My husband, Vishnu and I recently traveled through Italy and had a time for a life! Traveling in a new country has its share of challenges and we did face a few. It was our first day in Italy, after touring Milan we were headed towards Bellagio, a tranquil little town by the Lake como for our stay that night. Bellagio can be accessed only by a ferry. We had planned to reach Bellagio by 7.00 – 7.30 P.M and unwind at this charming town. We reached Milan train station around 5.30 and were good on time. First day in Italy and we were getting our selves familiarized to the system. We avoided the long queue and did well to get our tickets from the vending machine and spotted a train leaving to Varenna (our destination to take the ferry) in about 20 mins. We got our tickets, rushed our way to the right platform and boarded the train just on time. Everything was new and the last hour went like a breeze. We had to get down at Lecco and change over to Varenna. Too many places for your memory to hold right?
We were getting to the interiors of Italy which meant less and less of English. Luckily, we found a youngster who spoke fluent English and helped us with the connecting train. We did everything as told and proudly showed our tickets to the ticket checker and he responded in Italian. We sported a quizzical look! He spoke no English, We spoke hardly any Italian. There a saviour again, a co-passenger who translated what he told. And it meant – We have boarded a train that doesn’t stop in Varenna!
Get down at the next stop; take the next train that comes by!
We get down and to our surprise find a station equal to the one you find in a remote Indian Village – No lights, wears a deserted look with the information office closed. Turn around and find nothing but darkness! And now we are late !! Remember only access to Bellagio is by a Ferry, then I remember buses do go to Bellagio but takes more time and I wasn’t sure if any would be available at this hour. It was only around 7P.M but appeared to be 12 midnight.
And there again we find another Saviour, a woman waiting to board a train. Voila, we go ask for information. She speaks no English! Now, we don’t have anyone else to help us with the translation. Speak to her for 15 mins, try to grasp what she says and realize she says completely different from what we were told in the train. She asked us to take a train in the opposite direction to go to Varenna! What do we do? Trust your instincts and go with the lady!
Board the train and find the train empty! It felt like scenes from a thriller movie! No, we weren’t in the right spirits for an adventure now. Walk through the coups and find a lady who only understood the word ‘Varenna’ and we only understood ‘She has to get down there’. We are on the Right train! Time for some celebration? Not yet! Why? Will we catch the last Ferry?
Get down and run hastily with 2 heavy back-packs to the ferry station to see the ferry just leave. Sigh!! Hurriedly run to the counter and the first thing I ask, “Was that the last ferry to Bellagio?” I could hear my heart beat faster. Beat Beat and Beat. He says something in Italian. I ask, “Bellagio? Next Ferry?”
9.00 P.M. and our watch shows 8.02 P.M. Happy on one side that we still haven’t missed the last ferry and at the same time little disappointed that we missed the previous one.
Tired and beaten we realized that we were hungry. Looked around and found the place to be really deserted. Tried asking the man in the counter for other options and we couldn’t really converse in different languages.
We sit down and try to pick the address of our Hotel and would you believe it? I can’t find it! It is really turning out to be a thriller! Walk around to find a place where the owner was having dinner with his family. We were the only customers and asked if he was open. He took look at us and knew our plight. He welcomed us in, served us some hot pizzas and even helped us to get the address from the internet.
Now, we board the ferry with one co-passenger. Pretty cold! Land in Bellagio at 9.15 P.M to find the town already asleep. We have the address but no directions. We believed we can ask people around but never expected the place to be dead. But then, we had planned to arrive at 7.00 and now we are 2 hours late. Three possible directions and stumped we stood. We found a man smoking in the dark corner and approached him. Good or Bad, we had no choice. Here again no English! With enough experiences behind my back, now I was determined to get the information right this time. Our presence of mind helped us get this far in a foreign land where we didn’t speak the language. With that confidence and composure, I asked him the directions. He looked stoned. Tried speaking in the little Italian I knew – Didn’t help. Finally, I pulled out a paper, wrote the name of the hotel in big fonts, followed by ‘?’. He began telling us the direction in Italian. One by one I took down what he said, spent considerable time marking the directions on paper and reaffirming it with him. And then took the long walk through deserted streets embraced in silence – after about 20 mins of walk we spotted our Hotel on the right after a fuel station as told by the man. Grazie! In the darkness and anxiety, we really didn’t realize how beautiful this town was until we woke up the next morning! See pics.
It was the presence of my mind to pull out a sheet of paper that really got us out of the fiery situation. Lesson learned for the night was Humans don’t need a language to communicate, if we are determined to understand the other person then, signs, expressions and instincts can convey a lot!
We found a savior at every place we got stuck. God appears as humans to help us in reaching our destination. This incident reflected life for me!