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Saturday, June 12, 2010


Whew! I made it to Bastia – just barely. I had carefully calculated my trip from Bologna to Bastia: a 10:23 AM train from Bologna to Livorno, arriving at 12:50 PM – plenty of time to make it to the port for a 13:30 sailing from Livorno, Italy to Bastia in Corsica. I even took the precaution of buying my train ticket yesterday so that I wouldn’t have to wait in line at the train station.

I woke up super early this morning and had everything packed and cleaned two hours before my train. I was at the train station 45 minutes early and calmly read my book while waiting for the train. I had a super-fast, super-direct train from Bologna to Firenze. It took only 30 minutes to cover the 122 km. I then had 37 minutes to wait until my connection from Florence to Livorno. However, even though this train left Florence precisely on time, it seemed to take forever, stopping at each tiny town along the way. I grew tired of the pace, but didn’t think too much of it as every stop confirmed the final destination: Livorno. As we pulled into the station at Pisa at 1 PM, I realized with a sinking feeling that something was wrong. I was supposed to arrive in Livorno,beyond Pisa, 10 minutes ago. What happened? I took out my ticket and realized that I should have changed trains for a more rapid one a few towns back. But there had been no conductor to take tickets or answer questions.

Now what do I do? The ferry sails at 13:30. How far away am I? How long will it take to get to Livorno? I immediately had visions of arriving in Livorno – only to see the ferry pulling away from the dock. I started developing contingency plans: How long till the next sailing? I know it takes 4 hours to sail and there are only two or maybe three sailings per day. Will I still arrive tonight? What about my hotel reservation in Bastia? What about lunch?

As my feverish mind was cycling through all of these contingencies, my train arrived in Livorno at 13:15 – 25 minutes later than my expected arrival and 15 minutes before the ship was to sail. No problem! I’ll jump into a taxi. The port isn’t too far from the train station, is it? Aargh! No taxis. It is lunch time and impossible to find a taxi during lunch time! But there are buses nearby.

I run to a bus and ask if he goes to the port. No, but that other one does. I jump on the next bus, agonizing as we make several stops before arriving at the end of the line. But where is the port? I can’t even see it. “That way, Signora”, the driver waves, pointing to the right. I start walking as fast as I can in the direction indicated. I can see ships in the distance – maybe a half a mile away. I follow three other people lugging suitcases. I can see the logo of Corsica Ferries. It’s past sailing time, but maybe they’re late? As I get closer I see the ship says “Sardinia Ferries”. I don’t want to go to Sardinia. And then I spot another ferry that says “Moby Corse”. I rush up to them and ask if they’re going to Corsica. Yes! To Bastia – but they’re leaving. "Do you have a ticket?" No, can’t I buy one on board? I plead in Italian. “No, you have to buy one over there in the ticket office” (which is 200 yards away). Aargh. Wait for me, OK? “Yes, but RUN!”

I can’t really run, I hurt my knee again before this trip and I’ve been wearing a knee brace everywhere I go. Besides, even though I travel light, I still have a backpack with my computer and a carryon bag on wheels. But I have no choice. I have to go back and buy a ticket. I hustle to the ticket office and hustle back as fast as I can. It’s hot, I’m sweating, but I’ve made it! I am the last one on board and then we take off – leaving Italy and heading to Corsica. Whew!

BTW, What is the real point of this story?

It was a reminder to myself not to feel too smug about my excellent command of the system and my ability to get around in foreign languages. Did the ticket agent at the train station TELL me (in Italian) to change trains in Signac instead of staying on the slow train all the way to Livorno? I'll never know. If so, I missed it . .


  1. Wow! Quite a story... I guess you didn't have much time to snap any pictures of Livorno along the way?