Sunday, June 26, 2011

May 7 Arrival in Cremona and drive to Salsomaggiore Terme Spa

I’m on the 7 am train, from Firenze (SMN) to Bologna, dizzy with lack of sleep.

Last night I had planned for a quiet evening to relax and sleep. Instead, I had to call the bank in California regarding my ATM card not working. At 9:00 pm Italian time I used my iPhone and placed the call.

I explained my issue and told the girl I was making a very expensive phone call from Italy. She seemed impressed with my 'vacation' location, but was totally clueless as to the cost and the need for some quickness to help me. I was put on hold 3 frustrating times until a technical technician found a programming error on my account. My stress level kept increasing as the line went silent for a total of twenty full minutes on hold. The phone fees will be so costly!

Traveling abroad should be a requirement for all high school students. Everyone needs to be extracted from their comfort zone to experience the world and gain an appreciation for life, cultures and the gift of time. I was so stressed by that call. Add jet-lag to the mix, plus worries about getting up early to take a 6:30 taxi to the train station and I just couldn't fall asleep.

It was easy catching the train this morning with only one bag, weighing just under 50 pounds. I left my carry-on bag at the hotel, filled with the books and DVD's I bought yesterday. I also left behind See's candy for Leo along with the corn tortillas, longhorn cheese and a chocolate Easter egg I brought for Asumi and Alessio, owners of my hotel.

Last night, at the tiny store next to my hotel, I picked up a nice salame from the Tuscan countryside to take to my family in Cremona.

I am wearing my new Ferragamo shoes. I believe we don't pay USA entry customs taxes on worn items, plus I want to add some memories onto these shoes. I decided against a Louis Vuitton bag. The VAT (tax) is 30% and I can purchase one in the US. Yes, I know one can get that tax back, but after trying it once, it's not worth it. The items need to be kept new to get the tax refund when departing Italy. I know from experience, the California Franchise Tax Board will send a tax bill, so you have to pay it anyhow.

I need to stay awake on this train! I didn't realize when I bought the tickets, but this is the new super fast direct train which runs from Roma to Milano, with just a few stops in between, including Firenze and Bologna. I'm so glad I bought a watch in Paris. I've also set my iPhone alarm, just to make sure I don't sleep through my stop in Bologna.

What a nice transfer I made at Bologna! I didn't have to cross over to another track and I had an easy 20 minute lag before the train for Fidenza arrived. Then at Fidenza, there was an elevator and plenty of time to change to the train for Cremona. I arrived on time, at 10:20 in Cremona.

It was wonderful to see Marta at the station waiting for me. She walked her bike and I pulled the one bag and we walked home. I was really thrilled to see Marina in curlers. She gave me permission to take this picture, as long as her face is hidden!

I love the informality that welcomes me back home again. It's Saturday morning and Primo is out playing golf. Mario is at work. Rosa and Mattia will be returning soon.

While waiting for Rosa to come home, I unpacked the goodies I brought. I had maple syrup for both Marta and Rosa, comic books requested by Mattia, 3x5 cards and some teaching aids for Rosa, cute Easter tea towels for both girls, baking powder, chocolate chips and California roasted almonds, which Primo loves. I also had makings for tacos: two dozen fresh corn tortillas and longhorn cheddar cheese. This time I had magazines for all and they turned out to be big hit.

Marina: Soap Opera Digest
Primo: Golf
Marta: Brunch Ideas
Mario: Car and Driver
Rosa: Recipes
Mattia: Wired

Rosa arrived home and we all raced over to Piazza Roma to buy bread at the Pane in Piazza (Bread in the Piazza) event. The girls explained that this event showcases young apprentice bakers who are learning the art of bread baking under their "Maestri Fornai" (Teaching Bakers. We each bought several bags of hot hand sized foccacia and pizza breads and began to munch. There is nothing in the world as good as hot out of the oven bread!

Cost was three pieces for 1 Euro. We're coming back tomorrow, Sunday to buy more bread. Today we need to get right back home for lunch. I really want to watch the whole process and get more pictures.


Lunch was so yummy! Marina had made gnocchi in the morning and served them with three sauces: Pesto, tomato and gorgonzola. Tri-color, like the Italian flag I told her. It is so fun to be able to talk to Marina now. I understand mostly what she says to me and she is a great teacher. She gently corrects me when I speak badly. I love love being back home. I even resumed my old job of shaking out the tablecloth over the balcony railing, after lunch. I like having this chore.

No time to take a nap today! Rosa tells me we have an appointment at the spa. At 2:00, Rosa, Mattia and I loaded our towels and bags of fresh clothes into the car and headed to the town of Salsomaggiore Terme. Three friends followed in a second car. Mattia used his Garmin to navigate the one hour drive.

It was the first time for all of us to visit this spa. Mattia was a little reluctant, but supportive of Rosa, his wife. I was afraid, but I trust Rosa and her instincts. "Don't worry Zia, it will be fun!"