I don’t have much family in Italy so it was really nice to meet up with my cousin’s cousin when we landed in Milan. Our arrival was quick, border control barely looking at either of our passports as we entered the country. We were through so fast that we had a bit of time to spare before Luca arrived. This of course meant that Glen could order some food-related thing in Italy for the first time. He went for caffe latte.
The setup at the bar was such that you order and pay first, get your receipt then stand at the bar and request your coffee. I managed to order on Glen’s behalf and then got flustered when the Paypass on the credit card didn’t work. The woman behind the counter was no-nonsense and efficient but friendly. It was all sorted. I then left Glen to it.
Luca arrived at about 8:30. I’m glad I recognised him as he walked past. We then headed out to his car where his wife, Sabrina, and his brother, Daniele, were waiting with the car. Hugs and kisses and introductions all round, then we piled into the car and headed to the train station to buy our tickets to Riomaggiore for later in the morning.
We then drove through the streets of Busto Arsizio to find a parking space. I had a sudden flash of remembrance of a few streets and shops from when I was visiting my uncle here more than ten years ago. I was pleased that now it was summer.
We went for breakfast at a place called Campi, a bar/patisserie with so many enticing pastries on display. We took a table upstairs, ordered drinks and food and then chatted as best we could. Luca’s English is way better than my Italian, but we managed to make ourselves understood enough that it was an enjoyable morning. It also helped me get my tongue and ear a bit more used to Italian again. It’s amazing, however, how little accuracy you need to communicate. There are enough commonalities between Italian and English, as well as the added benefit of body and sign language to get things across.
The four of them had cappuccinos while I had a hot chocolate, the good Italian kind that’s basically melted chocolate in a glass. To add to the sugar load we had profiterole type pastries – begni? – and brioche. The diet is on hold, especially considering Luca and Sabrina were telling us the specialties to have in some of the places we’re going. Focaccia and fish in Cinqueterre, tortellini in Bologna, prosciutto crudo, crostini and chianti in Siena. I feel my waist expand just thinking about it.
After breakfast, we bought water in the supermarket then walked to the train station. We said our goodbyes, took photos and then waited for the train to Milano Centrale. Getting to Riomaggioe in Cinqueterre was a longer journey than expected. About half an hour to Milano Centrale, two hours to Genova Brignole and one and a half hours to Riomaggiore. After 20 hours to get to Italy, another four to five on the train isn’t much but is at the same time.
Milano Centrale to Riomaggiore
At Milano Centrale we bought some food, a slice of pizza for me and a big piece of lasagne for Glen. Getting the knack of ordering food now. The train to Genova Brignole was packed. The guy next to me was a smoker, not unsurprising just unpleasant. Soon after departure I discovered something else unpleasant. I’d left the iPad on the flight to Abu Dhabi.
It wasn’t in any of our bags and the last time I remember touching it was on the flight when I put my boarding pass into it. At least this time it wasn’t my passport, though I don’t hold out much hope of getting the iPad back. (After getting to Riomaggiore, I lodged a claim with the airline and we’ll see if I hear anything back, otherwise I’ll check with lost and found on the return.) Glen is so enjoying the fact that it was me who lost it (considering he’s the one who forgot the gym gloves on Friday).
The trains don’t run on time (even Mussolini wasn’t capable of doing that) and after two hours on the train, I figured we’d miss our connection to Riomaggiore, especially as we had to find out which platform the train left from when we pulled up. If the trains had been running on time, we had eight minutes. That vanished. However, we found the platform we needed, ran there (well, I hobbled as I still can’t run) and low and behold the train we were catching was delayed and we were able to get on no trouble. Hooray!
This journey took us along the coast and we caught glimpses of ocean on one side and forest-covered mountains on the other. As we got closer to Cinqueterre the platforms became busier and the train started to fill up. The quieter villages north might be a better idea next time as Cinqueterre is just heaving with people.
We eventually stopped at Riomaggiore and got off with a horde of other people. This is no quiet seaside destination but a bustling tourist hub. After getting off the train we followed the directions given to us for our accommodation. We waited in the main square, which is more like a main street, until Giovanni came to let us into the apartment which overlooks the main street.
It’s a nice apartment, clean, doesn’t smell of smoke and is very central. It’s comfortable and a lot nicer than a lot of the places I had been looking at online. After dumping our stuff, we went for a quick look at the sea, bought a cone of fried seafood, some groceries and then committed the cardinal sin of travelling. We went to bed at 5:30pm.
We couldn’t help it. We made some vague and feeble attempt at planning to get up in a few hours, knowing this was unlikely as we fell asleep. The noise from the streets filtered through at some points during the night. There are a bunch of restaurants below us, one of which sounds like it has a live band. It was a Saturday after all.
We slept until 3am, took a sleeping pill and slept some more until 7. Hopefully that will stand us in good stead for all the walking we’ve got to do over the next few days.