Because Surley Nothing Is Easy When It Involves Me

29 Oct

Unlike many I find the idea of traveling alone thrilling,  there’s something about the feeling of being independent that gives me confidence and a high which can not be matched. Sure for some traveling alone could be difficult (especially when one has to use the bathroom and has no one to watch their luggage, therefore having to hull everything into the always all too small bathroom stalls). Traveling alone can even be lonely at times, especially having no one to talk to, but I combat for this by always packing my fully charged kindle filled with unread books, my iPod restocked with songs, and of course a few good gossip magazines. However, most of the time I find all these items unnecessary as typically I find that with the rhythmic lull of a moving car, train, boat or plane I usually doze off for a majority of my trips.

However, after my experience with this past trip you could say that possibly my opinions on traveling alone have changed!

Early on Friday morning I arrived at the Florence train station 40 minutes prior to my scheduled train, anxious to get on my way to Como to see my cousins! The first bad omen came at 8:19, the scheduled time that my train was supposed to depart, instead though at this time I was waiting at the platform when I was informed that the train would be delayed by 20 minutes (although not a lengthy amount of time I suddenly became regretful that I had woken up so early when I could have remained in my warm bed for an extra 20 minutes and gotten a bit more sleep).

After a four-hour trip of blissfully falling in and out of  a deep sleep (despite the uncomfortable aisle seat which meant that I was often shoved with luggage being handled by impatient travelers and being awaken every so often by the bar man handling a rollable snack cart which included a very high-pitched bell, which he regretfully rung each time he passed) I had finally arrived in Milan. Once in Milan I got off the train and rushed to the departures board in hopes of immediately finding my next train. Although Como is only 45 minutes away from Milan there is no direct train from the central Milan station to the station in Como so instead I had to take a train from Milan to a small station in Monza, get off and then take another train from Monza to Como, a bit complicated. I had traveled to Como before with Emery and Sarah and we had a similar route to Como, so when I booked the trip a week earlier I had no qualms about the route.

At 12:35 I rushed towards the information point in hopes of quickly being able to find out from which track my train was departing from (The train I was hoping to take departed at 12:45, giving me a small margin of time to find the train), I was sure to ask my simple question in Italian, hoping that I would get a straight answer, a simple track number is what I expect as a reply, but one could only hope for things to be so easy. Instead the man working at the information point simply informed me that he did not know and directed me across to the other side of the train station to the information office. Anxiously I checked the departures board in hopes of finding the correct train, the only problem was that on my train ticket was only the name of the station that I was expected to transfer at, not the name of the final detestation of that train, therefore without knowing the name of the end stop, I had no way of knowing which train was the correct train. Frustrated I headed  to the information office where I waited in line amongst other foreign tourist in hopes of being able to talk to someone and explain. Once again I thought it better to explain my problem in Italian, however the employee replied back to me so quickly I barely had time to process the first word before I realized that he was done speaking. I asked him if he spoke any english, hoping that he would be able to explain what he had previously said, but he simply said no and then dismissed me before I was even able to formulate a reply.

Still unsure about what to do I headed towards the Tourist information point hoping that they would be able to help.

After explaining my problem to the woman working at the booth, who surprisingly barely spoke english, (don’t get me wrong I enjoy practicing my Italian, but when it comes to being prompt for connecting trains, I’d rather know exactly what to do rather than play the guessing game and trying to understand the gist of what is being said) she told me she was unable to help me and directed me back to the office I had previously come from. I gave her a look of depsiration and finally she agreed. She informed me that I had missed my train and the next regional train would be at 3:00, another two hours and fifteen minutes more to wait, or she said I could take the metro located three stories down underground and ride it for two stops before arriving at a new station where there was a train departing in twenty minutes. I decided to take my risks and go with the second opotion.

I ran down the stairs quickly struggled with the self check out machine to purchase a metro card than quickly ran to catch the metro (praying that I was headed in the right direction). luckily in less than five minutes I arrived at the next station, hurriedly I got off and quickly walked through the surprisingly big station lined with boutiques in hopes of finding a ticket booth (the ticket I had bought could no longer be used now that I was departing from a new station). After once again struggling with a machine I decided it would be best to talk to a person, so once again I found myself waiting in line, I anxiously checked my watch only to realize I had ten minutes. Once again I used my italian when ordering the tickets, this time I made and effort to contentiously listen to everything the woman had said, there was no time for mistakes. I ran out of the office and started down the stairs, only to realize I was headed towards the metro, the complete opposite direction of the trains, the area where I wanted to go!

