So it was finally time to go to Salerno and get my great-great-grandfather’s birth certificate! Unfortunately, my cousin was sick, and then was working. So me, being the genius I am, said I’ll go by myself and get it – M can stay home with the animals, F can live his life, and I can just run across the country real fast and get it done. Can you guess how smoothly this went?
So the first step was to go into Lecce and meet with F to find out exactly where I needed to go. I knew Salerno, but it turns out it’s Salerno the province, and Palomonte the exact town. Fine, no big deal. Except trains don’t go to Palomonte, so I would take the train from Lecce to Salerno (with a couple of connections), and then the bus from Salerno to Palomonte.
Now my plan was to get some shopping done in Lecce, but the train was pulling out in about 20 minutes, so we ran to the train station. No big deal, I can shop in Salerno, or Lecce when I get back.
The Train, Part 1
So I hop on the train in Lecce, and ride for a couple of hours to Bari, where I would have to connect. It was a tight connection, so when the train stopped, I got off, checked what platform I needed to be at, and hit the ground running. I was on 3 and needed to be at 1W. So I run over to 1, and there is no 1W. So I asked someone and they say I’m on the right platform. Now, you know my Italian is rough, so I’m doing super simple sentences, but I knew the train in front of me was NOT the right train. Partly because it was headed to Lecce.
I’m thinking my train must just be late, but nope, it turns out they had two trains at the same platform, and I just couldn’t see the other one. So now I’ve missed my train. OK, no problem, I will go change my ticket and catch the next one. That’s when I learned the next train was the next day.
Fine, Plan B! I can catch a bus! So I set that up, but it was about 3 in the afternoon, and the bus left at 11:30 pm. OK, shopping time. I walked Bari. Like, all of it. And remember, I’ve been losing weight as if I had a tapeworm, but haven’t been able to find pants, so I’m strolling Bari, hands in my coat pockets so that no one could see that I was holding my pants up, because at this point, they just drop straight off. (And yes I could buy a belt, except I’m in Italy, and they are very proud of their Italian leather. It’s everywhere – on all the belts. And I don’t buy leather…)
It was a sight. And my phone was dead and I couldn’t find a plug (I don’t know what Italians have against plugs!). That was my second reason for walking around.
The Bus, Part 1
So finally, FINALLY, it is just past 11 and I start heading for the bus (I’d been hanging in the station for like an hour or so at that point, because, single woman, alone, dark, you know the drill). I get on and we head for Taranto. It goes smooth, and that’s when I took a better look at my ticket.
We would arrive in Taranto at 2 in the morning, but the connecting bus didn’t leave until 5:40 am. OK, that’s fine, I will wait in the station, because at least there’s security there. Except it turns out, Taranto is the first train station I’ve found that doesn’t keep the doors open all night long. So I waited outside, avoiding strange men, for 3 hours.
Taranto is famous for a dance that originated there called the Tarantella. The dance, however, originated (supposedly, at least) from their tarantula population. I’m arachnophobic. It was fun in absolutely no way.
So the second bus comes (and yes, this is still the first part of the bus, because there’s more!), and I get on, and I have to take it to Salerno. Except I forgot that there was another connection first. So I doze off, and then wake up when everyone is getting off. Now I’m drowsy, and confused, but Salerno, so I run inside to find out where I get the local bus to go to Palomonte, and the woman is telling me it’s not possible (and other stuff that I didn’t understand). Then she tells me to go outside right away or I will miss my chance – so I do, but I don’t actually know what my chance looks like, and I thought I was in Salerno, so I ignored the bus that said “Salerno”. Fine, I will see if a taxi is an option. I check the price, and he gives me this astronomical price, and acts shocked that anyone would take a taxi to Palomonte.
That’s when the fog in my head started to clear. I turn around to look at the train station and finally see the sign saying I’m actually in Potenza. I turn back around and see the Salerno bus pull out. No big deal, I negotiate the taxi driver down, and we go on our way.
The Bus, Part 2
So Salerno is a beautiful, seafront town. Palomonte is at the top of a mountain. You can imagine how thrilled I was. I get there, I do my thing at the comune office, and then I want to catch the bus out of Palomonte so I can get back to Lecce. Except because I caught the taxi, I have no clue where the bus stop is. So I hiked the last level up to part of Palomonte, and was wrong so now I hike down a level and find an old, run-down bus stop. OK, that works. So I sit and wait, and sit and wait, and sit and wait, and have a cup of coffee (no plug again), and wait. Finally, I run inside one of the stores and ask when the bus comes, but the woman says “pulma”, which I don’t know what that means (it was actually Pullman, I think, but I didn’t know at the time). So I go to the Farmacia, because M needs medications anyway, and I ask there. Eight people in the tiny place, none of whom speak English, and they all had thoughts. Finally, I pull out from one woman that the bus should be there in an hour. So, I go back and sit and wait.
Two hours later, no bus. One of the other women happened to be waiting for the school bus, and when she was going to take her son home, she took pity on me. It turns out that the bus doesn’t run that route anymore. So now I’m stranded on a mountain. No phone to call a taxi, no plug to charge the phone, no safe way to walk off, and it’s siesta. Let me tell you, this woman is a saint, because she helped me off that mountain and ran me to the actual bus stop.
So I got on this bus when it finally shows up an hour later, and I need to take it to the train station in Salerno. Only catch is, I don’t know where the train station in Salerno is, and the busdriver ain’t telling! So I missed my stop, and had to walk, then I got turned around and lost, and had to walk more. But I finally found the train station, so I bought my ticket, and got ready to go home.
The Train, Part 2
So now, I haven’t slept in about 48 hours, I’m wet, I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m bored (cause no phone), and my pants won’t stay up. Suffice to say, I wanted this trip to be over (Palomonte was beautiful, but I don’t want to live there!). My train connected in Caserta…sort of. It was supposed to connect, but instead had a TWO HOUR delay. Not helping the situation. And then, when I finally get on the train that will take me into Lecce, it keeps stopping because of the “infrastructure issue” that caused the delay. But I finally have a plug, so I can deal with it.
So I made it home, finally, with too-big pants, painful feet, a throbbing back, and completely exhausted. But I did what needed to be done, so let’s call it a success, right?