Excerpts from Europe: “The 20-Minute Late-Train Mishap” in Italy

Train strikes can occur in Italy. One happened when I was there, but fortunately, it didn’t mess up my travel plans too much. I just decided to change my schedule to accommodate the strike.

Another time, however, a mere 20-minute delay in one train caused me to miss my next train, and thus I literally had to spend the night in a tiny office of an Italian train station. Something that most tourists probably don’t get to do, and most likely, aren’t really allowed to do.

Here are my journal entries as I stayed up one night in the tiny train office…

Tuesday July 27, 2004 – 11:00pm:
I’m sitting here in a Trenitalia office in Falconara at 11pm. I missed my train connection because my previous train was 20 minutes late. Only 20 minutes, but that was all it took!

I was originally coming from Padova, had a connecting train in Bologna, and then I was supposed to have another connecting train here in Falconara. From here, I am supposed to be on my way to Fabriano, and my ultimate destination, Genga.

Italian Train
An Italian Train

The mishap began in Bologna, where the train left 15 minutes late. I was expecting that the train would make up time somehow, but alas it lost five more minutes while en route. I read a bit on the train, looked out the window, and saw a couple of gorgeous sunflower fields, still hoping that somehow I would make my connection in Falconara.

But the train did arrive 20 minutes late, and I knew that I had missed my next train. I looked at the train schedules on the wall, and it looked like the next train to Fabriano would not be till 3:46am! Was I reading that right? What would I do? At first, I really did not know what to do. It was after 10pm. This was the first time that something like this happened to me.

I actually stood around for a while thinking, or not thinking, or trying to think. I guess I was a bit shaken up, but not too bad. I felt like it was too dark and too late for me to wander around trying to find a hostel or some place to stay. I suppose I could just stay right where I was in the train station for several hours, but it was a bit cool outside, and I would have preferred to stay warm.

I finally asked a train station attendant about the train schedules to confirm what I saw on the wall. He agreed that my next train to Fabriano would not be till 3:46am.

Italian Train Tickets
Italian Train Tickets

After a bit of pondering again, I noticed that there was a train station office, thinking that would be a nice option to stay in. I actually got up the nerve to ask the attendant if I could please wait in the office. He spoke English well enough that I could explain to him my dilemma and he understood…and so here I am!

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – 12:45am:
It is now12:45am on Wednesday, and I am still in the Falconara train station office waiting for my train, in three more hours and one minute. I feel like I’m in a zone of some sort. I haven’t slept yet, and I don’t feel like sleeping, but I’m not quite sure that I am actually here, writing in my journal to pass the time. Seems very strange. I mean, I know I’m here, but I guess when you don’t sleep much, and feel a bit out of sorts, then it feels surreal.

The gentleman who allowed me to stay in the train station office went home a while ago, so two other kind gentlemen who work in this office are keeping me company. Or am I keeping them company? They are working, as I am writing in my journal, catching up on a few days’ events. These two men even set up a little bed for me to sleep on.

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – 1:40am:
The two gentlemen have been very nice. In between my journal writing, with their little English, and my little Italian, we actually have communicated some. We have shared about each others jobs; they have been interested in my journal writing; I told them I took an Italian language class before I began my Europe travels; we talked a bit about the U.S. and a little about politics; and I told them of some the places I’ve been during my travels thus far in Europe. They asked if I had any children, etc.

important italian train sign
An Important Italian Train Sign

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – 3:26am:
In 20 minutes my train from Falconara will take me to Fabriano. I did finally lie down on the bed that the gentlemen made for me in their office and slept for just over an hour. Better than nothing. The bed was really a cushioned board that they had hidden behind some cabinets, which they put across the seats of two chairs. There was some cushioned thing for a pillow. And they gave me some paper towels to put on top of this pillow for protection. Pretty funny actually. But thoughtful. They must sleep here when it gets late for them. So can you say that you slept in a Trenitalia office? I can.

