Ciao! Greetings from Trieste (or Basovizza, a small town outside Trieste, to be precise)!
I'm in Italy for work. Not much time for sight-seeing, although I hope to go to Venice tomorrow. Need to give the tourist traps some chance to rip me off, ha ha. But nevertheless, it's been quite an adventure so far.
John was lonely at the prospect of me leaving for an entire week without him and so last friday night, (THIS IS TMI, WARNING!!!!) we were up the entire night rearranging furniture. As in, fucking on every available piece of furniture in my house that would support our combined body weight. Thankfully for future visitors, we are heavy, and I don't have a lot of sturdy furniture, so we didn't desecrate many items. But I was up until 7 am, which set into motion a cascade of events that I am still feeling the repercussions of. Not that I regret it, lol- I had quite a good time moving furniture. :)
Saturday after a morning nap, I hastily packed, dropped the dogs off at doggie daycare for the week, kissed my baby goodbye, and set off for ATL, a 2 hour drive on a good day. I was about 2 hours behind schedule leaving for my flight, due to my nighttime activities and my need for a morning nap. About halfway there, my engine light went on, and I could smell a strange burning smell in my car. My oil pressure gage read normal, as did my temp gage. I needed gas, so I pulled into the gas station and called John. After discussing options with him, I checked the oil- it was fine. I checked the coolant- soooooo NOT fine. I hoped the quickie-mart sold coolant. Guys were giving me weird looks and I was thinking to myself, "haven't you ever seen a chick in a skirt with her her head under the hood of a car before?" But they probably hadn't. I refilled the coolant (it was a 50/50 mix- no water needed- yay!) and gassed up, and I went along my merry way again, crossing my fingers. The check engine light didn't go back on, thank God! But I was even later now than I was before, and I was supposed to catch an international flight. I finally got to the airport, parked in extended stay parking, caught the shuttle, checked my bag and got scolded for the gate agent for not having checked in yet, and then proceeded to the gate after the rather uneventful security check (for a change). I strolled into the gate area as they called for my row to board. Perfect timing! The flight wasn't full, and I ended up having an aisle seat next to a vacant middle seat (score!) with a cute young Irishman at the window. The perfect scenario. He was nice enough to be pleasant when we were bored. but shut up when we both wanted to sleep. This guy had obviously flown before. British Air was great- they serve complimentary beer and wine in coach, so I had wine with dinner, and dinner was actually good, to my surprise, and then I settled down for a long sleep for the trip across the big pond. Next thing I knew, the flight attendants were waking us up for tea & breakfast, and we were landing in less than an hour. Great flight. After an uneventful layover at Gatwick, the second leg of my trip to Venice was just as smooth.
When I landed in Venice, my luck seemed to change. First, I discovered that the airline had lost my bag. Here I was, LOVING British Air, only to find out that they screwed with my luggage. Try explaining what your bag looks like to an airport employee using your minimal italian- and as an added challenge, the airport employee understands minimal english. That was my "being thrown into a lake in order to learn to swim" method of learning basic conversational italian. But we seemed to come to an understanding after lots of pointing and nodding. Next, I went to the rental car window, reservation in hand. The employee for the international reservations told me they accepted Discover. However, when I went to the counter to get my car, they did not accept my Discover card. That was a problem. So I decided to use my check card. When they called for authorization, my bank declined the charge as a security measure because it was "unusual activity" out of the country, and there was nothing I could do to fix it because the customer service people in the US weren't available for another few hours; the time change was a factor. The rental car company had to charge my car on two remaining cards that I luckily took with me on the trip "just in case". Then I had to find the car in the sea of cars in the Venice airport parking lot- finally got it, and I became reacquainted with a manual transmission, which was fun. Luckily I had printed out directions from Marco Polo International Airport in Venice to Trieste, so I knew how to get to town- where the hotel was from there, I wasn't quite sure...
