Italy ~ Verona and (the stupidity in) Lake Garda

So our second day in Milan wasn't actually spent in Milan. I wanted to go to Verona and Mau wanted to go to Venice. How did Verona come about? Well I always research about the cities I'm gonna be in and I also look at the day tours that depart from those cities. There are day tours going to Verona and Venice from Milan. Unfortunately they do not go everyday. The tour that is going to Verona is going to Lake Garda too and so I just started reading more about these places, how to go and such. I didn't want to go to Venice because I've been there before. We should explore something new, right? Although I did think if I should spend the morning in Verona and then the afternoon in Venice since Verona is half way between Milan and Venice. In the end, I decided to just go to new places. If I was to finish seeing Verona earlier, I would go to Lake Garda and so that was the plan.

Me and Mau bought our tickets at the automatic machines the day before. These machines are so convenient and pretty easy to use; I didn’t know that. We bought return tickets which is a mistake for me actually. I bought return tickets from Milan - Verona - Milan. This is a mistake because the station for Lake Garda, in the town of Desenzano del Garda, was actually between Milan and Verona. So if I were to go back to Milan from Verona, I actually had to go back to Verona from Desenzano and then pass this town again on my way to Milan. For some reasons (so unlike me!!!), I didn't plan things in details, I just wasn't committed or sure if I could make it to Lake Garda so I guess that was me subconsciously buying the return ticket so if I didn't make it and ended up spending the whole day in Verona, I'd have had my return ticket ready. So anyway, Mau's train and mine was actually the same. It's just I got off first. It took around 1 hour 30 minutes from Milan to Verona and close to 3 hours from Milan to Venice. Our train left on time but it got stuck halfway, I don't know what happened, it just stopped for some time that we ended up arriving later than planned and this caused Mau to miss the day tour in Venice that she booked.

In the train, there's this stunningly beautiful Italian girl sitting in front of me. I think she's Italian. Anyway, I thought she was so beautiful that I was thinking that it was rather incredible. Now that I wrote about it, I wonder if my guy friends will think she's beautiful because often times the ladies whom I thought to be pretty are considered so so in their eyes and they often cited girls whom I thought as ordinary to be pretty. Okay, why does this matter? Well, I just want to show you how my brain works, the things I see, the things I remember, and maybe you'll get an idea of how I am like. Anyways, the girl was looking rather sleepy. Well I guess if you are commuting for around 1.5 hours from Milan to Verona for work, it does get tiring (she was looking all formal with a laptop bag). There's also a chinese tourist sitting in front of me, okay I forget where she's from, maybe not chinese. Maybe Korean or Japanese. She got separated from her boyfriend or husband that they were not sitting together. They got off somewhere which I also couldn't remember, perhaps Brescia (Note to self: google Brescia). Moving on, I arrived. Wanted to pee but you had to put some coins to get through the toilet barrier. Italy! I'm speechless sometime. Some of the important infrastructures are not well managed and yet they can put automated barriers for the toilet. Granted, not all toilets are like this. Anyway, I didn't have enough coins. So off I went without shame, asking the first Asian tourist I saw, if I could get some cents. I forgot how much I asked. The girl kindly gave me. I couldn't quite pin point where she's from, perhaps Taiwan. So after I managed to pee, I went to a magazine store asking if I can buy a Verona card, which is stupidity on my part. I knew it's being sold in the Tabaccaio and yet I went into a magazine store. Obviously the lady said, go to the Tabaccaio. So I went there, wanted to buy the 1-day pass but I was told by the lady that there's no 1-day pass anymore, either you take 2-day pass or 3-day pass and off she went lecturing me that the 2-day pass is worth it and so on. I said okay and I took the 2-day pass and it cost 15€. This is a proof that my Italian is better than my Chinese because if the explanation had been in Chinese, I wouldn't have been able to understand as much. Done with that, I got out of the train station and oh dear I started to get lost. As far as I looked, there's nothing like the city center or a piazza outside the train station. By the way, the lady in the Tabaccaio didn't have a map of Verona to give me :( So what I could do but to walk forward? Walking forward led me to the bus terminal. I chose a random stop / shelter and saw that there were many buses going to the Arena. So I thought okay, take the bus. You can take the buses for free with Verona card. I took a bus and it's weird. In Singapore you could count the bus stops and know that you'll get off correctly but it wasn't like this with this Verona bus. When I saw that the bus was stopping near something that looked like a piazza, I got off. I walked towards the fountain and then I saw the Arena *praise the Lord!!!* and so that was my first stop.

