Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Modena and Me

Morning capp
“You don’t need any brains to listen to music.”
— Luciano Pavarotti, Modena Native

I know I was going to write about Burano today, but I went to Modena and had quite an adventure(s), so I'll save Burano for a day when I go nowhere and nothing happens. . . well, when I go nowhere.

I left Bologna early this morning (around 7:45) so that I could get to Modena before people were out and about so I could take photos of the buildings without people in them.  Modena is obviously not as popular as Venice because most of the seats on the train were empty (Photo below). By train, Modena is just about 25 minutes away, so I got there rather quickly.

Second-class seats on the train to Modena

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't as nice as it was on Monday.  There was a heavy cloud cover, and it felt as though it would rain.  Of course, I didn't have my umbrella since the forecast called for sun, so I figured I was going to get soaked. Since it wasn't raining, though, I decided to walk from the station to the center of town where they have a wonderful covered market.  I did my homework and wrote down explicit directions from the train station to the market.

 A lot of good they did me as the small streets near the station were not marked.  Since it was early, the tourist information office was not open, so I couldn't get a map. Nonetheless, I took off on foot going in what I thought, according to what I had written, was the right direction.  The market was only 1.2 kilometers from the station, so I figured I could find it. Right.

After about 15 minutes of walking God-knows-where, I ended up on a main street that actually had a name on it AND, as luck would have it, a rough map on a board.  All i had to do was go down that main street and find Via Sgarzeria. I never found Via Sgarzeria. I walked and walked and finally decided to turn left on what looked like another main street since that was what I was supposed to do on Sgarzeria. Two blocks up, I saw that I was near the military zone (below).

Military Zone

(Side note:  I went around the military zone and ended up near a public garden [below]. No offense to the people of Modena, but I'm not sure I would call a gravel drive with roses and weeds on either side a public garden.  They need to send someone to my hometown, Youngstown, Ohio, to see what a real public garden is. But, I digress. . . .)

The public garden

 As I walked down the street in front of the garden, I smelled the unmistakeable aroma of horses.  Sure enough, I was passing the complex where the military keeps their horses.  Crap, I thought (No pun intended.), where the heck am I now?  Not knowing what to do, I continued walking until I crossed what looked like another main drag.  Luckily, a woman was walking towards me.

"Excuse me," I said to her, "I'm trying to find Mercato Albinelli."  She looked at me as though I were a little nuts which, considering the fact that I had literally pulled my hair, was probably true.

"The Market?" She stared at me a second before she continued. "It's about 2 kilometers that way." She made an "L" with her arm, pointing back down the way I had just walked and to the left.  "Go to the second light up here and turn left.  Just continue walking, and turn left again on the big street.  You know, she said, it might be closed for August."  Of course, I had not thought of that. "But who knows?"

"Thank you so much," I sighed.  "Thank you. Thank you."

"Are you alone?" she asked me, and when I nodded, she said, "Be careful. Good luck."  Those words would come back to me a few hours later.

I did as she told me, and after another 10 minutes or so, decided I was yet again lost. I have a great sense of direction, so all of this was very confusing to me.  I finally stopped and asked a guy at an edicola (news stand) how the heck to get to the mercato, and he pointed me down the road and left yet again.  I took off but didn't get more than two blocks when I stopped a man walking his adorable English Spaniel.

"Excuse me, sir," I pleaded. "I'm a bit lost. I'm trying to find Mercato Albinelli."

"You're very close," he exclaimed. "Turn right at the first corner, and left at the first corner, and you're there."  Titi, his dog, rubbed her head on my leg, and I scratched her chin.

It was, at this point, a little after 9:30, and I finally felt a little better.

Just one of the vendors in Mercato Albinelli

Sure enough, the market was exactly where Titi's owner said it was, and it was open. I was ecstatic.  I can get tired of looking at the churches and old buildings sometimes, but I never get tired of going in the markets.  The one in Modena is beautiful, too, not for the physical structure, but for all of the great foods it holds.

 I don't eat peppers, but I thought the size of the ones I saw there (above) was amazing.

 The peaches and nectarines (above) were as big as my fist.  And, while I would not eat a hot pepper on your life, look at the color on the ones I saw (below).  There were six bakeries in the market, and they each had different breads and sweets.  In addition, there were butchers, fish vendors, and places where you could buy cooked foods.  Heaven.  I ended up buying bread, a brioche (of course), a little aged parmiggiano reggiano, and a heart tomato.  Most people buy souvenirs and t-shirts, I buy food.    :-)

 After I left the market, I finally had my cappuccino for the morning (photo at top), and I walked around the main piazza.  I had absolutely no idea how to get back to the train station, so I found the tourist office and got a map.  I asked the gal to highlight the route for me so I would know exactly where I was to walk.

I stopped in the basilica in the main square and walked around that massive place.  There are eight altars in there. It just amazes me how much money went into building those places so many years ago.  I also find it interesting that they are still standing.  There is scaffolding all over the outside of this one, but the inside seems to be as beautiful as ever. 

After about three hours in Modena, I left the basilica and wended my way to the main street I was to follow back to the train station.

The basilica in Modena

I saw a man in his 50s or 60s watching me as I approached the corner where he was standing.  As I passed him, he fell in beside me.

"Where are you going, bella?" he asked me.  I ignored him. "Where are you going?" I shook my head. "Do you want to have coffee?" 

"I don't speak Italian," I lied.  The words of the woman who helped me earlier came back to me. For the first time, I felt a little bit of fear. We were on the main street, but a lot of businesses were closed for August holidays, and at some point, I was going to have to turn down a narrow side street to get to the station. It was all happening too fast for me to think straight.

"Where are you from?" he continued. I refused to look at him, shook my head, and jerked away.  "Come on. Are you from France?" That was a good one.  I guess I graduated from being British.

"Nein," I yelled.  "Nein. Nein. Nein." I decided to use German since it sounds a little rougher than plain, old, "NO."  He still matched me step-for-step.

As luck would have it, I noticed a cafe across the street and a local fruit and vegetable vendor were both open. Since the fruit shop was closer, I stopped there. The owner was talking to another man, so I instantly felt safe.

My "friend" continued down the street alone.  I watched until he was out of sight and slowly walked that way because I had no other choice.  When I got to the first of three alleys I could take to get to the station, I made sure he was not down there, and I scurried down it as quickly as I could.  The road at the end of that alley was very busy, and there were a lot of people waiting to cross to the station.  When the light turned green, I was the first one across.

I can still power walk it when I have to.

The regional train back to Bologna

1 comment:

  1. Uh oh...that was a bit scary. I don't think Mike will be letting you out of his sight any time soon!!