Friday, November 22, 2013

My Mother's Gift- A Month in Italy- Part 1

Somewhere  between  2004 and 2012, I lost my way.  No longer confident , not even sure who I was, questioning my faith, I wobbled on shaky legs through each day.  My mother's gift to me, upon her death, was a trip to Italy.  Planned by me, financed by the cash she had squirreled away in an envelope hidden in her dresser drawer.  Italy was the beginning of my journey back to confidence and much more.

Solo  - I've still got it!

I flew all on my own, a big girl of 52, I navigated the airports and plane changes and foreign languages.  Up until Italy, everything was orderly and logical.  Disembarking at Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo, I hit a wall of people; a chaotic crowd of Italians,shouting, gesturing, holding signs ---Italy! 

It was wonderful!

Marco Polo is quite a small airport for such a big destination.  After numerous questions posed to various Italians, all of which gave me different answers, I finally found my shuttle bus for my hotel.  

Awwww... a shower and bed.  

Dinner was difficult as Italian's don't eat until 7 or 8 pm.  It was 6 pm and I was starving.  I needed to eat and then crash.

The hotel bartender let me order a salad even though the restaurant was officially closed. I also ordered a glass of "vino rose", apologizing for my Italian, or lack of....

I learned by the expression on her face that trying was better than not.

A handsome gentlemen saluted me with his glass of wine and tried to converse with me.  

"No Italiano"  I said.
"Spanish?"  he asked.
"No, nur ein bissen Deutsche." I answered.
"Ugh! Deutsche!  No Deutsche!" he replied.

And so he pantomimed with Italian words mixed in and I laughed at the hilarity of it all. From his charades I discovered he drove for the airport and had stopped in for his glass of wine before heading home.  He followed me to my outside table and tried to chat some more.  I giggled and shrugged my shoulders. 
Finally, he said, "Probelmo, Problemo" with more Italian, then "Ciao!" and walked away.

"Ciao" handsome Italian man!

And I slept well.

In the morning, I rode the shuttle back to the airport to catch the Cortina Express bus for Cortina d'Ampezzo, a small, quaint, expensive ski village in the Dolomite Mountains. 

I waited FOUR HOURS for that bus! 
Ticket in hand, purchased online at home, the 11:30 bus never showed.  

I watched the crowds of travelers and buses not wasting a moment.  The smell of diesel, bodies and Venice in the air.  It was entertaining. Turns out not even the Italians understand their own bus systems. 
Many of them spoke to me asking for help!

An African man asked me for money. Seems he needed to buy a bus ticket to go visit his sick mother.
"Excuse me Madam" he said as he approached , "I need help."
"Well, I need help too!" I responded.  
He was speechless for a moment.

I didn't give him any money but about three hours later just as his bus arrived, I watched as another African man gave him the money he needed.  It was obvious they knew each other.  They both purchased their tickets and boarded their bus.  
Hmmm, a planned scam, perhaps?

Finally, I overheard two women speaking in English.  They were looking for the Cortina Express as well!  Sisters, one living in Australia and one in Ireland traveling with husbands and daughters, they too were headed for holiday.  
I was so happy to hear, see and share with them the wonders of the Italian bus system.

The Cortina Express left with us all aboard around 2:30 pm traveling across the flat green valley, but little by little it began to climb and when the first mountain was spotted jutting up ruggedly from the earth, excitement filled the bus.

The Dolomite Mountains

In two hours we arrived at the bus station in Cortina d'Ampezzo. I exited the bus with my written directions for my hotel in hand.  Slowly I walked with my backpack on my back,  messenger bag slung across my shoulder, rolling suitcase clunk, clunk, clunking down the cobblestone street.

Hotel Victoria 

My room was on the second floor, second balcony in from the right. 
Roberta, the concierge,
  was a wonderful, friendly young woman who grew up in Cortina, but had lived in California while working for Patagonia.  

After checking in, I explored the cobblestone streets stopping at the Coopertiva to buy a few groceries. 

That evening, as the sun was setting, I ate my dinner peace... on my balcony.

My view ...

Once again, I slept well.  

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