August 1, 2009
I loved the city of Innsbruck, Austria. It was surrounded by glorious Alpine mountains and forests! We were staying in an adorable, brightly colored, spacious and clean hostel just above a chocolate shop in the oldest area of town. The area meant beautiful aged architecture, quaint cafes, a walk to the river and the mountains, a nearby train station, and our pick of steins, cuckoo clocks, fancy pizza, and Christmas ornaments. We hiked the Alps, topped a mountain, and visited Cinderella's castle in southern Germany.
Despite our unbelievable affair with Austria, Italy was calling, and I had decided that the town of Lucca would make a quality first base. We were anxious to be out of a city. Innsbruck was the smallest city we'd visited so far, but it was time for something other than a city; say a town, a village, a pueblo if you will. I knew Lucca wasn't quite as small as I'd had in mind, having hoped to be dwelling in some old Italian lady's moth-filled attic, but I also knew that we'd be arriving fairly late at night, so a small town could be found tomorrow. We had a hostel/B&B booked in Lucca for Saturday night, tonight.
On the train, after the third sprinting train switch from Innsbruck, we consulted our printed timetable of today's trains from the Innsbruck station. Here, we had scribbled our mediocre internet directions to our place. To our surprise, the directions indicated that we should take the train from Lucca's station for 3 minutes to some unknown destination called Tassignano, with walking directions from there. "Alright," I thought, "I can figure this out;" an example of my ever present invincibility complex. There was nothing to worry about. How hard could it be for me to figure out how to find a train to a place I'd never heard of, from a place I'd barely heard of, in a country I'd never been to,in a language I didn't speak or understand? Easy.
We watched the digital time on the screen en route to Lucca, expecting to arrive at 21:21 exactly, so we would know when to disembark since it was too dark to see signage clearly. We stopped at 21:16:36, which seemed questionable if our intended stop was supposed to be in less than five minutes. So, like a growing number of similar occasions, we frantically searched for that royal blue rectangle on which every station's name was printed, all too often seeing names that were nerve-wrenchingly similar to the previous or next station name. My heart always races for a few seconds when I can't spot that sign and I know our arrival time is close.
There it was. The familiar blue rectangle stayed stationary, but we were already departing. s*** (shoot mom). The sign read Tassignano, hyphenated with some other long Italian name. The next stop was Lucca.
I said, "No worries. We can just get on the next train going the direction we came from and hop off at the next stop." We ran to the train that was to be going in the direction of Florence and hopped on with not a minute to spare. We've been doing a lot of train hopping. Twenty minutes later, the train had its first stop. I want to say it was a placed called Aliconte, but I can't fully remember. I remember that it was 17 minutes past Tassignano. "No worries. We'll just get back going towards Lucca and see it it stops," I replied to Katie's concerned and quizzical look. Invincibility complexes can lead to irrational conclusions, but I resorted that this was the option best suited to us at the moment.
We boarded a train towards Lucca at 22:07. We stopped in Tassignano. The walking directions simply read, "Go straight down the street to the T. Take a right. The hostel/B&B is a brick building across from a white building covered in Ivy." "Which street," Katie questioned. I gave my slightly irritated shrug thinking the hell if I know. I hadn't ever spent my holidays in Tassignano, Italy or anything. We crossed through the station, and luckily, there was only one street. It did not, however, look the least bit inviting. It was extremely dark an framed with shrubs and large trucks; creepy Italian attackers could have been lurking behind any of them. We proceeded towards a light that looked like the end of the street, our light at the end of the tunnel. We turned right. This street was darker.
We forged on apprehensively. This was not the place where we belonged. Two girls with massive neon backpacks did not fit in parading down this narrow darkened street somewhere in Tuscany. The street was narrow because there were shrubs and houses presenting themselves. The houses were all either made of brick or painted white and had ivy growing on them. We looked for the address number; 76. The numbers were going up, was that how it worked in Italy? 75! Yes! We must be close, but oh wait…72…70…what the hell?
Suddenly we noticed that there was an older Italian woman on the street with a baby stroller. She looked friendly enough for late night strolls with a baby. We approached her and pointed to our written address and shrugged (I've nearly perfected the point and shrug). She pointed to the building directly in front of us, not two feet away. We did not see a door; we saw closed shutters. We walked around to the side following the woman's gesture. We knocked on the door. Nothing. We tried to interpret the lady's finger jabbing motion. Did she want us to bang on the glass or what? She gave us a knowing, possibly slightly condescending smile, moved the door's shutter about an inch and revealed a doorbell. There was no signage or any indication that this was a place we could stay. We rang the doorbell anyway.
A young and beautiful woman came to the door after a few minutes had passed and stated in perfect English, "You girls are here! I've been waiting for you. I expected you earlier," We haphazardly explained ourselves, and we were shown our rooms. It is perfect, with bright orange walls and Jesus looking down on us from many frames (creepy sort of), a few strange noises (stomping, barking dogs, possibly a band formed a four old men) and free towels. It is a place to stay, and that much is enough for tonight. Hey, I wanted a small town experience.