Planning the Trip – Central Italy

It’s been ages since I’ve left a proper blog post (probably because I don’t much like writing like this) but here’s the update. Semana Santa or the holy week is fast approaching and here in Spain, everyone takes of for somewhere nice. Usually somewhere outside of Spain because the local lore holds that the weather in Spain is always, always awful during this week.

Last year I went to Turkey and loved it. This year? It’s Italy and I’m looking forward to it. The only problem is planning this thing. Some say planning a trip is all the fun, others hate it.

Well, at this point the fun part is ancient history and I’ve reached the tipping point. Like a scene with Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, I’ve got maps, newspapers, books, pamphlets, guides, etc., all lying scattered on my desk, the floor, taped to the walls, and open suitcases, bags, duffels, clothes, knives, flashlights, a whistle (I worked at a summer camp), scissors, towels, sunglasses, enough Apple chargers and plugs to convince anyone I’m an electronics smuggler, locks, keys, shoes that don’t match, a sleeping bag, and other random artifacts. And this alarming heap of stuff isn’t all.

I’ve got about 25 windows open on my computer and I’m clicking back and forth like a frantic lab rat races in his wheel. Reading reviews, stories, and staring at google maps trying to piece it all together. The problems are varied and relatively benign: 1) I want to visit everywhere in Italy but only have 3 days 2) I don’t like planning 3) I really really don’t like planning.

Normally I would leave it to the travel gods, assuming things will work out (because they always do). I’d arrive at my landing point – Bologna – and then from there just wing it. Ask around, grab a map, and get on a bus to…anywhere. But the problem is my real plan is to meet up with a good friend closer to Ancona or Tolentino (somewhere on the eastern coast of Italy) so I’ve got to make it to Siena, eventually hopping a bus to Caccamo.

In the meantime I’ve got 3 days to explore Tuscany. Florence, the home of the Renaissance, a definite must. But after that, the maps and travel guides show 5,6,7…15 towns that looks intriguing, medieval, rustic, and wine-filled. So how am I to pick?

The biggest difficulty I’m finding is that purchasing tickets for a bus or train in Italy inspire absolutely zero confidence. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It feels at times that I might as well just send a quick email to all hackers and e-thieves: please take all my personal info and banking numbers, please enjoy! Cheerio!

The websites are confusing, minimalist, strikingly Italian – flashing lights, Green, White, and Red flags, moving images, pages which don’t load properly, don’t fit the screen, music that randomly appears and then disappears. While not quite as discomforting as say a Turkish website, these webpages just don’t seem legit.

But alas, what else am I to do?

Refusing to purchase even the most important of train tickets is tempting but there’s one image that is keeping me from this refreshing, go-with-the-flow mentality. I’m standing at an empty bus stop office as the scary ticket man with poor dental care shakes his head and then inexplicably smiles at me and waves a finger to and fro. He’s signaling that there are no buses leaving and I’m in essence, f***ed. The dusty dirt bus stop is now cold and desolate and the last remaining streetlight is flickering on and off. Several moths frantically attack the failing lamp, and then, just like my hopes of catching a bus, the light flickers and dies. The moths scatter, and I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere.

No, I think I’ll go ahead and try to buy this bus ticket online. And hope that my bank account is not completely siphoned come tomorrow to the utter excitement of several Italian bandits, feasting on delicacies and tipping generously, all using my hard earned teaching salary.

We’ll see.

#keeptraveling

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