The Arena is like the Colosseum but it's so much smaller. I didn't stay much actually because there's nothing much to see. Unlike the Colosseum, there are many seats all around the Arena. I'm not sure if it's always like this or they were preparing for a performance. There were some people working on the stage. I didn't spend much time there. Met a girl from China who asked me to take her picture. She was travelling alone. You know now that I think of it, I've met a few girls who were travelling alone but I haven't met many guys who travelled alone. Girls are really more daring than guys? Moving on, after the Arena, I just walked, kinda following the crowd. Wanted to go to Casa di Giulietta / Juliet's house. However for the life of me, I couldn't find it! I'm that bad with direction. I took a turn somewhere and ended up kinda on the outskirt and I saw the river and the bridge. I didn't cross the bridge though, I just walked along the river. I should have researched more about Verona and have a map! At that time, I still hadn't had a map.

So anyway, took a turn somewhere and saw a church. I checked if it's listed on the Verona card. It was and I went in. It's Chiesa di Sant'Anastasia. It's kinda a nice church. What's interesting was seeing the hunchback who had the holy water basin on its back. I just looked in wikipedia, apparently there are 2 of them, but I only saw one :( After the church, I went to Torre dei Lamberti. I found the lift, so I obviously took the lift while a horde of french teenagers were taking the stairs. I was thinking, I'm too old for that. It's kinda nice to see the Verona from the top. The lift doesn't stop all the way at the top. There are more staircases. I didn't take it because I really didn't want to tire myself out. I tried taking pictures of me by myself and a nice lady offered to take it for me. I like it when people are nice to me :) This is a picture of Verona which I took from the tower :)

After I got down, I finally got a map and got direction to Casa di Giulietta. I found it but I almost missed it again! It's quite a small entrance and the sign was covered with graffiti, hence I missed it the first time around. The entrance was filled with writing on the walls by kids, it's so dirty and crazy and I think a lot of chewing gums were pasted there, so it's kinda a biohazard :( If you have watched Letters to Juliet, it's really not like that. There were many people there. I entered the house which is not the house of Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is a fiction although the fact that there's Juliet's house and Juliet's tomb in Verona may make you question it. The house is like a museum that contains illustrations of the story Romeo and Juliet and also of the bed and clothes and many things that people in that period of time used. Juliet's balcony was actually in the hall, not in her bedroom and so if she existed, it would have been impossible to converse with Romeo without being noticed by the people in the house. The balcony was small. I was contemplating if I want to have my picture taken on the balcony. I couldn't find anyone to ask :( Then I thought they had such a sad love story so perhaps it's a good thing that I didn't have my picture taken there, lest I jinx my already-very-sorry-non-existence love life.

There were so many people in the courtyard of the house. A lot of teenagers. A lot of people taking pictures with Juliet's statue with their hands on her boobs :( I feel sorry for the statue. The so many teenagers apparently caused too much annoyance for the people working there that they called a vigile. I'm not really sure how to translate this in English, perhaps the security? In Indonesian, I guess it would be satpam. A lady vigile came and she came blowing her whistle loudly and started screaming at the kids, telling them, Do you think this is your house? You have no respect at all, so noisy until people called me. I actually kinda grinned because I found it funny. It's funny how in a different language, people still can scream and scold in the same manner, the sentence of, do you think this is your house? is something that an Indonesian in that situation will scream as well, as I do think a Singaporean will do as well :D I think I saw people trying to distance themselves from the kids :P

After that, I decided that I was done with Verona and it's time for lunch. Looking at the map now, I feel sorry that I didn't do any research about Verona because I should have gone to the Duomo and Teatro Romano :( Anyways, I went back to Piazza delle Erbe because I saw there were many restaurants there and I settled with Ristorante Alla Torre. I was greeted by the signore, who's the owner and he's very funny. He's like the no bullshit Italian guy. He was chasing away people by saying, no pizza here!!! I think it annoyed him greatly if people asked for pizza. He then mumbled in Italian, if my wife knows about this, lucky she's not in the kitchen today :D He gave me the menu and when he said why don't you try today's special, the pasta ai porcini, I was surely not gonna argue with him and straight away said okay :) He's actually pretty nice, asking me if I have a map and he wanted to give me a more detailed map but I said I didn't need any. He asked me where I'm from and since I spoke Italian, I guess it confused him a bit. He guessed correctly that I came from Milan but I meant as in I came in from Milan that morning, not that I live there. He's originally from Milan but he left and move to Verona many years ago because he likes the smaller city. He asked me if I've been to Venice, I thought it was a rather funny question, us being in Verona. I said I did visit it 2 years ago. He said, oh you travel quite a lot, which I actually don't. He said he liked to travel too. He's been to Singapore which he said was great. He stayed in Singapore for 3 days. He's been to Bali but then he said he's never been to Indonesia. I wanted to tell him, but Bali is in Indonesia! But I had my pasta to focus on at that time, so I let him slide. After I'm done with lunch, he wanted me to explore more of Verona. I said okay not wanting to disappoint him. He obviously loves Verona so much. I excused myself and said good bye and made my way to the train station. To see pictures of Verona, you can go here.