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – 4:45am:
Ok – It is now 4:45am, I made it to Fabriano, and in 20 minutes the next train will take me to Genga.

Italian Train
Another Italian Train

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – Later That Evening:
I got to Genga at about 5:30 this morning. I took a really nice crisp, brisk walk from the train station to Kelly’s house, with the sun starting to brighten the day, and the birds chirping. It was a good way to start the morning. Well, continue my morning, really.

But being awake didn’t last long. Shortly after I arrived at Kelly’s, I fell asleep. I slept till about 9:30am.

I am grateful for the gentlemen in the Falconara train station. Their hospitality made my 20-minute late-train mishap not so bad at all!

Sweet Travels!

Excerpts from Europe: “Monday in Montepulciano, Italy”

Don’t you just love the sound of that word? Mon..teh…pul…chee…ahh…no… How it rolls off the tongue. It sounds so, well…Italian.

A wonderful Tuscan Medieval and Renaissance Italian hill town, Montepulciano is set on top of a narrow ridge of volcanic rock, much like Civita di Bagnoregio. With steep, car-free, walkable and winding streets made to discover its art and architecture, the town is a major producer of some great Italian food. Pork, cheese, thick pasta, lentils, and honey.

Montepulciano windows

It is also world-famous for the region’s finest wines, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a red wine made from the vineyards surrounding the town. Not to be confused with another popular wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, made from a different grape from a region in east-central Italy.

I even had some tasty gelato here!

Monday, June 21, 2004:
I visited another Tuscan hill town today on a day trip from Siena. I took a 10:50am bus which took one and a half hours of winding through the scenic green and brown Tuscan countryside to get to Montepulciano.

Montepulciano windows

We arrived at the main bus station, and then I took a smaller bus to the top of the town, to the Piazza Grande. The town is basically built on a slanted hill, so most people take the bus to the top, and walk back down. (I’m not sure why I didn’t walk up. I really could have.) After the small bus dropped me off, I spent about five hours in Montepulciano.

The first thing I did was go into a church, as I like to do whenever I visit a new town, the quaint and amazing Cathedral di Santa Maria Assunta.

Montepulciano windows

My main goal of the day was to wander as many streets of Montepulciano as I could. But before doing that, I wanted to see a church that was down hill, out of the main area of Montepulciano. Tempio di San Biagio. The outside of this church was pretty unique, with a blue dome and a bell tower. I haven’t seen many blue domes around Italy. The inside was as beautiful as any other church, but differently shaped than others, kind of square-shaped, with a lot of white walls and ceilings.

Montepulciano windows

I walked back up hill (guess I got to walk up hill after all) to explore the “back streets” of Montepulciano, to get away from the crowds, and to see how the locals live. It was during the middle of the day when people are at home for lunch, so I heard many in their homes talking in Italian, cooking (ahh, the aromas) and eating. (Too bad I couldn’t join them.) It was a very pleasant local experience.

I took photos starting here, and throughout the day, on the “windows and doors of Montepulciano.”

I then ventured through the touristy streets. I got a salami sandwich for lunch, and ate it on the steps of a church. Then ate a gelato on the same steps. After, I went into a wine store next door and had a sample of Montepulciano wine. The Italian cuisine! This town is known for their wine.

Montepulciano windows

After eating, I entered another church, Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, which had a great sculpture outside above the door of Mother and Baby and two Saints. Inside it was white and cream colored, with organ pipes as part of the altar.

I continued to meander the streets. I sampled some more wine, and ate bread with some kind of yummy olive oil and sun-dried tomato thing on it. I still had time to explore till the 5:45 bus, so I went into another church, twice. The second time, I just sat for a while. I waited till the bells chimed at 4pm. Nice sound. This church, Chiesa di Sant’Agnese, had a great marble statue in the main altar illuminated by the sun that was shining on it through a window. A stained glass window was also lit by the sun, making a colorful reflection appear on the floor. And a dark painting was also brightened by the sun. It all felt so very “angelic.”

