I packed two bags. Got late as usual. Two hours later the plane had landed. The whatever-he-is-called-guy inspected my passport closely. He gave it back without a word. I think he was unhappy because I was loading batteries when I should have appeared to be begging for his mercy. Enter Italy. Eat your heart out Betty! I took the picture of these lovely couple at the airport before rushing out to buy my bus ticket.
The bus from the airport to Milan took about an hour. I met “a brother” who was willing to take my hand and show me which train to catch.
The walls in Italy are full of drawings.
There was an Italian woman sitting in front of me. Luckily I had closed a window for her so she had the patience to try again and again to tell me where to get off. Then I started chatting with a German family. They showed me where they were going and what they had already visited. Suddenly I reached my destination and quickly got off. The train had started to leave when I just remembered that I had left my camera on the train. You can guess what I was hoping for when I heard someone whistling. Yes! The German guy was sticking his neck out holding the camera. I run with the train and he carefully threw the camera. I waved all I can to show how thankful I was. That was a feel good moment for them too! And I was in Varenna, a small town in the north of Italy.
It was around 9PM when I arrived. I saw two taxis leaving with a group of people who were in the same train that I came on. The place then became quiet. I thought the hell with taxis, the map says my hotel is 10 minutes walk away from the station anyway. But following the map turned out to be difficult. I went back to the train station to start all over again when I saw an old man walking out of his house. He understood that I was confused and started talking Italian to me. I spoke one of the phrases I had quickly jotted down on a piece of paper before taking the cab to the airport “non parlo italiano”. He understood, but that aside, communication was next to impossible. After a lot of sounds and movement of fingers and hands, we came to the agreement that I should go down the stairs, turn left, and when I see some big thing I should turn right. I said “gracie” and went on. I didn’t get what the big thing was but I found the hotel easily.
The woman at the reception (I think she is the owner too) told me my reservation had not been confirmed. I had seen her run out to hand a scarf that a customer had forgotten so I was not very alarmed when she said that. She then said she will give me a room nevertheless. It was room number 8, my lucky number.
I took a shower and went downstairs to have dinner. They said they had finished food. It was around 10 AM. I went out and walked the street. The street was quiet and the lights were red-ish. I realized that the town was even smaller than I expected (in fact I thought it was a city). Having looked at the wikipedia entry just now, the population is only 882! One of those places where everyone will know what everyone is up to. “Did you hear that entina just got off the phone with his ex-girlfriend” I entered a nice looking restaurant. The waiter was friendly and understood English. I ordered Calzoni. I had seen this in one of Seinfeld’s episodes (comedy show) and thought “I will have that when I go to Italy!”. It is a folded pizza, easier to eat. You can have it like a sandwich although it can get too big so you may need to cut it first. I had a chat with a guy next to me. The conversation started when I told the lady with him to put her phone in her pockets (it was about to fall out) and he then asked where I was from. I was surprised that he called out Addis Ababa, Asmara, and Eritrea. I forgot to take the receipt for dinner (my company should have paid for it). When I got back I met a coworker who had arrived earlier. Our task was on the next day. We talked for a few seconds, made an appointment for the next day, and I went to my room. There was an English channel but I thought Italian channel goes with Calzoni so I turned that on and slipped inside. The place was too warm but thanks to the journey, that wasn’t a problem!
The next morning I got up refreshed, took a shower and went straight to the training place. A coworker and myself were giving training as part of a week long event. It was located in a beautiful part of the town (actually the whole town is built on a river border so there is a scene everywhere you go.
I had lunch with the whole group. Pizza! The “real pizza” has a very thin base that you can’t hold a piece on one end and expect it to stay flat. You need to somehow fold it to have a bite, or you need to use knife and fork. I got the receipt this time because I was with the group!
At the end of the day I bought a train ticket for the next day and took the ferry to Bellagio, a town just beside Varenna (15 minutes by boat). Unfortunately the others had already visited the town so I went alone. The town lies right where the three major lakes in Italy intersect. Very beautiful town.
I got back to Varenna at around 9 AM, late enough to miss the dinner appointment with the group and the restaurant in my hotel had closed too. I went back to the place where I had dinner the previous night (many other places were closed too) and ordered another kind of pizza for take away. I forgot to take the receipt again!
It is then that things got tricky. I needed an alarm to catch the train for the next morning. My phone had run out of batteries and the hotel had closed (I could have arranged a wake up call). I thought I could work my laptop somehow but it refused to make any kind of sound. I then had to call Sure (my friend) to ask him to give me a wake up call!