In the train station, I got my train tickets. To go to Lake Garda, the nearest town with the train station is Desenzano del Garda. I got a return ticket back to Verona because of my earlier return ticket of Verona - Milan. The stupidity!!! So anyway, it took around 15 minutes or so to reach Desenzano from Verona. However, it's a long long long walk from the train station to reach the lake, where the boats and ferries are. I didn't see a bus and I didn't even know if I was going the right way. I just walked straight ahead. It felt really good to finally see the water! I found the booth where they sell the ferry ticket. It's perhaps because it's not peak period, there weren't actually many people. I got the ticket to Sirmione which is the first stop from Desenzano. It's a return ticket. The frequency of the ferry is not so good, it's not every 15 minutes or so. Again perhaps this is the Singaporean influenced me speaking. I expect more convenience :P So I had to wait for half an hour or so. I walked a bit, took some pictures around the lake. Sat down and get tanned. When I got into the ferry, I think there were only less than 10 of us who boarded the ferry.

Reaching Sirmione, the first thing I did was getting gelato. I enjoyed it while watching swans on the lake. Since I was having gelato, I couldn't take a picture of these 2 swans who were perhaps doing the mating dance and were facing each other that their necks was forming the heart shape! That's my first time seeing that in real life and yet I didn't have a picture of it. It was rather nice seeing the water, ducks, swans, while enjoying my gelato. After I had my gelato, I walked around the lake. There were some kids but noone was swimming, perhaps the water was still too cold. There's actually a castle like building in Sirmione but I didn't enter it. I was making sure that I had enough time to go back to Desenzano. Since the ferry doesn't run every so often, if I missed the ferry, I wouldn't have time to go back to the train station and that exactly what happened to me!!!

So what happened? What happened was upon the time in which I think the ferry was going to Desenzano, I started getting down to the dock. There were so many people that I was so focused into getting into the ferry without asking if it's the right ferry. I want to blame the staff there who didn't check the tickets!!! The irony was, there was this Australian couple (I think they're Australian) who were with me on the ferry in to Sirmione. They were also in the dock at that time. I was behind them. I thought they decided not to take the ferry because they didn't want to squeeze and being the trained "kiasu" person here in Singapore, I managed to squeeze in. As the ferry took off, I saw them in the dock and I actually felt sorry for them that they didn't get into the ferry! I should instead feel sorry for me!!! So in the ferry, the staff started checking the ticket and the staff told me you're on the wrong ferry! I was like, WHAT??!?!? and SHIT and FUCK was going interchangeably in my brain. He told me to come with him to the front steering area. Wow, as I am writing this, I still want to say shit and fuck. Anyway, he talked to his colleague and then told me in English, either I get off at the next stop and paid the difference or just stay on until we finally reach Desenzano. He said my best possible option was to stay in the boat simply because it's the fastest way to go to Desenzano. I weighed my option. What options did I have? One, get off at the next stop and find a way to go to Verona which is surely gonna be problematic because I don't know if there's any bus going there. Two, stay in the boat, and be late upon reaching Desenzano which would mean I wouldn't be able to make it to Verona on time to take my train back to Milan. However, I was pretty sure there'll be trains from Desenzano to Milan. The choice was obvious right. I still found it pretty hard though to just calm down and accept my fate :'( I'm just one of those people, I can not calm down in the face of mistakes and problems :( So I said, alright I'd stay in the boat. It seemed that I didn't have to pay anything because my ticket was for Desenzano - Sirmione - Desenzano without any stop in between. So even if the ferry took the long route from Sirmione to Desenzano, the trip I took was actually valid according to the ticket as long as I didn't get off in any of the stop. Well, it's either that or they just felt sorry for me that they didn't ask me to pay more. So anyway, I was very sad. One of the other crew asked me where I'm from. I replied in Italian that I'm Indonesian but I live in Singapore. Straight away he was like, Singapore - the airport is great!!! Such an amusing comment but I was too bumped out to be amused :( Anyway the crew were entertaining these 2 American girls, so I decided to leave that steering area and tried to find a seat among the many German tourists. I was so sad and pissed and there were so many Germans there and all I could hear was German and I was thinking, I don't want to hear this anymore!!!