I wasn't prepared for how Italians drove. As I hopped on the autostrada, I saw that there were speed zones, but no real speed limit. In the right lane, people drove moderately slowly. In the left, people drove pretty fast- maybe 160 km/hr or more? I'm not even sure what that translates to, but then there were people that drove so fast they passed everyone on the right SHOULDER. In italy, signs and lines and signals are "suggestions". Although they are a lot more laid-back about the traffic laws, people drove with more common sense, though, it seemed. As I approached Trieste, I got off the autostrada and pulled into a gas station. I needed a map to mind my hotel- I hadn't a clue where it was. I looked in my handy english-italian dictionary, and asked the clerk, who smiled and greeted me with a "prego?"
"Si, la carta di Trieste?"
He looked at me for a second, and then grabbed a map of the area, and gave it to me. He told me how many euros I owed him but I couldn't understand, so I handed him ten and he gave me change (I was thankful I had exchanged money at the airport before I left!).
"Grazie!" I said, and took my map to the car, all proud of my self that I actually had communicated successfully with someone, however briefly.
"Si, Grazie... Ciao!" He said, and waved, still smiling. I could tell that he knew I would be lost in under 5 minutes.
I looked at the map for 15 minutes in my car and went back inside to talk to my new friend. I started with a question.... "Dove il..."
He interrupted me with an "Inglese?"
I gratefully said, "Yes, thank you!"
He spoke about as much English as I spoke Italian, but he grabbed a pen and marked on the map where the gas station was. Thank God, because I had NO CLUE. There are no road signs in the whole country, as far as I can tell. I grabbed my address to the hotel from my bag and showed it to him next. He said, "Ah, Basovizza!" And showed me on the map where to go. After about 10 "grazie's", I left, and we were both proud of ourselves that we were able to communicate.
As I drove down the first road on the friendly gas station man's map, the road opened before me to nothing but sky and air and water and mountain. On the left were the mountains of the italian coast, and on the right was the Mediterranean. It was so beautiful and I was so unprepared for it that I almost drove right off the road. This road wound around the side of the mountain above the city of Trieste, which was built into the mountains and on the harbor of this natural mediterranean port. It was something out of a picture- I had never seen scenery like this with my own eyes. And never having been in europe before, I'd never seen buildings so ancient- everything I'd known was new-world if not modern, American and disposable. This glorious city before and below me had withstood nature and wars, the wrath of man and God, and was a testament to fortitude, strength, and beauty.
As I passed, slack-jawed, by the gorgeous hills of Trieste, and into Basovizza, I wasn't prepared for the small scale of the tiny town. In fact, I drove right past it. Trieste and Basovizza are on the extreme northeastern border of Italy, just on the mainland, and I drove right OUT of Italy and into Slovenia. Yes, border patrol stopped me and I explained that I was trying to go to Basovizza and I was lost. I looked pretty dumb. Luckily, they were amused and let me use their country to make a U-turn.
There is absolutely NO place in the ENTIRE town of Basovizza to park a car. I'm convinced. The town is as old as Trieste, and so was built before the advent of the Model-T. Streets are curvy and narrow, and there is no such thing as new construction. Everything is within walking distance from everything else, so there is no need for a car in town if you reside there, so I was at a loss. I made my own parking spaces like the other visitors on the edges of streets and beside buildings.
I checked into my hotel Sunday night, finally, to find that everything had closed in town except for a gelato bar. Mmmm Ice cream for dinner, anyone? I was starving. I made my way over and had the bast first italian meal EVER. Three scoops of Gelato. I didn't even try out my italian. I just pointed to the size cup and the flavors of the gelato and handed the nice clerk my money. I might have said "grazie", but I don't remember. My first day in Italy was very eventful, and I just wanted food and a bed- I didn't care about conversation.
The gelato was glorious- so much more flavorful than american icecream- I'm not sure how it's made or how it's different, but it is. I walked back to my hotel, stripped down nekkid since I had no change of clothes, ate the rest of my gelato sitting on my bed, and then fell asleep, missing John, and thinking about the deep blue of the Mediterranean.