~ Yogi Berra
(Note: To make this easier to read, I'm going to write everything in English. I'll italicize anything that I said (or thought I said) in Italian. I also changed apartment address.)
The thing that worried me the most about traveling alone to Italy was arriving in Bologna just before midnight and getting to the apartment to find no one there to greet me. Since I had kept in contact with the owner, I felt I was being a little silly, yet I worried. (I tell you, it comes naturally.) And for good reason. It was a little after midnight when I rang the bell as the owner requested I do, and there was no answer any of the three times I rang the bell.
"HOLY. SHIT." I wanted to cry.
Let me back up a bit to my arrival in Bologna. Coming through customs was very easy. The customs agent was thrilled to be working so late at night, so he barely looked at my passport as he stamped it and waved me through. My bags, which I swear gained about 50 pounds during our stop at Heathrow, jostled behind me as I pulled them to the taxi stand. A very friendly taxi driver waved me over.
"Where are you going, Signora?" he asked me.
"Sixty-eight Via Castiglione," I replied. "Please forgive my Italian. I don't speak it very well."
"You speak well," he reassured me. I had said all of about 10 words to him, so I'm not sure that he was a good judge.
He drove quickly pointing out various sites as we passed them, but I was too tired to notice much. I was glad when I started to recognize where we were, and I held my breath in excitement. He slowed the taxi as he passed the B&B we had stayed in last year, and he stopped a few doors down the street.
"Sixty-eight Via Castiglione," he announced and added, "17.20 euro." I handed him a 20 euro note, and he started to give me change. (In Italy, tips are not the norm.)
"No. No," I told him. "For you. It's very late. Thank you. Thank you." He waited until I'd yanked my luggage to the door and took off. I had been hoping that he'd at least wait until I rang the bell, but I guess he wanted to get back to the airport.
I stood and tried to read the apartment numbers in the dark. Apartment 2 was at the bottom of the row of buttons. I rang the bell. Nothing. "I knew it," I whispered.
I rang the bell again. Nothing. "Crap." Anxiety quickly pushed the excitement out of the way. I wondered if I had the correct address I knew I was on the right street. Maybe I was wrong on the number.
I pushed on the bell for at least 10 seconds. Nothing.
"HOLY. SHIT." I wanted to cry. I was exhausted and hot and, by this time, completely deflated. It was dark, and the only other people I saw were an elderly couple walking down the other side of the street, and a university student on a bike. My taxi driver had been the last car to head down the street.
Giovanni had given me his cell phone number, but I had stupidly not written it down nor programmed it into the phone. I didn't have wi-fi, but I hoped that I had saved the message in the phone's email. I did. I dialed and waited what had to be only a few seconds for the call to catch, but it seemed like forever. The phone rang once, twice, and,
"Yes?" A man answered.
"GIovanni?" My voice was shaking.
"Yes," he hesitated.
"Who?" he asked.
"Who?" I thought. I don't want to tell you what went through my mind. "Krees." (That time I used a more Italian pronunciation.) "I'm in front of the building."
"Oh. Oh. So-ree," he said. "I be right-a down."
And, he arrived promptly.
"You come-a early," he said. "I was-a thinkin' another 30 me-noot."
At that point, I was happy to be in the apartment. He showed me around and demonstrated how to turn on the air, the stove, and the internet.
"Do you need-a anysing more-a?" he asked me.
"No, grazia." I just wanted to call Mike and go to bed.
"Look the door. It's-a safe, but look-a it," he advised as he left.
And, I did.