23 Days in Italy
I arrived in Venice at about 11 a.m. yesterday morning after flights from the Springs to Atlanta, then Amsterdam, than Venice, which took 20+ hours. When I emerged with my bags, there was no one waiting for me. No one wearing a credential and a walkie-talkie, no one holding a sign. There was no one there. So I waited a bit and then pulled out some Italian phone numbers. It took a while but I eventually got a hold of the organizing committee. She said that she’d call me right back. Five minutes, she said. But after 45 minutes, there was no call and no one there. And I couldn’t get through calling them back.
So I decided to take action, like Teddy Roosevelt.
I told a lady at a counter that I needed to get to Verona. She said simple. You take a bus to the train station, train to Verona. No problem.
I buy the bus ticket, go outside and wait for the bus. Intellectually, this seems like a simple, easy-to-manage solution, but inside my stomach, I am outside of my comfort zone by about a million miles.
It’s nice out in the shade. A little warm in the sun. I’ve got a backpack, a heavy 45-pound suitcase and a smaller bag. I start talking to the guy next to me; he’s going to the train station too, which makes sense because we’re sitting under a sign that says “Bus that goes to the train station, Mestre.” But I feel a little better talking to him.
The bus trip takes 20 minutes. We arrive in a town that appears to be completely deserted. No people, no cars. Looks like a movie set. It’s Sunday, which I guess explains that.
The bus doesn’t take me to the train station. The bus takes me to a bus station, near a train station. The guy I’ve been talking to says the train station ‘is that way about 150 meters,’ which of course is no distance at all, but I have to grab my bags, hoof it in the sun down a bumpy sidewalk towards the train station.
There are people milling about outside. This is not a new train station. I get into the main area and, to me, it seemed a little chaotic. Unbeknownst to me, there is a local strike and certain trains are not running today. There are a few dozen people standing in the middle of a small entry way looking up at the arrivals and departures board. I work my way past them and head to the ticket office.
It’s closed. I don’t know if that’s because of the strike or because it’s Sunday. But now I can’t talk to a person, I have to buy my ticket with the easy-to-use self-service vending machines as recommended by Rick Steves in the travelling around Europe video I watched before coming here. I glance at the overhead boards and see “Verona” and it leaves in a couple of hours. Oh boy!
I get to the first machine and even though I can get it to display in English, I can’t figure it out. It was only telling me the ‘end-of-the-line’ destinations, and without a train map, I couldn’t figure out how to get to Verona. And there is nobody around to help.
I walk outside. Nobody. I go back inside to a different bank of machines. Oh my God, there’s a train guy here! He helps me — and everybody else — get a ticket; he knew the short cut, typed in Verona and got me set up. I need to get on the train to Torino, which leaves in 35 minutes off platform eight.
I’m hungry now and I have to use the bathroom. I walked to the end of the platform to the bathroom. Toilets cost one Euro, which I don’t have. So I go back to the main area, go down the elevator, find platform eight and lug my suitcases up the stairs where I wait.
I open up my little suitcase to get a bar to eat and discover that the bag of dark-chocolate-covered-fruit has erupted in transit. Little balls of chocolate everywhere.
I talk to the guy next to me, show him my ticket. He explains that I’m in carriage seven, seat 9A on the window. The train is huge. I didn’t know about the carriage part.
The train comes. I lug my suitcases on. Find my seat and sit down. The trains run on time. I get to Verona in an hour.
Off the train I go and out to the street and hail a cab. “Do you take credit?” No, um, okay.
The next cab takes credit. I show him the address. He says that doesn’t make any sense. I say, that’s the address. He says there’s more than one Parc Hotel. I say, “Why don’t you call?” He looks at his map and takes off. At some point he stops to look at his map again. I say, “Why don’t you call?” He calls and hands me back the number and says, ‘that phone number doesn’t exist.’ The cab rides takes an awful long time, but we drive through some cute little towns.
I’m pretty sure he is going the wrong way, even though I have no idea.
The hotel is near Lake Garda which is a touristy destination in Northern Italy. Five hours after I landed and three hours after I left the airport, I arrive at the hotel.
I meet the whole team individually in about 10 minutes; they just got off a seven-hour bus trip from Croatia. I have Wi-Fi and my electrical plug fits the outlet … two big concerns.
I eat dinner and go to bed around 8:30p. Woke up about 11 hours later.
Now I’m heading to the first practice. Press conference today too.
The next installment … “Tour de Cure Italian-Style”