April 29, 2014 by Caroline Leland
Semana Santa Part 1.5: Milan to Florence
Thursday morning, Gaby and I took a bus from Milan to Florence.
That sentence is so deceptively simple.
We got up at 7 and left Violetta’s apartment at 7:50 for an 8:30 bus. We took a city bus to a subway station, then took a subway to the main bus station. We arrived at the bus station at 8:15. After wandering around for five minutes searching for our bus, we went to the information office to ask. Of course, no one there spoke English. The man behind the window pointed across the street and said, “Red building!” So we speed-walked across the station, across the street, and along the sidewalk towards the brick building. No buses. We walked all the way around the building. When I realized the sidewalk had ended and we were walking in the street, I called Gaby back. “This can’t be right.”
So we jogged, worry increasing, back to the information booth for more unsuccessful communication attempts. By now it was 8:27. Finally a kind woman standing nearby took pity on us and explained that the bus was late and would arrive at a spot across the street which Gaby and I had run past minutes earlier in our rush to the red building.
So we speed-walked back across the station and across the street. A few inquiries among the people gathered on the sidewalk revealed that everyone standing there (all who had seen us running back and forth, of course) was waiting for our bus. We waited for 20 more minutes, then followed the crowd back across the street to a different spot where the bus actually arrived.
Thirty minutes late, we finally left Milan. My stomach sank when I looked at my ticket and realized we were supposed to transfer buses in Bologna in a 20-minute time window which we certainly were not going to make. The bus driver didn’t speak English, so Gaby and I waited somewhat apprehensively to see what would happen next.
When we arrived in Bologna, half an hour late, we speed-walked up and down the row of buses, looking for one that said it was going to Firenze (Florence). No luck. So we jogged back to our original bus to try asking again. After a lot of difficult communication with people who didn’t seem interested in helping, we finally found a bus (our bus? I’ll never know) to Florence.
Florence-ish, I should say. After riding for a couple of hours, the bus abruptly pulled over and some people began to climb out. “Firenze?” I asked a woman who was getting off. “Si,” she replied. So I woke up Gaby and we grabbed our stuff and climbed out. As the bus pulled away, I looked around and realized we were standing on the grassy shoulder of a highway, with thick undergrowth on one side and cars whizzing by on the other. No buildings to be seen.
Gaby and I turned to each other. “Where the hell are we?”
The handful of people who had gotten off the bus were all walking in the same direction, so we followed. The group gathered at a bus stop about five minutes down the road, and we climbed onto a bus with the rest of them, hoping for the best. Luckily, Gaby has a data plan on her iPhone, so we pulled up Google maps and found out that we were about six kilometers outside of Florence.
A 20-minute bus ride later, we got off next to the river in Florence. Grabbed lunch from a tiny, adorable panini shop recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook, then walked to my friend Graham’s apartment.