The Italian Job: Day 20 – Bye, bye Bolzano

With an afternoon train to catch, I packed my rucksack and went for a wander to the riverside park while it was still cool.

The morning giro was about to get under way but there was far more talking and less pedalling than you might expect as the cyclists all stood around gassing.

There was no sign of the Jolly Old Boys’ Dog Walking Club though.

The park was quite busy: commuters (smart suits and office frocks) cycling to work, groups of joggers and nordic walkers, processions of teenagers on schooltrips, while grandparents delivered daycare for toddlers charging around sandpits.

I took a closer look at the bioenergetic planting. Each tree, or shrub, as I mentioned is thought to be good for a specific organ or system within the body. You need to sit or stand or just be in the general vicinity of it for  15-20 minutes.

When there isn’t a sign about the plant nearby, the rainbow coloured benches are carved with the names of the system that will benefit. They’re carved in German and Italian so it’s a fairly fun way to increase your medical vocabulary. (See, more benefits for your next pub quiz).

I decided to sit in the cardiovascular section – I have a high risk of having a stroke – so while I wasn’t anticipating any immediate noticeable effects, I thought it couldn’t do any harm. Mind you, it’s not like I hadn’t been hiking, which is definitely good for the cardiovascular system (though possibly not as great for my knees) through pine forests throughout the previous week.

The smell of pine was nice though.

Look after your heart

Bolzano (Bozen) Railway Station was opened in 1859 and is on two lines: the trans-Alpine Brenner Railway and the branch line to Merano/Meran ( which was Tirol’s former capital).

Once the region was annexed to Italy, from 1927 to 1929, the station building was replaced by one in the style of Italy’s fascist regime. It was designed by the architect Angiolo Mazzoni and decorated by the Austrian artist Franz Ehrenhofer. (There are a few buildings throughout the town surviving the Fascist regime’s Italianisation of the town and region. None of them are popular).

Locals don’t appear to be fans of the station – reviews regularly highlight it as being “the coldest in the country“. And if you think opinions run high about this, you should check out the reviews for the station café: Panella.

They hate it.

Even the staff post negative reviews about it.

The main problems are the fact that is continually run by only one member of staff which means if there are more than two people ahead of you in the queue, you’re waiting a long time. There’s a fair bit of sympathy from the staff with the exception of the “fish faced girl”. I’ve rarely seen comments condemning the physical appearance of male staff though the “sniffing man” does get quite the slating.

I think he served me today. And the service was great because, seeing as I was fairly heavy-laden (backpack on the move, gang) he helped me carry order to my table.

The other element of criticism is the poor range of food and lack of fresh produce. This may have been taken on board as I got a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice with my iced coffee. That said, I think freshly squeezed orange juice is the basic expectation here – every cafe, bar, restaurant has a juicer. I’m so English I think it’s a luxury in provision.

Make the most of it. Not many photos today.

My train was waiting on the platform and… it was on Platform No 1, instead of being the furthest from the ticket hall. Platform 1 was in the shade… and… I didn’t have to walk half way to Meran (Merano) to find my carriage because it was right in front of me as I left the café.

I boarded – 15 minutes before it was due to depart – and the train headed South along the mountain lined valley. The journey would take me back down the route I had followed to get here, as far as Verona.

I left my rucksack in the luggage rack at the end of the carriage as there was only one way in out of this one, and I didn’t want to be that person who concusses half of the passengers by coshing them on the way off the train with all my luggage. I usually prefer to keep my rucksack close. Yes, it is “The Precious” and my alter ego is Gollum.

Therefore, because I was keeping an eye on this, as the train departed Trento, I had ten minutes of entertainment watching a bloke stack his luggage like he was building an art installation. Suitcases were added, then removed, then replaced in a more pleasing position, before being taken out and re-positioned again. How much luggage did he have? I then realised his party had left him with the chore of loading up all the luggage as a woman wandered up the aisle with another suitcase and travel bag for him to place, in his game of Tetris.

From Verona, where the carriage filled up, I was continuing to Bologna where I would change for a second train. The conductor appeared, ready to check tickets when he spotted that the man seated in front of me was not wearing a FFP2 mask. It is taken very seriously here. He appeared to be asking where the man’s mask was and that he could buy one from the onboard shop. The man stood immediately and took his wallet along the carriage. The conductor followed him, ticket checks fading into significance against making sure all passengers were protected.

Five minutes later, the man returned wearing a pristine white mask. I wondered what thw onboard shop charged for them.

We left the vineyards behind as left Verona, passing field and polytunnels (full of salad crops). I wasn’t sure at what point we had left the mountains behind and it seemed strange to be in such flat territory – level as far as the horizon.

As the train approached Bologna, the populated landscape became gradually more smaller villages becoming larger villages but still with the occasional grand farm house standing alone in the fields.

The Trainline app advised me that the train was pulling into Platform 18 and that I’d lost seven minutes of my changing time, needing to get to whichever platform I needed withing nine minutes. “Please let it be 17 and not platform 1,” I thought…

…I’d forgotten how big Bologna Centrale Station is…

…My train was departing from Platform 3. “Only pack what you can run with,” wrote a wise travel blogger, so I do.

One 40 litre rucksack and the handbag I had made in Vietnam – tailored for travelling. I won’t be doing any marathons with this lot but I can run for trains and walk for five miles with it on my back.

Platform 17 is one of the subterranean platforms of Bologna’s station, I had to find a departures board that covered all departures, not just the local ones. Once I did, that’s when I learned I needed Platform 3. At least there are no separate halls of platforms as with Gare de Lyon (Platform 3 in Hall A or B), just a lot of numbers…

Platform 3 is above ground so I had three levels to dash up and I made it to Platform 3 just as platform changes were being announced. (There was quite a howl from the folks on Platform 6 when they heard they had to run to Platform 4). The display board was showing nothing so I tapped a man on the shoulder, pointed at the track and asked: “Bari Centrale?”

I was in the right place… though I would not be heading to Bari. One more change to be made in 20 minutes… and Trainline was advising that I didn’t have time to make it at the next station.

We’d see.

The current issue was to find get on the right train and find my seat. It arrived slowly to the platform. Unlike rail travel in China where not only do you know where to stand on the platform for your carriage, the signage tells you where the doors will be and the trains arrive to align with those indicators. Here in Bologna, as in most places, waiting on the platforms, we were all watching the carriage numbers go past while we looked for our own section. Some people had an early head’s up and were able to start moving. As carriage six rumbled by, the platform began to resemble a migration of wildebeest.

For the next change, the app had at least told me which Platform I needed to be on, but not which one I was arriving at. From an excellent early impression, Trainline was not covering itself in glory today, only updating platforms once I’d got to them.

The train suddenly ground to a halt and cautiously picked up speed again. This wasn’t going to help a quick transfer.

My next train was going to depart on time. It wasn’t looking like I would be leaving with it.

So, did I make it?

Yes. Only pack what you can run with.

The train from Bologna arrived two minutes into Platform 4 which required a dash down the platform to the stairs, along the corridor and up the stairs to Platform 6. I headed for the door where the conductor was waiting and as I found my seat, the train left Faenza.

I was back in vineyard territory. Lines of vines stretched in every direction – occasionally, as hedgerow equivalents, separating fields of barley but usually as fields in their own right.

The train passed through small towns and made frequent stops. The conductor didn’t bother to check any tickets.

Just over half an hour later, the train arrived in Ravenna. Even with a twenty minute walk to my accommodation, I was too early to check in…

Frangipane while you wait

…I was really quite content.

Categories: Italy, Public Transport, The Italian Job, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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