Montepulciano windows

I wandered through a park, some more streets, and into a shop or two till about 5:20. I returned to the bus station, and took the bus back to Siena, arriving about 7:20pm. I found an internet cafe so I could check my bank balance (it’s all good!), and respond to a few emails.

And to check train schedules to Orvieto for tomorrow. So Italian!

Sweet Travels!

Some information on Montepulciano from Wikipedia.

Excerpts from Europe: “Gelato in Italy!”

Wow. I’m surprised that I didn’t gain weight while traveling in Italy during my Europe trip back in 2004. Because I scanned my journal and found around 30 entries where I talked about all the delicious gelato I ate!! It must have been all the walking, biking and hiking that kept me in shape.

Here are some of those tasty gelato journal entries. Let me tell you though, that each gelato was definitely worth every bite…

May 25 – Ancona – I had my first authentic Italian gelato at the train station! The signs were all in Italian of course, but I figured out the choices between cup or cone, two or three scoops, and then it came topped with cream. I got two yummy scoops, “cioccolato,” and nutella (a tasty chocolate and hazelnut combo)!

May 27 – Camponocecchio – A gelato dessert after a pizza dinner to top off a fabulous Italian experience. “Torta de Gelato” (ice cream cake) with fragola (strawberry) and decorated with sugar. Molto delizioso!!

May 28 – Vicenza – I had dinner in a self-service restaurant, which is a great way to have a good cheap meal. After dinner, I had to get a gelato. Actually this was my second gelato of the day. The first was this morning at a little café, where I also got a cappuccino. A cappuccino and a gelato – what a way to start the day.

May 30 – Venice – After a couple hours of wandering, and eating – I had a Panini, and my “daily” gelato, “mandarino” (Mandarin orange) flavored – I found St. Mark’s Square. I headed straight for the Bell Tower – I wanted to get to the top for the views.

June 2 – Trieste – Since this was my last day in Italy for a week, I had to go find a gelateria. The only place I could find one was at the train station. How convenient!

Eating a Gelato in Italy
(see…i’m eating a gelato…)

June 12 – Gubbio – I had lunch of a pizza with spinach, arugula, and eggplant. Then I walked around this small town for a while and looked in their tiny shops. They have a lot of ceramic stuff and really interesting painted glass, several with sunflowers on them. Then I got banana and chocolate flavored gelato.

June 21 – Montelpuciano – I wandered through the touristy streets. I got a salami sandwich for lunch, and ate it on the steps of a church. Then I ate a gelato on the same steps. After, I went to the wine store next door and had a sample of Montelpuciano wine. The Italian cuisine!

June 26 – Orvieto – After visiting the cathedral, I wanted gelato, because I saw a gelateria on my way to the cathedral that looked really good. And it was absolutely the best gelato that I’ve had thus far in Italy! (And I’ve had a lot of gelato.) I got a tiramisu flavor, and a chocolate-rum flavor that was simply the best. It tasted like the chocolate rum balls that my Grandma used to make. Yummmmmy!

Later in the day, I just had to go back and have a second gelato at the same place. I ordered a refreshing peach flavor, and of course, got the same chocolate-rum flavor. Wow!

June 27 – Orvieto – I got up this morning to get to my next destination, and on my way to the train station, I got some fruit for breakfast, a pen, because my other one ran out of ink, and a postcard to mail back home. Believe it or not though, no gelato this morning.

June 28 – Corniglia, Cinque Terre – I walked up the main street of Corniglia, got a gelato, and continued on until the street’s end overlooking the water. It was so quiet around. I felt noisy when I started crunching on the cone of the gelato.

Later – Then I made a few phone calls, and checked email. I got another gelato, and am eating the gelato in bed as I write in my journal. “Stracciatella” – chocolate chip!

