Nom de Plumage

June 4, 2012

The Long and Winding Coast to Florence


A grey, wet and miserable day is Turin’s way of saying ‘bon voyage’, but you know what, I do not care for it is a perfect way of travelling on the train? To be warm, comfortable and dry, with a wonderful book open in my hands and to watch the ever changing scenery, sounds pretty near perfect to me! Oh, except I made forgot that day-light savings had ended and that meant turning back the clock. I therefore arrive one hour early at the train station and have to sit in the cold, shivering and cursing my stupidity. Not a good start! So an emotional start and finish to my three day sojourn of Turin and what an amazing experience and beautiful people I had the privilege to meet. And so my travels continue…..

My journey to Florence was with an older train. It was still clean and very comfortable and of the old style where compartments were shared by six people. I was fortunate that I had a window seat, which was very large. So I put my huge luggage above my seat, get my thick book out, sit down and make myself comfortable, anticipating my quiet train journey. Yeap! That lasted all of five minutes. A large family of three adults and about six teenagers arrive with great fanfare. There was  confusion of who had the train tickets, seating arrangements and where to put the masses of luggage that they brought. I watched in amusement at the spectacle and laughed when the father apologetically explained that his family was not normally this disorganised or loud. But once everyone was seated and the train started to move, things calmed down to what would be an enjoyable trip made more so by the family. Because of the size of the family, they were divided into two adjoining compartments. But during the long journey, they would swap cabins or visit each other. I could not understand a quarter of what they said, nor could I communicate with them, but one does not need to speak the same language to comprehend the love and humour that the two families shared. So although my trip did not allow me much peace to read, it gave me the opportunity to observe the love and humour this family had for each other. When lunch-time arrived, my new friends brought with them a banquet of warm delicious smelling savoury pastries. The smell wafted through the compartment and I started to salivate. The mother was so hospitable and offered me some, but I declined very hesitantly. I know and I hear you, why? I felt guilty to take from a stranger and possibly deny someone from the family their share. But God, I so regret it!

The rain was relentless and with it, brought delays. I arrived at the beautiful little city of Genoa. It is a poor city situated on the very edge of the Italian coast and at the gateway to the stunning Cinque Terre. The city itself was a place that I wanted to stop and see, if not for some people who advised me not to. Another regret of mine! The coastline of Cinque Terre is also something that I would have loved to have visited. But the miserable weather left me no option but to continue to Florence. The train is delayed in Genoa for 45 minutes and so I arrive late into Pisa. In Pisa I must change for a regional train to Florence and this train is 25 minutes late arriving. The platform is packed and my backpack is on my back, getting heavier and heavier. I dare not remove it from my back because of the huge amount of people, but also that once I get the blasted thing off my back, it is torture to get it on again. But I have hope that there would be an opportunity to sit down on the train and relieve my back? NOT! The train was also packed and it was standing room only. Getting up and down the train with my heavy luggage as well as holding it for the entire 30 minutes, was an experience.

I finally arrive into Florence, late by almost two hours and it is now dark and I am lost. The train station is a shock as it is full of youths and each more suspicious looking than the next. I find the bus stop and know what bus I need to get, but the actual directions of where the bus stand is or what direction I need to go, is confusing. I walk around lost until I spot a fellow backpacker reading directions. I pluck up the courage to ask her where she is going, to thankfully discover she is going to the same hostel as I. Her name is Celicia and she is from Argentina and  speaks Italian. Celicia asks someone for directions and we eventually find our way on the correct bus, going in the correct direction. I take the chance by not having a ticket, only to discover later how lucky I was because in Italy  they are ruthless in fining tourists. My luck is holding up!. Our bus journey is a long one, about 25 minutes and is the very last stop. It gives us girls the chance to get to know each other and we discover that we are both solo female travellers.

We arrive at our stop directly across the road to the gated entrance to our hostel. But it does not end there, for ahead of us is a 500 metre walk up a dark uneven dirt road. Nobody mentioned this in the hostels advertisement. By this time, I really am sweating, puffing and almost dead from carrying my luggage for a good hour and a half on my back. I arrive exhausted. We both check into a nice hostel that is an old villa. Very beautiful and very Italian. There is two flight of stairs that I need to get up before I enter a very ordinary room. It is already occupied by someone who is messy. To make matters worse, the hostel is full of noisy students who have no consideration for anyone but themselves. Oh shit!

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