Finally with five minutes to spare I found the track (hoping that my hearing hadn’t failed me) and got on the train. Just then I looked down at my phone to check the time, when suddenly a low battery light flashed on my (1990’s style Italian nokia cell phone) before the entire phone shut off. I was now officially freaking out, I was on a train unsure of where the final destination might be, there was not a conductor in sight to ask, and my only means of transportation was now non-existent.

luckily though this was the right train and less than an hour later I got off the train to see my cousin Aldo, there waiting.

Once we arrived at his home I showed him my return tickets, he carefully examined them before he asked me if I had class on Monday morning. I replied that I did a bit surprised, wondering why he asked, maybe he wanted me to extend my trip. Suddenly he brought to my attention that there was a problem with my tickets, the ticket home which I thought I had booked at sunday night at 6:00 p.m. was in fact for Monday at 6:00 a.m. (for possibly the fourth time that day I felt my heart rate  spike). He assured me that on Saturday we would go to the station and get everything figured out.

Although anxious, I let myself relax and enjoyed the rest of the evening without giving a second thought to my ticket troubles (ok maybe I gave some thought to it). I had mentioned to my cousin, Aldo a few time before that I was completely in love with speck (a smoked prosciutto, similarly tasting to bacon). So that night for dinner I was informed that we would have polpette di tachino con lo speck, similar to a turkey meatloaf stuffed with speck in the middle. Of course I was excited and after a crazy day of travel desperately looking forward to a good meal!

Like most italian meals we started off with a dish of pasta, in a sauce made with oil, tomatoes, capers, and basil, simple and delicious.

Next of course was polpette di tacchino con lo speck, the delicious turkey like meatloaf with speck which was roasted with rosemary and sage and served with roasted potatoes..yum, anxious to try this dish I did not take a picture (my apologies)!

Exhausted from the days events despite my snooze on the train and a quick nap at Aldo’s I fell right to sleep and woke up ten hours later the next morning at 11:00 a.m. Never in my life have I ever woken up so late, usually I am the early bird up at 6:30, in fact the latest I have ever slept in until has been 8:30. I was so surprised that I thought my phone was broken, surely this couldn’t be true. However just a few minutes later there was a knock on my door from Magda (no doubt checking in to make sure I was still alive)!

We had planned to head to Milan Saturday late morning for a bit of shopping, but given my late arrival we now had to rearrange our plans, however, number one priority still included straightening out the train tickets. Thankful to have Madga with me, a natative italian and excellent english translator (my italian had seemingly only got me into trouble) I let her handle “the situation”. Listening in to the conversaton the first thing I understood was the word “sciopero” meaning a strike, today clearly wasn’t going to be a batter day. From that moment on I all together stopped listening afraid of what else I might hear. Madga explained to me the current situation, apparently there was a train stroke in Como meaning it was uncertain whether or not trains would leave como (meaning my tickets for Como to Milan were now no good) however Aldo and Madga graciouslly offered to drive me to Milan. The next thing I learned was that tickets from Milan to Florence were now 50 euros, and my orginal ticket could not be refunded, however, there was a less expensive alternative costing only 32euros, however this took four hours in comparison to the quick 2 hours trains and this train also did not arrive at the main florence station located in the center, a easy 25 minute walk to my house, no this train of course happended to arrive outside of the center about a 25 minute drive from my house (and definely not walkable). I called Roberta ( my Mom here in Italy) and desperatley asked if she would be able to pick me up, of course she agreed!

So finally with all that settled I was able to once again relax and put my mind at ease. Magda and Aldo and I caught up, I told them about my future travel plans which included a trip booked for the next week to Bologna (the culinary capital of Italy), they excitedly told me that I must try the tortellini, there, apparently the city is well known for their delicious homemade version of the pasta. However I informed that I would be unable to as tortellini is made with cheese and with a dairy allergy, it is impossible for me to eat cheese. They gave me a peculiar look, tortellini is not made only with cheese, it is made with meat too. I was shocked growing up in America I had only been familiar with ricotta filled tortellini, I didn’t knew there were other options. Madga just so happened to have a frozen bag of homemade tortellini from bologna that her uncle who lived there had brought to her, she said we simply had to have it for lunch.

Apparently in Italy the only way to have tortellini is in a soup broth, not covered in sauce like we in America may be accused to, in Italy it is known as toretellini in brodo and it is simply fantastic, the toretellini were filled with proscuitto and were amazing!

After lunch Magda and I along with her friend headed to Monza, a cute downtown area with many specialty boutiques, ideal for window shopping and browsing, but definitely too expensive for buying.

