Travel days are sometimes so full of new sights, sounds, physical and emotional changes, that it's hard to imagine that the morning was part of the same day as the evening. Today was one of those.
Breakfast in Venice was full of fond goodbyes and best wishes as our field school finished. Some people were heading home but others would continue travelling. Rain poured buckets on the first group as they wheeled their baggage over the cobbled streets, clutching mini-umbrellas or sporting lollipop-coloured disposable ponchos sold by street vendors. I headed to the train station shortly after, reveling in walking the early morning streets. Everywhere vibrated with the commerce of running a tourist enclave; construction, garbage collection, deliveries, repairs, cleaning. What's unique is that everything is accomplished by boat; one with a mounted crane to hoist goods on board, others with wide holds to accommodate soil or building materials, or a load of mattresses for a local hotel. Delightful. I waddled onto the ferry with my two packs, back and front, and enjoyed the bustle of hundreds of boats of every description plying the canal.
Soon enough I was settled on my train for the three hour trip to Florence. I took out my watercolour set and immersed myself in painting an abstract postcard. I noticed an interesting mental process as I worked. Already, in the first few minutes away from the group, while part of my brain was employed creating art, the three week experience was beginning to be given a shape in my memory. What intrigued me was that within moments the challenging aspects of living in a group began to fall away and the great pieces moved front and centre. Already I felt nostalgic for the wonderful people I'd met and the experiences we'd shared.
I became so involved in my painting I didn't notice we'd reached my station. We'd been at the platform several minutes. I saw no Florence signs, but glanced at my watch and realized we must be there. Panicked, I threw everything together, grabbed my bag from the overhead bin and leapt from the train. Minutes later, blood pressure calmed, chattels rearranged, I walked the platform to meet my friend, Patty. She’d already seen all the passengers disembark and was ready to leave, thinking I'd missed the train. A close call.
Patty and I set to comparing notes for finding the apartment we'd rented. It was located outside the downtown core so we had to buy tickets, find our stop, and make our way by local bus. Suddenly our Italian was inadequate and we floundered for some time perusing bus schedules and lineups in the 30 degree heat. Hot and tired my luggage weighed heavily on my shoulders and I momentarily regretted my decision to not bring luggage on wheels.
Finally we found our way and met Eleanora, a young Italian knitwear designer. She introduced us to the neighbourhood and her spacious modern apartment then left us to fend for ourselves. We found the local supermarket, purchased groceries for the next few days, took showers, and here we sit, enjoying the beauty of Florence. Red wine in hand, imbibing the aroma of basil on caprese salad, we peruse the chimney pot designs on tiled rooftops from our apartment balcony. Guide book in hand we’re contemplating our days exploring Florence and Tuscany.
I think back to this morning at the hostel in Venice. Certainly a day well-filled with the adventures of travel.
By: Jude Campbell, winner of the BCSA Stories from Abroad Scholarship