Phantom trains in Italy

 

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The Verona-bound phantom train in question.

If you ever need to take the train from San Martino Buon Albergo to Verona, or really from any town to a city nearby, double check where you’ll be catching the train. Or maybe just take the bus.

 

We bought tickets to go from San Martino Buon Albergo to Milan and the day of our trip we sat at the train station waiting a train to Verona, our first point of transfer. We watched the name of our train creep up the arrivals board as it grew closer to departure time. We made friends with a few other tourists who were also waiting for the same train. But the train just never came. The train number passed up and off the board while we eyed the tracks and took turns running out to the parking lot because maybe, just maybe it was actually a bus? None ever came.

 

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Waiting.

 

Ten minutes after our supposed departure time, I ran back to a nearby café to see if they knew what was up. They confusedly pointed me back to the train station. “It hasn’t arrived,” I told them. They were baffled.

We gave up on the train and caught a bus to Verona, now half an hour late for our train to Milan. We had a train to catch the following day from Milan to Grenoble, France. And that would be an expensive ticket to buy again.

 

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On the bus to Verona. At least some transit is available, though we’re going to be late.

 

The bus dropped us off at the Verona train station, where we prepared ourselves to argue our case with a Trenitalia attendant. But the guy at the ticket kiosk took one look at our tickets, heard our story, and after punching some numbers into the computer, handed us new tickets. And the phantom train that never came? The attendant shrugged his shoulders and remarked that he didn’t know what happened either.

Verona

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Like many other Italian cities, Verona’s architecture is fantastic. The historic center sits in the middle of a peninsula, where ancient cathedrals, churches, and even a Roman coliseum sit side by side with old residences converted to shops, restaurants, and markets. It’s also a very popular tourist spot – close to Austria and Switzerland, it gets a large number of visitors from both countries and the rest of Europe, especially young school and college groups. In the most popular spots it can feel a bit crowded, but for the most part it’s

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The famed sight in this city is supposed to be Juliet’s Balcony. It might have some literary interest, but overall it wasn’t worth the stop. It can be very crowded, the building is not particularly interesting.

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On one of the walls, people leave tokens of affection. Bandaids seem to be the thing to put up. There’s a little shop that sells pink themed everything, and while we were there a couple went through a proposal up on the balcony as the crowd watched.

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The house of Romeo is also in Verona, and is much, much less popular.

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Nearby Romeo’s house is a real gem of architecture and sculpture – the Scaliger Tombs. Once a ruling family, now a mausoleum. The style is gothic and stands out with its pinnacles and spikes among the straight lines of the rest of the city.

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The arena in the south of the city is still used for holding events. On the rainy day we visited, it was closed except for a fairly pricy tour. For me the real beauty is from the outside, how the arches have held up over the centuries.

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We also got a peek into the repairs going on inside!

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All around the peninsula are bridges connecting it to the mainland. We crossed on the north east side, only to find a traveling piano player playing from the middle of the bridge.

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The restaurants and houses crowd the water’s edge on the old-city side of the bridge.

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Across the other side there’s more room to expand. A wide street runs along the river, bordering the many churches.

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The bridge itself is of lovely old Roman construction – unfortunately not original. The Ponte Pietra was destroyed during WWII and later rebuilt.

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We tried climbing up into the hills, but wound up lost in a series of small alleys.

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We crossed back across to the old town, passing one of the many churches in the city. This one is Cathedral Duomo, one of the largest in the city.

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Our last stop was the castle on the southern edge of the old town. The Castelvecchio is part castle, part bridge, and all medieval. The name means, literally, old castle, and it was built by the same family that’s entombed in the gothic tombs – the Scaligers.

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There’s no shortage of beautiful buildings in Verona. It’s easy to imagine it was an inspiration to painters of old, and it remains a great subject for sketching today. A day is well spent walking around and marveling at the construction. There’s even more to see, inside the various museums and churches in the city. Done with the city, we headed home by train. Between the frequent local buses and the rapid trains, Italy’s transportation system served us amazingly well once again.

Slow time (San Martino Buon Albergo)

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We lived for a week in an Airbnb’d apartment in San Martion Buon Albergo, passing the time in writing and walking the town. The world has begun to hint at a change in seasons, with drifting mists across the fields and cold tile floors in the mornings. We have chased summer south and north for almost a year; but as we slow, winter gains.

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We take this time to rest, letting the time slip by in local cafes over 1 € espressos and in walks through town. It slips through cracks in the windowsill and evaporates in the bubbling water as we boil pasta for dinner, our staple in a town with a local shop that sells fresh pasta.

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We make one day trip to Verona, the nearest city and setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Tourists come here to propose to each other on Juliet’s balcony and to leave their names scratched onto adhesive bandages plastered on the walls of the balcony’s courtyard. The sky is overcast as we visit the towering, angel guarded tombs of the city’s powerful Renaissance families. The sky remains gray as we sit on a patio overlooking the Adige River, watching the water drift past over another 1 € espresso.

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One warm afternoon I discover a praying mantis on the ground outside the apartment. It twists over its articulated joints, serpentine-esque eyes tracking me warily. I pick it up to examine it and place it on a nearby bush. It inches off into the brush, swaying unevenly like a twig in the wind, though there is none. In a few minutes it is gone. Soon we’ll be gone too.

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