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Monday 17 May

On the 0854 just out of Umbertide to PSG, first leg of complicated trip today: arrive PSG 0927, leave PSG 0948, arrive Florence 1151, leave Florence 1239, arrive Rovigo 1430, and several trains to Chioggia, but I might overnight in Rovigo, who knows.

The way back — in fact not back at all, but to Treia — more complicated still: Wednesday morning leave Chioggia 0800, arrive Rovigo 0900, leave Rovigo 0911, arrive 1007, leave Bologna 1026, arrive Ancona 1248, leave Ancona 1407, arrive Civitanova 1428, leave Civitanova 1506, arrive Macerata 1534 and from there bus I hope, if not somehow to Treia — elaborate exhaustion capped with uncertainty and expense. I talked with Maurizio at the Corradino though last night who gave me the number for the Hotel Grimaldi, and am carrying a quarter, a dime, a nickel and for some reason not one but two pennies (the last three denominations dredged out of Judith's purse at lunch yesterday, along with 1½ French francs), so I'm pretty much committed I expect to 3 nights in Treia with 2 whole days to (a) walk the area a bit better and (b) get to Urbisaglia, the badia di Fiastra and Maestà somehow: more difficulties getting around, Pollenza would be more central but I'm stubborn and want to stay in Treia.

If all goes as planned, I expect to get back home Saturday evening: more complicated train routes (Tolentino or Macerata to Fabriano to Foligno to Perugia to Umbertide) or with luck a good bus shortcut but I very much doubt it; haven't sorted it all out yet.

Train #2 just leaving PSG, almost on time. Good luck at the ticket counter here: no line, and I got my whole ticket thru Chioggia, and the EuroStar reservation, one easy swoop. Took advantage of no line behind me to make my EuroStar reservation for Rome on the 25th; but the reimbursement, to which I'm entitled, for the botched EuroStar of the other day (ultimately nearly an hour late, and no air-conditioning), was, in practical terms, not possible — and also nothing like what the printed material says, nor what I was told by the conductor on the train. Nominally, you get 50% back; and, I was told, you can do this at any station and get a credit on another ticket, "since it's all computerized". Innocent Booby ought to know better by now: here I was told, gosh no, you took the trip didn't you? (Certo —) so you get 30%, not 50%: fill out this form, give it back to me, we'll mail you a check. No, not in the US, of course; no, no credit on these tickets you're buying.

Now what's a foreigner to do with a check, and sent where? As usual, like the ricevitorie business, designed for locals or in this case, at least residents — one of the many hidden charges levied on foreign visitors; guidebooks should not repeat that you'll get 50% reimbursements (and rebates on the horrific VAT taxes): a system designed to look good and assuage the shriveled consciences of bureaucrats, since on paper it all looks equitable, logical, and functional.

Still on the Florence train, somewhere near Cortona — just made reservation for the Hotel Grimaldi in Treia for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday — but just gotta write this down before I forget it: two English-speaking women behind me, one just told the other almost verbatim that she likes taking the train, because when you travel around in a car, all the little places are so pretty that you want to stop everywhere — but the train "forces" you to go faster on a schedule. Pauline would have a fit! Translated into real English, this means that at least one person out there, almost consciously, has devised a way of insuring that she travels a lot, but without enjoying it. . . . I wonder how many there are like this?

Rovigo, a few hours later (4:30), station waiting room with my train to Chioggia at 5:00 sharp. I got here at 2:30 and immediately checked that I'd got it right, no train 'til 5 — yes — and no baggage check of course (a thing of the past now, although Italy never was too good about 'em anyway); so I rolled my green suitcase all around Rovigo to see what I could see rather than sit at the station.

The result, thank goodness — since otherwise I'da felt very frustrated and it would have turned into two hours of zoom travel — was about the same: there's nothing much here, although the one thing, a beautiful classical church called La Rotonda, though signposted once, I never found (and from the photos I suspect it's not in town at all). Churches and palazzi for the most part 16c and mostly even later; a pair of leaning towers, brick, like Bologna 'cept less dramatic, in part because they cleared out a space for them to collapse in when time comes, a public garden; and in fact the nicest thing about Rovigo is its public spaces: piazze, small public gardens, large pedestrian zone of clean streets and nicely painted buildings — the whole dotted with monuments recording various aspects of the Risorgimento, or the bonifica del Polesino; and of course the place is flat as a board. I sat and had a piadina and — ugh — a tonic water since my calves feel tight, although I guess I'm thru with the walking now.

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Rovigo: the Piazza Umberto Merlin.

Anyhow, back to the station — unable to find a chocolate anywhere except one place where the bartendress was so short that I walked out — couldn't say why I want a choc anyway and shouldn't have one either. . . . "Visit" of Rovigo somewhat skewed by the time of day, warm and sunny, everybody's had their lunch and it's siesta time, streets deserted.

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Page updated: 22 May 05