June 29 – Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre – I took a train back to Riomaggiore, and got a…drum roll please…gelato!

June 30 – Corniglia – I had a quick lunch and a gelato. Then by about 2 pm, I started on a great hike. It was trail #7a, which for a while was pretty steep. It went up away from Corniglia into the hillside. With all the trees and elevation gain it felt like a “mountain hike.”

July 2 – Portofino – I had to get money, and then I was hungry, so I bought a gelato. My last gelato for this Italy trip. I will be back to Italy in a few weeks though. I got two scoops, “cocomero” (watermelon), and “pompelmo rosa” (pink grapefruit) – both full of terrific flavor.

July 20 – Ancona – I got to the train station, and took a train which got me to Genga about an hour later. But not before having a gelato at the train station. Ahhh, to be back in Italy. I might have to re-learn the little Italian I know, but eating a gelato again is easy.

July 22 – near Camponocecchio – After looking at fields of sunflowers, I intended to go grocery shopping, but I went clothes shopping instead. I bought three items. Then I had a gelato. Clothes and gelato in the same day!

July 26 – Venice – I’m back in one of my favorite Italian towns. Right away, I began to wander the streets of Venice, but not before having a “pistacchio” flavored gelato first.


July 30 – near Camponocecchio – We went to a gelateria to get some freshly home-made gelato. My friend knew the man working there, who turned out to be very generous with the gelato we had. I had a cone, and he put four, yes four, flavors on it. Usually you only get two. Chocolate, peach/orange (that’s one flavor), melon, and coffee. And then he gave us samples of two other flavors to taste that he just made.

July 31 – Arcevia – After a while, a friend asked if we wanted to go get a gelato. Of course – never refuse a gelato, I say. We walked up a narrow street of the town, to the main square. There happened to be live music playing there. I had chocolate, coffee and nutella flavored gelato. Plus the gelato I had earlier today. Yikes! Maybe I need to cut back on the sweets a bit. Or not.

August 6 – Urbino – When I left the Oratorio, it was raining pretty hard. I stood under some shelter for a bit, and soon the rain turned into just a sprinkle. I walked up the street to a gelateria. They had the nutella flavored gelato, which seems to be one of my favorites. I sat on the steps of a piazza in Urbino, ate my gelato, and watched the rain.

August 14 – Verona – After the amphitheater, I wandered around a bit, and ended up on a pedestrian-only street, where they had lots of stores. I had to try on some clothes, but nothing was looking right. I did get however, a gelato, with three flavors – bacio (a rich chocolate hazelnut combo), pompelmo rosa (pink grapefruit (again)), and malaga (rum raisin).

August 20 – Vicenza – I biked to downtown Vicenza this morning. I thought that there would be an outdoor market today, but there wasn’t. I ended up going clothes shopping instead. And I got a gelato – “arancia” (orange) and “cioccolato” flavors. The orange was very refreshing. I spent a couple of hours downtown.

Hmmmm. Guess I better go get some gelato now that I’m done with this blog!

Sweet (literally) Travels!

Excerpts from Europe: “The Flowers of Civita di Bagnoregio”

I absolutely loved all of the scenic towns in Italy during my five-month European travels. But one struck me as not only scenic, but also cute. Yes, cute! A very small town. It can’t be more that two square miles in size, and it has a population of only about 15 year round. (Although during the busy summer months, it can increase to around 100.)

Civita di Bagnoregio black and white photo

At 1,440 feet above sea level, perched on a hilltop, the town sits on volcanic plateau overlooking a river valley. And while it is in danger of the edges eroding away, the several hundred year-old architecture, the quaint narrow streets, and the constant decorative flowers, make this town really cute.

To get to Civita di Bagnoregio, one needs to get to the town of Bagnoregio first…

Saturday, June 26, 2004

My destination for today was a really tiny town, one that I read about before I left for Europe, and knew that I had to go experience. I picked up some fruit and pastries on my way to the bus stop this morning, got my bus tickets, ate my breakfast, and was on the bus by 9:10am.

