Venice Reprise: Trains and Tornados

Day 9. 29 June 2006

Thursday. Up at 6am to have showered and breakfasted in time for the seven o’clock bells – our signal to leave the nursery school, board ‘that’ van and drive down to the one-platform country train station to catch the eight o’clock train to Venice.

A little after 9:30 we cross the causeway over the lagoon and enter Venice once more. At the stazzoni, we board the #1 waterbus down to Rialto, and from there lose ourselves in the labyrinthine streets of San Marco Siestrie before finding a café in which to eat toasted foccacia sandwiches or pizza cornets whilst sipping café lates.

Losing ourselves in some more streets we find a cake and alcohol shop and indulge our tastes for sweet pastries and limoncello. When we at last arrive at Piazza San Marco it is close on noon and the midday temperature is rising. Seeking breeze and coolness we board the #1 waterbus once more to Academia and seek out eh personal tastes of the Peggy Gugenheim museum.

After a parting of the fellowship I return to Rialto and sit for a while in the shade at Naranchia with a cooling breeze off the Grand Canal to catch up on the writing of these pages. At some time between two and three o’clock, it is a very cooling, very gusty breeze, that blows the chairs over and the wine glasses from tables of the restaurant nearby. I have to hang on to my postcards, which I have been completing the task of writing, for fear of losing them in the water. Then returning to Ferovia, by way of a Coop for Burano Biscotti (for work) and the bus station, I return ot Ferovia and our rendezvous at 5.30 for our train – or trains – home.

Unlike the morning train which took us direct from Alpago into Venice, our return journey involves tree trains. Caught up in the Italian rush hour and to a chorus of mobile phone conversations along the lines of Butta la pasta; we find the only free seats in first class, and take them nervously. At Trieste we rush from platform 9 to 1 to board a tiny two carriage train to take us some of the way home.

In the end, where the train takes us, is nowhere fast. For ages we sit on the outskirts of provincial towns and move forward impossibly slowly. In the seat next to me, a young Italian man is writing a novel in a small, black, Moleskin notebook; opposite, Sarah Jane reads all about Italian grammar; and I, I come up with my own idea for a new novel – a collection of stories of young people who have nothing in common with each other except for the friends who they meet in cities across Europe.

We finally arrive in Montebelluna thirty minutes after we should have arrived, and our next train is also late. As we are left stranded on platform 2 walking the tarmac or lounging on the floor reading books, we begin to go through what we might have between us for dinner…

We have: courgette and olive bread (half-eaten); grapes; one of chocolate (partly eaten); two small jars of olives; two packets of biscotti (from Burano); one bottle Balsamic Vinegar; and one tin of olive oil (extra virgin). This we suppose could be washed down with the one bottle of beer and go some way to making us appear less tramp-like.

Three quarters of an hour later, our train does finally arrive and we set off on our final stage of the journey back into mountains and out of the hot and humid Venetia plain. Or at least we thought it was the final leg of our journey; as I outline my idea for next novel to Sarah-Jane, sat diagonally opposite from me across the aisle, the Italian man next to me with the headphones and magazine seems to be taking great interest in and amusement from our conversation. At times, both Sarah-Jane and myself think that he is going to join in.

Sometime approaching ten o’clock we arrive a a dark Belluna station; eight Inglesse, one Norvegese and a Canadese arrive, displaced from the Alpago train it turns out by a bad tornado that has ripped through Belluno, taken down trees, taken lives, and caused chaos on the trains.

John, our Norwegian Italian speaker, phones through to the taxi company, tells us where we are, where we want to go, and how many we are. The guy says he will contact his colleague – and the phone goes dead.

Presently a taxi does arrive and John fights with the other displaced Italians and orders four people – Jenny, Carol, Kate, and Andy – into the taxi. The of that remain are left wondering how much longer it will be before we reach our home. John takes Kate’s phone number and phones her to let her know that we go direct to Lamasano rather than meet them at Alpago for a rendezvous with ‘that’ van. Sarah-Jane and Sarah head off in search of crisps, and another white taxi arrives which I practically dive in front of. John and I put our bags in the boot of the car and John then stays with the taxi driver as I go to find the others. It is only when I return to the car that I realise that there is some debate with a young Italian over who’s taxi it sis. We win though, although Sarah-Jane does try to appologise to the young lad in ever-improving Italian. We drive off sharing Quick Crock crisps amongst us.

All too soon we have arrived back in the main square of Lamasano, and we find, unsurprisingly considering the state of ‘that’ van, to be the first to arrive home, and have time for a first glass of red wine in the bar. The other’s arrive, and we move next door to the pizzaria. By 12.30 we are finishing our meal and paying the bill.

Day 10: Radio interviews and an international sports day…