Yesterday was a day that gave me a confidence boost like no other. Before Jen and I set out for Pistoia, I went to class and we toured a food market. This place was so cool, it kind of reminded me of a World Market. It was a newly renovated three story building with meat markets, fresh pasta and veggie/fruit stands. As we toured around, we gained two elderly ladies in our group. These women were from South Carolina and were wondering around the market and just joined the group. When I say joined the group, they were pushing students out of the way to hear the professor. There was no blending from these two. Come to find out when we started to do a tasting at a bakery, they thought they were with their own tour group. Needless to say it supplied a good laugh amongst the group.
After class I printed off the tickets and hustled back to the apartment. I cut my 20 minute walk down to about 12 minutes. I wish I could say I cut it in half but I could only hustle for so long. Jen and I decided to call a cab instead of walk the thirty minute trek across town with our luggage. In Italy you have to call cabs you can’t really hail them. Well, 15 minutes later and no cab I had to resort to my hailing tactics. Lucky for us our apartment is right by the Four Seasons so we can get the cabbies right after they drop someone off. After hailing a cab and convincing him to give us a lift off we went.
We arrived at the bus station with very little info on how everything was supposed to go down. I had heard about the high risk of getting pick-pocketed at the train station so I was pretty guarded. However there was a really long line at one of the kiosks, and I went against my better judgement and walked over to a kiosk with a gypsy woman standing by it. She ended up helping me throughout the whole process until it came to payment. I was at a crossroads with using $20 cash or a card. I was afraid that she would either A) rip the cash/card out of my hand or B) take the change and run. So I ended up using as much change as I had to cover it. After I paid she did the typical “since I helped you you help me” deal. I think I got lucky on that situation. Next feat was finding what platform we were supposed to go to. Fortunately Jen speaks a little Italian so she’s my go-to when it comes to communicating. The lady told us that our train is on platform 7 however the sign said that train was going to Lucca. We asked one of the passengers if they were going to Pistoia and they said yeah so we hopped on. I figured if worse came to worse we would just ride the train back to Florence and start from square one.
About midway through the train ride the conductor says something about Lucca but never Pistoia. I think Jen and I’s eyes were the size of tennis balls. We were surrounded by people that spoke “un po” aka very little inglese so our communication was very little. We ended up comparing tickets with a fellow passenger and we decided that we will just get off when they do.
After we arrived in Pistoia with hopes of finding a cab line, they were soon shot down when it looked like we had arrived in the Harlem of Italy. We walked over to the bus station and asked the guys working if they spoke English. One of three spoke a little English. I asked for a map and I couldn’t even find where we were located or the street our hotel was on. Now, I’m not saying I’m a pro map reader but anyone can read street names and there were not ANY surroundings streets of where we needed to go. I honestly felt so overwhelmed but I remembered one of the most important things while traveling–keeping calm. So somehow the woman told us that we needed to get off at a certain stop and walk up a road and we would get there.
Well, once we got on the bus we realized that there were no names of the stops anywhere. Cool. We whip out our phones and try to find the way we need to go but the map says we had to walk 25 minutes. The johnny came out in me and I whipped out my phone and called the hotel to figure out where we were and if they could get someone to get us. I’m not saying that I’m against walking anywhere, but if there are two girls by themselves with luggage, carrying a map, with a totally lost expression on their faces we might as well just paint a bulls eye on our shirts. after a few phone calls later we end up walking around a block or so and about 20 minutes later we arrive at the hotel. Yet again, this was another mirage for me.
After I made it to the hotel, I felt this great sense of relief I had never felt before. I couldn’t imagine traveling alone and trying to figure all of this stuff out. I’m not trying to say I was in harms way or that this experience was terrifying. It was just overwhelming not knowing where I was or the language to ask for help.
Anyways, once we got all checked in and took a power nap we were off to have a drink before the shuttle took us to the concert. We got to the venue where the concert was and it’s basically in the town square in front of Pistoia’s Duomo. There are seats for maybe 1, 000 people and standing room for 300. I was shocked because this was a big blues festival with really big name bands. I mean I was there to see Jack Johnson and there were maybe 1000 people there total. This concert was so unlike any concert that I had been to.
First of all, there was a coffee bar set up as a vendor. When have you ever seen coffee being served at a concert? There was also very little beer stands but there were Sangria stands. I wish I could say there was a pasta stand but it was all fresh breads and gelato. Jack was AH-MAZING. Jen and I were groovin’ to the beat the whole time. Then we decided to jump up and join the pit crew. Honestly the night could not have been more perfect. Great music, a great friend and perfect weather.
I’m so glad that I checked this off of my bucket list. From this trip I gained more than an international concert. I gained confidence in myself in learning how to weather the storm of the unknown even if I wanted to freak out and call my dad. Italy has definitely put me to the test, but I keep rising to the occasion.