Thursday, 25 July 2013

Home Thoughts from a Blog. Part 2

I finished my last blog by locating myself in Tirrenia, half an hour outside Pisa on the Mediterranean Coast. Which is, indeed, where I still am.

Nonetheless, this was meant to be sightseeing holiday so I have felt a bit guilty in spending every day just waking up; having a coffee and a brioche; going to the beach; waiting for mid-day; having a beer; eating lunch; sleeping; having another swim and then a stroll; drinking another beer; eating dinner and then going to bed. Possibly after another beer. Hugely guilty.

Alright, not that guilty. But nevertheless unfulfilled.

Alright, not that unfulfilled.

Nonetheless, I felt I should do something; visit somewhere. So I had resolved to go to Lucca for the day. I love Lucca although I haven't been there for perhaps ten years. It is a place of exquisite beauty with a perfect wall around which you can hire a bike and cycle on the flat and in the shade. And it is nor far away. Half an hour on the bus to Pisa and then another half an hour on the train.

But the very bus which takes you from outside my front door to Pisa, en route to Lucca, in one direction takes you directly in less time to Livorno in the other. And I've never been to Livorno.

So why bother with the longer journey, I thought? Let's see what Livorno is like.

Now, at this point I should perhaps have listened to twitter. Most of the advice I received there after inquiring as to whether I should go to Livorno might be summarised by the single word answer "Don't".
I did however get one "if you insist" tip for a restaurant and a reminder that it is one of the most left-wing cities in Italy, so that was enough encouragement for me.

With the benefit of hindsight I might compare myself to the foreign tourist, installed happily on Loch Lomond side, proposing a day trip to Clydebank. For Livorno has all the charm of Clydebank or, worse still, its
opposite bank neighbour, Greenock.

And it was largely shut, it appears because being a stronghold of the Left, and 25th July 2013 being the 70th Anniversary of the fall of Mussolini, all public buildings were closed in celebration. Including the "one thing to see", the Fortezza Medicea, where was situated (when it was open) the restaurant to which I had been recommended.

So I just kinda wandered about, as lunch approached, and the temparature rose, among restaurants that were either "chiuso per ferie"; "chiuso per lavori" or simply "chiuso per turno". And would probably have been shut for some other reason even if it wasn't their "turno"

By this time it would be fair to say that my thoughts were turning to the Bus Station until, like Beau Geste stumbling upon an oasis, I found an open trattoria. Where the food was brilliant. A primo of ravioli di pesce; a secondo of griglia mista di pesce; ananas; cafe. Wine, water, and a digestivo. Thirty Euros. If I could remember its name I would pass it on. Except then you'd need to go to Livorno.

While I was at lunch however Mike Elrick was in touch via twitter inquiring whether I might, for ideological reasons, acquire him a Livorno football top. For if the town has a left-wing reputation that is nothing compared to the reputation of its football team and its fans. They make the Celtic look like wishy washy liberals.

So, I asked the padrone, as I paid the bill and without requesting a receipt, where such an item might be obtained. This was met quizzically. So I explained that "il mio amico" was, and here I hesitated, "un comunista!" Now, correctly, I should have properly have said that he was a left social-democrat, "un partigiano d'il capo perduto, John Smith"  but my conversational Italian wasn't really up to that and my original formulation was sufficient anyway for smiles all round and a customer to be summonsed to give me directions.

Except this is where my Italian kind of failed me. I was, apparently. to go along Via Garibaldi to a shop called Magini (?). There was a bit more however that I didn't follow.

Now, there is a little known fact that the late Benito Mussolini decreed that every town above a certain size in Italy required to have four streets or squares with a particular appellation, one of which is Garibaldi. (The others are: "Roma"; "Vittorio Emanuele" and "XX Settembre".)

So the Via Garibaldi is usually, anywhere, a pretty important drag. And Livorno has done il Duce proud in this regard, even if it might not have a lot of other time for him. For the Via Garibaldi transpires to be the length of Great Western Road or Alexandra Parade. Possibly even the West Highland Way, for I never ever did get to the end of it.

Having walked for a mile or so in baking heat I eventually stopped in a cafe for water and directions. "Was there a sports shop selling Livorno shirts in this street?" I inquired.  It is only fair to say that by this point I was wondering if the helpful restaurant customer had been a supporter of Silvio Berlusconi (or Fiorentina) on the wind up. After some thought the man repiled that indeed there was. It was " Sempre diritto. Un altro kilometro, forse un kilometro e mezzo".

At this point I gave up. I returned slowly to the main square, where I arrived, bedraggled, about an hour later. Consuming the remains of my litre bottle of water on the way. But before I departed the town I had one last go. I approached some teenage boys as likely suspects as to where, nearer at hand, a Livorno top might be obtained. "In Via Garibaldi! They agreed. At the Negozio Magini." When I indicated that was perhaps a bit far they could not have been more helpful. "You can get a Number 2 bus" and directed me to the bus stop. And I eventually worked out the bit being said by the man in the restaurant that I hadn't quite fully understood.

So, needless to say, I did not get a number 2 bus and Mike will not be getting his Livorno top. He can either buy one over the internet or he can get a flight to Pisa, a train to Livorno and a number 2 bus.

I'll tell him where to get a good lunch.

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