A few hours later we headed home preparation for dinner, tonight we were having fonduta (similar to the concept of fondue but rather than cheese we would be using different types of sauces such as mustard, ketchup, cocktail sauce), in the center was a pot of broth, and on the table was bread, potatoes, and meat, first placed the meat on the skewer and next dipped it in the broth to cook, then once cooked we dipped in a sauce.

That night for dinner we were also joined by Magda’s brother, Luca, who has recently moved back to Italy from London, where he had been living for the past six years. Now he will be soon off to America for no doubt another adventure! It was great to meet Madga’s brother especially because she often talks so much about him, I was pleased to finally get the opportunity to meet him myself and discover how nice he truly is!

After dinner we watch la vita e` bella, a popular italian movie (even In America), luckily I have seen this movie several times with American subtitles so I was able to  understand everything perfectly even without the subtitles and with the fast speaking italian actors.

Than at last it was Sunday and suddenly the weekend was over. unfortunately due to a crummy weekend filled with bad weather (how appropriate that I would have chosen this weekend to come to Como) we were unable to walk in the downtown area of Como, but being the last day we decided to chance it. Of course once we were more than a mile away from the home, mother nature decided that it was  the right moment to downpour on us and to create bone chilling winds. We stopped at a Bakery where I purchased Nuvola, translated as cloud, this is a delicious, light sweet bread which I knew Emery and Sarah loved.

The bakery which in addition to selling aromatic treats also sold pieces of pizza, different types of focaccia breads and fresh pastas. Magda insisted that we buy fresh gnocchi for lunch and of course I agreed.

An hour later we managed to make it back to Aldo’s warm dry home, right away Magda started lunch.

Gnocchi in a simple fresh tomato sauce with basil, an absolutely perfect lunch!

Less than a half hour after lunch we were back on the road to Milan where I would than take the train to Florence. Despite my pleads to stay in the warm car Magda decided to accompany me to the train. After my terrible experience coming she probably wanted to make sure I didn’t have a similar experience when it came to leaving.

We walked in the surprisingly freezing train station and immediately went to grab a cup of tea to warm our bodies. After finishing my tea I knew a nap wasn’t far off and I actually was looking forward to my four-hour train ride (of course I also set an alarm on my phone so I wouldn’t sleep too much and miss my stop). Magda looked at the board and told me my train was departing from gap 13, she even insisted on walking me there. Even so though with her accompanying me I still managed to walk to gate 12, thank god Magda was there to stop me and point out my mistake, otherwise I would not doubt be in for another adventure and I’d possibly be writing this blog from Germany.

At last though I managed to find my seat and get on the correct train. Just then a boy about my age asked me a question in italian regarding the final detestation of this train and a particular stop that the train made. I replied to him that I simply didn’t know. He gave me a peculiar look and asked me how I didn’t know. I wanted to inform him that I had simply lost my mind and in fact had just tried a minute ago to get on the wrong train despite the fact that I was told the right train was leaving from gate 13. With Magda with me I had simply for the first time ever in my life allowed someone else to lead me through and I simply stood back and followed, doing just as she had instructed. Of course this is what I wanted to say but of course I was unsure and a bit too tired to experiment in Italian so I simply apologized and shrugged.

Maybe I looked very put together or in charge because for someone reason several people happened to ask me questions on the way home, of course I knew nothing regarding this train (I was simply concentrating on getting off at the right stop myself). I smiled and tried to give the simplest answers I could, hoping that I would neither confuse them by giving them the wrong instructions but also that I wouldn’t be too detailed and then they would feel obliged to ask someone else and get the actually correct answer. However, despite my plan to be as vague as possible this didn’t stop them from continuing to talk to me, never in my life have I had to pay so close attention, I felt like I was playing a game and my life was on the line.

Finally I arrived at the correct station In Florence, Roberta soon arrived a few minutes later in her warm car and took me to my house, Never in my life have I been so happy to go home and never in my life while traveling have I ever been so unsure as to whether or not I would make it home.

So all in all I had a great weekend spent with family in Como, it was relaxing, peaceful, and just what I needed but I have my doubts about returning, especially after my past travel experience. Sorry Aldo and Magda looks like next time you’ll have to come to me!


2 Responses to “Because Surley Nothing Is Easy When It Involves Me”

  1. Franco October 29, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Wow. Your experiences are becoming more interesting each time. The gnocchi look great and now my mouth is watering


  1. We’ve Got Nothing But Time « La Cucina Di Kait - November 4, 2012

    […] planning and booking a trip (ALONE) while here in Italy (unless you count Como and if you read my last post you know what a disaster that was)! In addition to my inexperience and my inability to consult with […]

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