We helped cheer up a guy in the biglietto office at the train station this morning. We asked for three tickets to Taormina and he thought we were done when we said we only wanted a one-way (solo-andata) fare, but then we asked for a ticket from Taormina to Villa san Giovanni. “Today?” he asked, “Si, tre biglietti,” we said. He gave us those tickets and said, “bye, bye”. “Non”, we said, “We also want three tickets from Villa san Giovanni to Cosenza for today.” That was it, his eyebrows rose and he cracked up and laughed, probably couldn’t believe we’d be crazy enough to do so much travel on a Sunday> Maybe he was also impressed that we knew what we wanted. We told him we were from Australia, and his mood had changed for the better as the last set of tickets were printing up. So, we were set for a day’s travel on the train (which will include crossing the Straits of Messina) and looking forward to checking out Taormina.
Happy that we could leave our bags in a locker at the very quaint (with a touch of the East about it) station at Taormina-Giardini Naxos before catching an expensive bus up the hill. Fantastic views of the Ionian coast (or probably better known as the Sicilian Riviera, as we took a winding road up to the town. Big boats anchored near the beach and a real sense of an over expensive tourist town as we wandered through the shop & souvenir stall lined streets. So many, books, maps, postcards, tea towels, T shirts, aprons, shoes/sandals, puppets, fridge magnets, flags, hats, nicknacks, jewellery, and ceramic plates, cups, figurines etc. (some of the painted dishes we saw looked very nice). All a bit sad really, and didn’t go to the Greek theatre because it couldn’t be worth 8 euros (as they warned us that most of it was covered up by a screen and seating used for the recent film festival). A plain pizza bianca (oil & herbs) was 5 euros for a medium! And it’s Sunday (Dominica) and the tourist office was closed and probably more Italians out for the day/weekend that usual. Did enjoy having a picnic in the gardens, the views, watching the punters strolling along, and glad we’re not staying overnight.
I got a little stressed (as I’m wont to) when we went to catch the bus back down to the station for the 14:22. The bus was supposed to go at 14:00 but the driver kept letting people on and it was after 5 past when we pulled out. We stopped a couple of times on the way down and these people had to put their bags under the bus, buy tickets – and the driver didn’t have any change (they never do), so people are hunting for coins in their purses, and I’m pacing up & down the bus praying the train is late. By the time I bolted onto the platform to get our bags out of the locker, the train was pulling in… The girls were going to hold up the train while I did the 100 mtr sprint with two 15kg bags that no one of my age should be doing. So, got on the train (probably to the amusement of the train driver & conductor who would have been more than happy to wait for me anyway), found a seat and then proceeded to wait at the station till I caught my breath and the sweat had dried, before we pulled out. I must learn to chill a little more… and be more like an Italian. I’m feeling out of place a little because I’ve got no style or dress sense and my wardrobe is functional rather than fashionable. At least my travelling compainions are attractive and they catch people’s eye rather than me.
Safely on the train and heading for Messina where they break up the train into ferry sized pieces, shunting in and out of the boat leaving a few carriages on board at a time, till they fill up the four sets of tracks inside the warm and fume laden bowels of the ship. Great to get out and up on deck for some fresh air and the crossing to Villa San Giovanni. Wendy suggested that we disembark and walk to the station as it was only a couple of minutes away, rather than stay on the train for 15 minutes and risk missing the connection to Cosenza. We smiled at each other as our Cosenza train left the station with still no sign of the train we were on… Enjoyed travelling along the coast for a bit before heading inland and noticed a change in the weather with some amazing cloud formations developing that looked like they might drop some rain. We were very thankful to be picked up at the new train station and driven into the old centre of town and to our lovely hostel. Enjoyed a wander around and had some local cuisine (pasta laced with pepper), home made wine and liqueur (a little like ouzo but not white). Had fun conversing with Pappa & his daughter and some other guests who were from Turin & Sardinia.