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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wherefore Art Thou, Verona?

It seemed like a simple enough idea: Take the fast train along the toes of the Alps from Milan to Verona while my parents are off having lunch with old friends. It's only a little over an hour, and the little town's a sweet Renaissance fairyland with a Roman amphitheater and settings at which tourists like to imagine the events of "Romeo and Juliet" actually happened.

But after oversleeping due to an over large and over late dinner, we arrived at Milan's looming Central Station with about twenty minutes to catch the Freccia Bianca, the "White Arrow" fast train (not the "Really Fast" train, but the "Fairly Fast" one.) We skittered across the marble floors to the bank of ticket machines and bravely thrust in the credit card. Lights flashed, then went blank. A synthetic female voice, generically Mediterranean like Sophia Loren as HAL from "2001," purred "Please-a remove-a your card-a." Steve repeated this operation enough times that I began to suspect he was rather enjoying "Sophia's" dulcet tones, but no tickets were forthcoming. I finally had the bright idea to use cash. Sophia kindly informed us that all seats on the Fairly Fast train were now sold out.

We went for the next train, which was not fast at all.

Squeezing ourselves into window seats, we were quickly joined by two teenaged Italian girls. As the train slid out of the station, the talking started. It was not to let up for a moment of the journey.

Despite many visits to the Italy, the lack of opportunities to practice Italian in Seattle means I release whatever tenuous grasp I have on the language the minute the doors shut on the plane for the flight home.

So for two hours Steve and I were mere boulders lodged in the middle of a rushing whitewater of teenaged Italian babble.

The astute reader will have noticed I wrote "two hours" rather than "one." The Not Fast at All train stopped.

A lot.


Outer Milan.

Way Outer Milan, With Slightly Less Grafitti and Fig Trees Sprouting in Cracks in the Platform.

Unknown Industrial Town With Cement Factory.

Unknown Industrial Town With Scrap Metal Recycling Plant.


Lake Garda.

Subdivision on the Other Side of Lake Garda.

Through it all the torrent of words kept coming. If one girl stopped to draw breath or take a swig from her bottle of aqua minerale the other leapt in with a handoff worthy of an Olympic relay team. Sometimes they talked on their telefoninos, sometimes to the boys sitting in the seats across the aisle. But never did it end.

At last the train arrived in Verona. We bolted for the ticket machines and purchased evening seats on the Fairly Fast Train back to Milan.

With a truncated day in Verona I can't say we really saw much of the town. We ate pizza and drank German beer near a corner of the Roman arena, but didn't have time to cross the stone bridge over the Adige river to see the perfectly preserved Roman amphitheater where plays are still performed.

We joined the river of tourists flowing past the luxury clothing and antique shops, breaking off into little tributaries down side streets. We saw a wedding outside the cathedral.

I took the usual pictures of doors and shop windows.

Then we trudged back to the station.

As the Fairly Fast Train skimmed through the fields and factories and the sky turned from pink to violet to black, I reflected that Shakespeare, who never visited Italy, certainly got the "never running smooth" part right.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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