I’ll change busses in Amalfi to get to Ravello.
OK, ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ll be taking a boat whenever possible from this point forward. We are winding around these cliffs with the driver blaring on the horn at every turn, which means constantly. A woman boarded at Vietre and promptly began yelling toward the bus load of people in anger about not giving up a seat for the women and children (at least I think that is what she as saying).
One hour later, shockingly, I am still alive and after a treacherous ride to Amalfi, I have boarded the bus to Ravello, up to the mountain top. I’m trying to enjoy the views but when one fears for her life, the panorama is a bit less pleasurable. But now I have feeling like I might survive, as opposed to earlier when I was saying prayers and telepathically telling my precious girls good-bye. NEVERMIND!!!! Quite the roller coaster of emotions. Once again feeling like death is near. There are pedestrians on the road and they flatten themselves against the cliffs as the buses careen by. There are cyclists for crying out loud! The kind woman from Bologna who is seated next to me said the cyclists are not Italian. That Italians would not do such a thing. Do you hear that Krissa and Michael? Stick with Tuscany but I beg, do not get any ideas about cycling along the Amalfi coast, capiece?
Ok, now I’ve been dispatched in Ravello. A nice cabbie told me how to walk to the hotel (he was waiting to take people down through the ravine and down the mountain to Amalfi – Ravello is pedestrian only so I could not get a ride with him to my hotel. But just a minute, did I mention the bus luggage arrangement? The driver yells at you as you enter the bus and tells you to store it underneath. (A note about the yelling, they do it as nicely as possible, many of the Italians I’ve encountered put a vigorous amount of volume and emotion in their voices so I’ve come to learn that they are just explaining things, not really yelling). Anyway, no one comes to open the compartments and this English man and I jacked around with the handles thinking the bus was about to take off. I then found a button and pushed it and pop – the door lifted open. I heard him on the bus later telling his partner thank goodness for some American girl who figured out how to open the compartment. I felt a tinge of pride, I admit.
So, I think, Thank you Lord Baby Jesus for not letting me get killed and making it to this remote mountaintop on roads that are perhaps not meant to be traversed. I erroneously thought I’d arrived. As it turns out, my villa is further up the mountain…but I thought, how far can it be? Well, if I’ve mentioned the stairs and hills and hikes in earlier posts, let me just say, thank the heavens for those hikes. I didn’t know it at the time but I was in training for Ravello. The whole journey here, as it becomes more physically difficult and more dangerous, I am thinking, how and why to people go through such effort, such time, such risk, such discomfort to get here? AND THEN I FOUND OUT. Next up: Oh Ravello.