Kamea and I decide to find a bus that will take us to the mall, which is about a 12-minute ride from our apartment in Rovigo, Italy.
We walk to the bus stop (a parking lot), where there are four buses sitting, mostly empty. There is one man standing in the middle of the lot, and he looks official. He has on a tie and a vest. Clearly, he’s the ringleader of the bus drivers.
So I go up to him. I ask him if he speaks English, “Buongiorno. Parli inglese?”
He said, “No.”
Then, he put his arm around me, and walks me over to a bus where he said someone does speak English (in Italian, of course). I can see that the person is young – yes, chances are good he speaks some English.
We need to get to the mall.
The man with his arm around me tells the other bus driver I need help. I ask this young driver which bus will take us to the mall.
All of the bus drivers are sitting in their respective buses, talking to each other with the doors open and their feet kicked up on the steering wheels, talking over each other as they are all answering (in Italian) how we get to the mall – a common example of the relaxed and helpful demeanor of Italians. They’re friendly and everyone is willing to jump in and help, offering their expert opinion.
I’m reminded of this when I read in one of my favorite author’s, Elizabeth Minchilli’s book, Eating Rome…
Over the years I’ve learned that if I don’t recognize a vegetable (at the market), I needn’t worry about how to prepare it. A simple “Come se fa?” (“How do you do it?”) usually results not only in the fruttivendolo giving me her favorite recipe, but, nine times out of ten, the other women waiting patiently for their turn will also chime in. Before I know it, I’m the focus of a lively discussion on the merits of whether to roast or braise, garlic versus onion, or the dilemma of deciding to make a soup or pasta.
Back to my day… the young driver confirms that yes, the correct bus to get to the mall is here and points the way.
We arrive at the mall.
I’m fairly impressed with the mall. To be honest, I didn’t expect much, as Rovigo isn’t a tourist destination. There are plenty of clothing stores with some inexpensive options.
I buy fuzzy socks to keep my feet warm on our cold tile floor. Only 1 euro (2 pairs)! Tank tops are under 5 bucks and leggings are less than 10. I love the prices and the quality.
The mall also has a huge Interspar store, which is kind of like Target in the U.S. I find everything I want, including my cherished sliced jalapenos for my beef patties.
There’s also a terrific athletic store, with high quality sports equipment, accessories, whey protein, yoga mats, and brand name clothing (plus camping stuff!).
Wait! We see bikes, too!
We’re on the hunt for a used bike for Greg to help with his mobility, because his hip is preventing him from exploring the city with us by foot. We’re hoping that riding a bike will be easier on his body, but we don’t want to pay full price for a new one. However, today Interspar has bikes on sale (99 euro), including kid bikes.
Kamea doesn’t know how to ride a bike yet. It’s a sore spot for her because she feels like she should by now. With our traveling, there haven’t been opportunities for her to learn. She yearns for some normalcy at times, and learning how to ride a bike would help scratch that itch. But, f*ck, my kid doesn’t do well with scraped knees. Hence, I’ve been putting it off for more reason than one.
But, as we’re looking for a bike for Greg, she can’t help but chime in about getting one for her. The excitement in her voice actually gets me excited for her, too.
I’m imagining getting her one. After all, we’re going to be settled in Rovigo for many months (could be a year), and it’s a fairly strong bike-riding community (in spite of some narrow streets that are shared with cars). But, where will I teach her?
There are lots of people getting around the city on bikes here. All beach-cruiser style bikes – comfortable and relaxed is the feeling I get when I see people riding their bikes. There is just no hurry. If anyone is hurrying, it’s me, and it feels out of place as I walk “New Yorker style” on the streets of Italy faster than some of them riding their bikes. They don’t wear helmets either.
Should I buy a bike at the mall?
The question now becomes, “How do I get a bike home?”
Can I bring it on the bus?
This is the next thing to figure out, and quickly, since the bike sale is only today and tomorrow.
I need a cappuccino to pencil this all out.
Perfect… there’s an Illy cafe bar in the mall where we take a break. God, I love Italy.
I text Greg so we can figure out if I should get him the new bike in case we can’t find a good used bike. And, by the way, what about Kamea? Should we get her one, too? How will I get them both home, or even one?
We decide that if we can bring bikes on the bus then we can buy them, or at least one. It might require a couple of trips (if buying both).
But first, I need the answer to whether we can bring a bike on the bus.
Kamea and I go the bus stop at the mall to take the bus home. We brainstorm on options to get a bike home for her first (though I’m still unsure whether it’s a good idea to get her one).
We have 2 bus tickets left, and only a few bus runs left before the mall closes and buses stop running for the day. While sitting at the bus stop, I ask some young Italian love-birds (using Google Translate) if they know whether we can bring a bike on the bus.
They say, “Si.”
That should give me relief, but I’ll feel better when I ask the bus driver — just to be sure. Who knows if something is lost in translation.
I ask the bus driver when he picks us up.
I don’t know all of what he says, but the word “No” was definitely in there and I didn’t hear any “Si.”
Trouble is, he says no, but he also says a lot more. I don’t know if maybe he’s saying, “No, but…. blah blah blah,” as if he’s offering other solutions, none of which I understand.
A Lost Coat
We walk home from the bus stop near our apartment, drop the clothing items off that we’d just bought, and head back to the bus stop to go back to the mall.
We have to do this because… Kamea left her coat somewhere at the mall. We decide to look for the coat, and while we’re taking another bus, maybe we can ask another bus driver about bringing a bike on a bus. Perhaps there is a driver who says yes.
In Italy, sometime it’s a matter of who you ask because many “rules” are merely “suggestions.”
I’m also going to see if Interspar has some sort of delivery option. Or maybe we could use a taxi…
We walk to the bus stop where we went before — the one with multiple buses parked. There is a bus waiting there, but it’s not the one we need. However, the driver is just hanging out, so I ask him about bringing a bike on a bus. He doesn’t speak English so I use Google Translate again.
Much like the first driver, there are a lot of Italian words in his answer, with a “no” thrown in there, and no “si” to be heard. Still, when he responds to my yes/no question with so much language — so many words, it makes me wonder if there’s wiggle room?
I just can’t understand so I don’t know.
Then, our bus arrived. I wanted to try once more. We step onto the bus and I ask the driver. This time it was very simple and very clear.
He answers me with one word… “No!”
OK, I’m now feeling certain that we cannot buy the bike and bring it on the bus.
What about other options?
Maybe a taxi?
It’s the only other option, if we buy the bike at the mall, unless the store delivers. We inquire.
Darn. No, they don’t deliver.
However, the employee I ask also offers advice about my wondering if a taxi would work. Ouch — a taxi could cost us 20 to 30 euro because of the distance and a bike rack would be needed or a large automobile.
Well, poop. It isn’t looking like we’ll get Kamea one of these bikes on sale. Or Greg.