Saturday, February 05, 2005

Crossing Italy with the Monster (5/24/02)

Today was devoted almost exclusively to travel. We checked out of the Al Giaciglio in Ravenna at about 8:00 this morning, and were pulling out of the train station by 8:35. The long trip to Bolsena required us to change trains at several points, specifically, at Rimini, Ancona, Orte, and one other town where we missed the connection because the train arrived in Orte several minutes late and we had only been scheduled for a ten-minute layover. On two segments of the journey -- Rimini-Ancona and Ancona-Orte -- we rode on the Eurostar, which, as I have previously told you, is the way to travel when you are in Europe. For much of the segment between Rimini and Ancona the tracks were literally within a few yards of the Adriatic, which of course delighted my wife. The longest portion of the trip was between Ancona and Orte -- about 2-1/2 hours -- most of which was through Umbria, where we were treated to some wonderful scenery, including fog-shrouded mountains with castles or old towns on their tops, some breathtaking valleys (one of which reminded me of the Jiboa Valley in El Salvador), and innumerable vineyards and olive gardens. Sheila took some pictures while I marked the towns on my map as we passed through them, listening all the while to Cecilia Bartoli singing Rossini arias.

The first hitch of the day happened at Orte, and it was a minor one. As I said, we missed our connection there, but this was actually a good thing because the train we were supposed to have taken would have required us to make yet another change, whereas the one we actually did take only an hour later went directly to Viterbo, where we were supposed to have ended up anyway. Up to this point the trip had gone reasonably well, and I felt that I had arrived at a sort of modus vivendi with the Monster. But alas, the good times sort of came to a halt at Viterbo. At the train station we were told that the bus to Bolsena did not stop there, and that we had to walk to a station about 500m away in order to catch it. So we set off with all our bags -- and of course with me towing the Monster -- and dodged through crazy Italian traffic even as we took some comfort from the knowledge that the passersby who contemplated these two idiot tourists would never see us again, and that we therefore need not be overly embarrassed. Then it started to rain, but not heavily; and as we were both sweating by this time, it actually felt good. Then we learned -- too late, of course, for it to do us any good -- that there was a covered walkway that would have taken us most of the way to the bus station. Finally, once we were on the bus, it actually took us back the way we had just come, and stopped at the train station -- which, of course, made us both wonder if our most recent travails had really been necessary.

I hoped by this point that our day's Abbott and Costello routine would be over, but of course I was wrong. On the bus I dropped an empty water bottle and got up to retrieve it. Because the interior of the bus was covered with graffitti anyway, perhaps I need not have bothered; but in any event, the bus suddenly lurched, and sent me sprawling backward into a seat, which fortunately was empty. Sheila had a good laugh over that one. Then we arrived at our final destination for the day, where we learned not only that the convent where we would be staying was about 1km away, with most of that distance being uphill -- but also that there were no taxis in Bolsena! I left Sheila at the piazza with the Monster and two of his buddies, while I took the fourth bag and headed up the hill with it. Finally, I arrived at the convent, where a kind soul drove me down the hill to the piazza -- where, in turn, we retrieved Sheila and her silent, but oppressively heavy, companions.

I lost this message when I first composed it awhile ago, so in order to prevent that from happening again, I am going to send it off now and add some more in a few minutes.




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