At one point, everyone got off. I'm not sure which stop that was that I was kinda left alone in the boat. Well there were like 2-3 people boarding in but the crew who spoke to me in Italian did say, you're staying alone? I replied sadly, yeah, I have to stay, right? :( After the ferry moved again, he came to talk to me. He's actually very nice. I felt so touched that he came to talk to me!!! That's like my first time having an Italian guy coming to talk to me. Now I kinda forget what his first question was, perhaps what I was doing there and such. He asked me if I've been to Venice. Again, I found the question to be amusing but I seriously was too sad to focus on the good part. You know even when he said he liked Asian culture and food, I couldn't really reply much. I could have asked him, e la ragazza asiana? (Asian girl?). Seriously, looking back, I'm such an idiot. I think he's actually quite handsome behind his ray ban glasses and instead of making more small talks, I didn't really ask him much stuff. I didn't even ask him for his name :( I did let out a bit of a scream and said, arrghhh sono molto stupida!!! (I'm very stupid!!!). He said, why? because you got on the wrong ferry? I said yes. He said have patience while gesturing towards the lake, kinda telling me to enjoy the lake. I could only say softly, Si. Then he's off to work again. I think he did make me a bit relaxed. I did take a few pictures of the lake after that. When we were reaching Desenzano, he told me, we're reaching soon. I said finalmente! I kinda dashed off that I didn't try to see him again before I left. At this point, I don't know if you think I am more stupid for missing the ferry or for not talking to him more. Stupid stupid me!

Anyway, I walked really really fast to get to the station. Still there was no way I could make it on time to Verona to take my initial train. I was hoping that the train would stop at Desenzano like my train in the morning. I asked the signore at the counter. He wasn't friendly at all :( He said no and told me to get new ticket. So that's what I did. You know I should be thankful actually. The train that I was about to take was actually late by half an hour or so hence I could take that train. If not, I would have to take a later train. So at this point, my Verona - Milan ticket was wasted but I still have a Desenzano - Verona ticket. Unlike the Verona - Milan ticket which has a seat number and could only be used at the stated time, the Desenzano - Verona ticket was not marked like that, instead it was valid for 1 month (I think). So I was thinking of giving it to the first Italian I saw in the train. I sat down next to this lady and I had difficulty explaining to her that I wanted to give her the ticket. The mixture of Italian and English didn't help. I don't think she speaks English. Anyway in the end she got it but she wanted to pay me which I insisted that she didn't have to. She insisted but she didn't have the exact amount. It was actually very cheap, I couldn't remember how much. I think I took 1 euro something from her. I asked her if it's gonna be useful for her. She said yes, so that's good. I told her that I was so stupid that day and she was very nice and told me, no no, you're just distracted. When a seat by the window became available, I moved so that I could sit alone and be left with my thoughts. The lady was very nice that when she got off 1 stop before me, she looked at me again and we said good bye.

In that train ride, I got an sms from Mau, telling me that she missed her train from Venice. That train was the last train to Milan and so she's stuck there. I guess it was a really bad day for us. As mean as this may sound, that sms actually made me rather happy because that meant I got the room all for myself. When I finally reached Milan and got out of the station, I was actually feeling better. It was late and it was already dark outside, luckily our hotel was near. The uncle at the hotel was there and asked me where my friend was. I told him about Mau being stuck. He asked me, you didn't travel together? He also asked if I've been to Venice. It's the third time someone asking me that. It's very amusing. I guess it's because Venice is very very unique. You do have to try to visit Venice if you're in Italy. I don't think there's another place like Venice in the world. So anyway, got into my room, had pizza for dinner. Had shower. I felt more relaxed. The tv was showing Leonardo diCaprio's The Beach. God, that guy was actually quite lanky in his younger days. He has become so plump now. With all the mistakes that I made, I actually managed to feel happier when I'm in that hotel room alone. The solitary was really what I needed. I will always need my alone time and in all the days of our trip, that day was the only day in which I spent the most time alone and it's good for my soul :P I almost forget, for pictures of Sirmone and Lake Garda, you can go here. So that's the very long story of that day. The next day, we were off to Rome. I'll leave that for the next post.

I should end this long post, but let me just add this bit. Went to watch the Italian movie, Il Vento Fa Il Suo Giro or Le Vent Fait Son Tour in French or The Wind Blows Round in English with YeeMaggio on Monday. The story is about a french family, a goat cheese maker, who decided to move into a small village in Italy. They were greeted with people who welcomed them kindly as well as the people who just didn't like the foreigners. Unfortunately in the end, the hatred won, and it drove the family away. The saddest part of the ending was when one inhabitant of the town, who's mentally challenged, killed himself. He used to lived on the street but the french family actually welcomed him into their house. When they left, they didn't bring him along, so I think he was broken hearted that he killed himself. It's kinda a sad movie. It's weird for me to say this, that I don't get the resentment towards foreigners but at the same time I understand the feeling that you want to keep your community the way it is and not take any outsider in. Anyway the movie was in Italian, French, and Occitan. It was funny for me of how there are conversation in which one person was speaking in Italian and the other person replied in French and for some reason, they understood each other. This has been a really long post. I have to go to sleep. Buonanotte tutti!

:) eKa @ 10:52:00 PM •

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