After two days in Rome, we departed by train for Lucca which is a small walled town in Tuscany. That would be our home base for 8 days. The more we travel, the more we realize that we want to see lots of places, but packing, checking out and unpacking holds no joy. So we tend to stay in one place and roam. Our home was called Santa Croce apartments and the place was delightful.
The train ride, however, was like something out of a Steinbeck novel. Luckily we had booked 2nd class tickets which meant there was luggage storage, a snack served and decently sized seats. Hub kept asking for a newspaper in English – the car steward looked at him as if he had lost his mind. We took a cab to the station – Rome Termini – which actually was spitting distance away from our B&B. We weren’t sure our aging backs would hold up if we dragged our dead-goat luggage along the broken sidewalks (pack light – yeah, right). However, due to the odd configuration of streets, we had to drive in a wide circle that ended up costing us 13 Euro for a 10 minute trip. We’d scoped out the train station the day before when I bought a S.I.M. card for my unlocked Bell cell phone (it worked). The place was huge, open aired and bustling with people. I think I inhaled more second-hand smoke during our visit to Italy than I’ve done for the last 20 years. It’s everywhere – even high school kids walk along chatting and rolling their own thin, thin smokes. Girls more than boys, which is unfortunate.
Termini station was a beehive of folks arriving and departing. Noisy, smelly, under construction – but amazing to watch. Some people just looked dazed. There were scads of backpackers, business people and religious folk. The Metro was attached to the station so there were hordes of commuters and regular tourists trying to find their way. We’d been told to watch out for thieves but aside from some old men and women wandering with their hands out around looking pathetic, it wasn’t that noticeable. Hub puts on his menacing face so we’re pretty much left alone.
As we pulled slowly out of the station, the amount of toxic graffiti on every vertical surface was shocking. Some of it is so old and faded I’m sure no one remembers what it was meant to represent. I had a visual of some denture-wearing senior citizen former ‘graffiti-artist’ passing by on the Regionale on his way to visit his grandkids in Montecatini, trying to remember the old days when his juices were flowing and he had a spray can in his hand to make his mark on the world. None of what we saw was what you’d call artistic.
Once we got beyond the edge of town, the train speeded up. We hit our top cruising speed of 247 km an hour and it was smoother than riding a subway at home. No weaving or bobbing from side to side. Just smooth motion that you notice only by the blurring of objects up close. Very civilized, except for the tiny steep stairs that made humping two large hard-shell suitcases a challenge. And the passengers waiting on the platform to board hardly let you get your feet out of the way before they push their way on board. The stop lasts for 3-5 minutes – no longer, so it’s every traveller for themselves or you’ll be left behind.
For some reason, our train – which was supposed to be an express – actually was a milk train, stopping at stations that were not even on the route map. It was early afternoon and high school kids jammed the aisles. Some of the young guys, trying to be tough/cool, fired up their cigs while they crowded the doors waiting for the next stop. They were more nervous than cool. After 90 minutes instead of 45, we struggled off at Lucca under brilliant warm skies.
Another beautiful day. Another adventure.