Thursday, January 30, 2014

We rest before heading off for adventure

Thursday, January 30
We left rainy Washington, which actually hasn’t had much rain this winter, to come to the warmth of Italy. However, it has rained pretty much every minute of this day in San Salvatore, and we only ventured outside to borrow Roberta’s car to go to the grocery store and buy a sewing machine for Lucy's quilting projects. The rain is not a problem, though, as we had planned to stay inside and rest today anyway.

Tomorrow we leave on an eleven-day cruise to various cities, which is atypical of our visits to Italy. We usually prefer the slower pace of staying in one place and taking only short forays into smaller cities, but we got a superb deal from Costa Cruises and decided to mix up our usual routine. Thus we will have limited Internet access, and I won’t be posting any blog entries until sometime after February 12. Then we will be at the Casolare dei Fiori until late April, and we hope to continue our goals of learning Italian, living like Italians and making connections with family and the community. Ci vediamo presto!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No doubt that we are back to the bel paese and Italian eccentricities

Wednesday, January 29
What better way to be reminded that one is back in beloved Italia than to be greeted by that most Italian of events . . . a sciopero? Actually, we hadn’t even made it to the country; we had just arrived on an U.S. Airways flight to Munich around 8 a.m. and went to the Lufthansa desk to check in for the final leg of our journey, an hour and a half flight to Pisa.

“I’m sorry. Your flight has been canceled,” said the friendly agent.

“What happened?” Lucy asked. “Were there mechanical difficulties?

“It’s not showing,” the agent answered, tapping on her computer keyboard. Then she consulted with another agent. “It seems there is a strike of the traffic controllers in Pisa.”

“Ah, a sciopero,” Lucy said. “Well, we are used to dealing with those.”

“It seems like it’s an Italian disease,” said the other agent, smiling.

Lo Sciopero is a strike or temporary work stoppage. It can be national or local and can affect only one sector or many. The most common strikes are local, usually lasting from a few hours to one day. For foreigners, the most inconvenient are those that effect travel, such as train or airline strikes.

The first agent looked into other flights to nearby airports. All the seats were taken on the flights to Firenze and there was nothing available to Bologna until the evening. If she worked quickly, she could get us on a flight to Genova at 9:30 a.m. We’d have to take a four-hour train trip to reach San Salvatore, but it would be better than waiting until the evening. She clacked furiously at her keyboard for fifteen minutes and produced two boarding passes. She also arranged for our luggage to be transferred.

We ran through the terminal. Luckily we didn’t have far to go and arrived in eight minutes. The agents at the gate had been holding the shuttle for us. How could they possibly get our checked luggage here, we wondered, but as we stepped off the shuttle, a baggage truck pulled up with our suitcases on board. At this moment, we were loving that characteristic German efficiency!

At Genova, we had to load up our 250 pounds of suitcases and take a bus to the train station. Then we took a rapid train to Massa and transferred to a regionale to Viareggio. A different regional train from Viareggio took us to Pescia, where we called Roberta from the Casolare dei Fiori, and she picked us up for a ten-minute ride to our room.

Unfortunately, the heat in our room wouldn’t start up, despite Roberta’s best efforts and a few phone calls. However, after we shivered under a pile of blankets for a half hour, a tecnico showed up and unblocked the main water pump for the heating system, and hot air flowed into our rooms. We showered, unpacked a bit and went to bed around 6 p.m., figuring that at least twelve hours of sleep may get us back close to our normal sleep cycle.