Day two. I make the train station in plenty of time to purchase my ticket. I can’t find the ticket counter. I ask someone – they direct me around the corner. I go around the corner. There is nothing there. I walk back to the train tracks and ask someone else. He has blue eyes and he looks like Bob Hale, but there is no smile in his eyes. “No aperto, sulla en treno.” Ok, I’ll buy my ticket on the train.
There is a knot of noisy women and children in front of me and one tall thin teenage boy looking much older than his baby fine mustache tells me he is. They look different than most of the Italians I have seen, they are very dark and had a very straight, thin nose and they are definitely not rich. A large older woman with a babushka on turns a little and I recognize her from yesterday’s train ride to Rossano. Uh oh, I wonder if there will be another verbal altercation. It seems that Grandma rode the train for free yesterday and it wasn’t the first time. The conductor had already thrown a family of folks who spoke some other language, off the train because they had no ticket and no money. They did have, however, a small squeeze box accordion and what looked like a keyboard in its old footy pajamas cum instrument case. Grandma, on the other hand, remained on the train with her grandchild in tow and turned on a whining voice that I have heard often here. It is the voice and tone the beggars use as they walk through the crowd soliciting change. I sure hope Grandma is just coming for a send off of the rest of the family.
The train arrived and Grandma stayed behind and I looked forward to a long, uneventful, trip on a train that would take me all the way to Bari. I got to have that fantasy for about 1 ½ minutes. The conductor was telling everyone as they got on the train something about Sibari. When he got to me I got the message that the tracks were washed out north of Sibari because of all the rain, and we would be getting off the train and on a bus that goes to Taranto where we would change to another train to Bari. Just the route I had worked to avoid. Wonder how I’ll know which bus to take, which train, and how late I will be? Guess I’ll find out cause we pulled into Sibari and piled out.
All over Italy there are stern warnings about crossing the tracks. Vietato Atravarsari i Binari! DO not cross the tracks, it is forbidden – except, of course, when you have to cross the tracks. Sibari is a very small station without an underground passage, so we all crossed the tracks, suitcases in tow. Not all suitcases fared well. One lost its wheels, ladies in high heels lost grip on their big bags and a frustrated crowd moved along at the direction of conductors every 50 feet. A very well executed transfer for Italy. Then I arrived at the parking lot where big, beautiful, new busses were waiting for us as we made our way out of the train station. Loaded my bags, loaded myself, settled in. It was raining. Then blue-eyes tapped me on the shoulder and communicated that the other bus was going directly to Bari – no change over. I got up, he discussed it with the driver who pretty much said, no problem we are all going to Bari, she can change in Taranto. The Bob Hale look alike persisted. He gave me a look. The driver went to talk to another driver. That driver talked to a third driver. Blue eyes gave me a nudge – get off the bus. I got off, collected my baggage and glanced back to give blue eyes my thanks and boarded the new- completely empty bus. We were off. On our way we passed the other bus going in the opposite direction- twice. Then we met up with them and several passengers got on our bus from their bus. We drove a while longer then our bus pulled over and our driver left. I wondered what was going on, but then a new driver showed up and took us the rest of the way. The central rail station looked exactly as it did online and Bari looked so much like New York I wanted to get off right there and spend the next 4 days. I found the Tempesta Bus right where it should be and got on for the ride to the airport where I would pick up my rental car.
Getting into a major airport was like a trip home. Airports look the same all over and it was fun to be a place where I knew the toilets would be clean and plentiful, food was consistently overpriced, but varied and I could pretty well guess where the car rental place was. I had lunch, bought a book in English and headed over to Budget. I was a little worried that I had never gotten a confirmation email from Expedia but it said that it was in My Itineraries so I figured I was ok. Not true. As I waited on line the first glimpse of trouble on the horizon was when the agent asked me my name, and I was still in line. They had no more cars and he was wondering what I was waiting for. My name was not on his list. After that I tried Europcar, no cars available; Hertz,no cars; Budget, no cars; and landed at AVIS, who had cars, and they were expensive. My Wizard number didn’t buy me the discount they said it would when I signed up, the car was more expensive and I absolutely wanted the GPS. So, 150€ overbudget, I got my car. I must have looked more harried than I felt, or perhaps I was numb, but she offered me a cup of coffee and I gratefully took it. It did help. She even keyed in the address of the B&B, which didn’t exist, so she called the owner and got a different address in Terlizzi where I could meet the proprietor and she would take me there.
I followed the exact directions of the voice in the box on my dashboard, but I can’t believe that was the quickest route. I drove 3.5 miles straight through an olive grove, turned down unpaved roads and through potholes and then landed right back onto city roads. Eventually, I arrived and there was my non English speaking host waiting for me with her “young person” in tow. Armando rode with me, a 13 year old with big glasses and a big Italian-English Dictionary. We drove what seemed to be a very long time down a lot of country roads before we arrived at Casel di San Giorgio in the pouring rain, but it was exactly as it looked on the website.
We met up with Dad and Mom asked me why I came to Terlizzi. Her son had asked the same question on the way over and it is as if they are surprised to have guests. I am the only one at the casel here in the wildness, without the internet to keep me company, but I do have a TV, which of course is Italian. After a chat that was long on time and short on words we managed between our two dictionaries to communicate why I am here. Then I pulled out the pictures of Terlizzi that my parents had taken in 1982. In the end I discovered that Stella knows a Romano family in Terlizzi that is in the ceramic biz and she will call them tonight to see if there is a connection. Then she asked if I wanted her to help me find my family. Of course, I said yes. After that, I was told she would take me to Terlizzi tonight so I could get dinner, and then I was invited to the party afterwards for torta here at the casel. I think it must be someone’s birthday. Anyway, I am settled in, in my casel, in the woods, in Terlizzi, with no internet, in the middle of BFE, and happy to be here. Maybe it won’t rain tomorrow.
Ciao for now,