Bagnoregio Fruit Stand

It was about an hour bus ride from Orvieto to Bagnoregio, the town that leads to my destination. More of that beautiful Italian countryside was seen from window of the bus. One photographic sight during this ride was rows of green grapevines each ending with a splash of red roses. And, I saw a field of bright yellow sunflowers, too!

Civita di Bagnoregio Flowers 1

After getting off the bus in Bagnoregio, I went into the first church I wandered by, as I seem to have been doing a lot during my travels thus far. A small simple church. I sat and contemplated for a few moments, as I seem to always to when I go inside a church.

And then I set out for my destination. I walked down a long street in Bagnoregio that leads to a bridge, which then connects with Civita di Bagnoregio. A pedestrian only bridge. And no cars in Civita.

Civita di Bagnoregio Flowers 2

I’m sure that one could just walk the main street of Civita from one end of town to the other end in only five minutes. But I decided to wander all the narrow side streets instead first, and then took the main street on my way back. Each side street ended technically pretty quickly, but I took my time going down each one, noticing the traditional brown-colored Italian buildings as I meandered, and finally seeing the breathtaking views beyond the edge of Civita at the end of most of the side streets.

Other side streets ended up in someone’s garden.

Civita di Bagnoregio Flowers 3

As I admired the gardens, I also noticed the flowers used as decorations on the buildings, and began to take a series of pictures of the flowers of Civita di Bagnoregio. I stopped to smell some of the flowers as well.

I also went into a church, some shops, and even found a path below the town to hike on so that I could look up at Civita from below the edge.

Civita di Bagnoregio Flowers 4

It turned out that the five minutes that it could take to walk the entire town of Civita turned out to be several hours and five minutes for me.

Sweet Travels!

Excerpts from Europe: “Last Night’s Authentic Italian Pizza Dinner”

Background: The Ancient Greeks experienced “pizza” when they covered their flat bread with oils, herbs and cheese. And the Romans flavored their “pizza” with cheese, honey and bay leaves.

But authentic pizza originated in Naples, Italy. The Neapolitan pizza, to be truly genuine, is to not only be made with fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh tomato, with hand-made dough, but is also to be cooked in a wood-fired oven.

When I was staying with some friends in Camponocecchio, Italy, Kelly actually owned a real wood-fired oven. So for dinner one night, we made pizza…

Thursday, May 27, 2004:

Ok, so dinner last night – what a fabulous Italian experience!! We had pizza. Real Italian pizza. Kelly hand-made the dough, cut fresh veggies and meats, and cooked it in her very own oven in her back yard. Wow. Now that is authentic!

the oven in the back yard

It was completely delizioso! And, I even got to make one myself!! It felt like I was really experiencing Italy. And, I’ve only been here for a few days.

me, baking a pizza

Specifically, to make the pizza, you take a baseball size piece of the dough, cover it with flour, and roll it into shape. Then you put your choice of toppings on. We had many choices, in addition to the traditional fresh cheese and tomato.

the kitchen

The pizza is then placed in the wood-fired oven with a long-handled “Pala Di Pizza” that slides the pizza in and out of the oven. A smaller version of the Pala, aka a “Paddle,” is used to turn the pizza while it is cooking in the oven.

the oven and the palas

Then you take out the pizza with larger Pala, place it on a wooden board to cool, slice and eat!! Yum!!

ready to eat!

To top off the fabulous Italian experience, we had a great dessert. Torta de Gelato – ice cream cake – with Fragola – strawberry – and decorated with sugar – filo-threads of sugar, to be exact. Molto delizioso!!

Sweet (and delicious) Travels!

History of Pizza complements of Wikipedia

How to make a Real Neapolitan Pizza….http://www.suite101.com/content/how-to-make-a-neapolitan-pizza-a120240