to Florence from my day in Siena, I arrived well after dark.
The bus let us all off not at the bus station (where
I knew how to find my way back to the hostel), but on a street
I was in a state of heightened awareness due
to the warning in Rick
Steves' guide book, "Florence has particularly
hardworking thief gangs. The specialize in tourists and hang
out where you do..." When I saw a group of young
guys loitering on a wall beside a building, I picked up my
pace and tried to give them a wide berth.
They called out something in my direction, but
my limited language skills couldn't parse it. I pasted what
I hoped was a bored look on my face and kept walking purposefully.
Soon I realized I had no idea where
I was...everything looked different in the dark,
and the last thing I wanted to do was broadcast my distress
by pulling out a map. The bright lights of a hotel lobby looked
like a welcome refuge, so I entered the building, and admitted
sheepishly to the clerk at the desk that I needed some help.
Graciously he pulled out a map, and
traced the route for me. It was fortunate that I
had stopped and checked: for blocks I had been heading in
the wrong direction.
The next morning, with a mixture of
nervous energy and excitement, I sprung from the
platform in Florence aboard the train, big pack in tow.
Now, on only my third train trip, I
was gaining confidence, able to tell the arrival
(arrivo) from departure (partenza) on the
big train schedule board. I could easily figure out on which
track (binario) my train would be, and to distinguish
the second class cars (with a "2" painted on the
side by the door) from the first class (where my ticket was
My train passed right through Pisa
(of Leaning Tower fame), and I was tempted
to take a quick detour, but concern about securing
a bed for the night, and general lethargy, combined to keep
me fixed in my seat as we chugged toward the Italian Riviera.
Speeding along the hillsides of Carrara,
I craned my neck to catch sight of the marble mines, still
active. I thought about how many works of art (the
David among them) got their start by being hacked out
of these hills (not to mention untold numbers of
less grandiose but more practical sinks and countertops).
At La Spezia, I switched from the main
line to the little single track "milk run" train
bound for the five remote tiny towns clinging to the
cliffs by the sea, collectively known as the Cinque Terre.
from the Hostel, Manarola
It is Not Possible to Leave...