My Italian Adventure
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CHAPTER 60 LOCATION: Manarola SUBJECT: On the Move to Manarola
 

I Left my Dress...in Manarola
A friendly feline greets my arrival at the hostel. An aside: this is the last time you will see this dress; after washing it in much too hot water in the Florence hostel machine, its buttons (which go all the way down the front) were quite unreliable in performing their duty to protect my modesty.

Future Opera Star
This extraordinary little girl was traveling with her mother on the near-empty milk run train. With her unbroken stream of song, she evinced a need to sing as vital as the need to breathe.

girl singing on the train 1:53

Returning 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 presumably nearby.

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 not welcome).

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.

View from the Hostel, Manarola

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