Oh how I missed you, Piemonte!

19 Dec

This morning I grabbed my bags (plus 6 bottles of wine of Giorgio’s to pass on) and we drove to Cecina and had breakfast at the Principe Cafe. They took me to the station and I asked for a train ticket from here to Alba…the man behind the counter laughed and gave me the most doubtful look. Why? Perchè ha riso?

It’s snowing here still a little but they have had a surprise dump last night so trains that were leaving this morning from Firenze, or from the north have been delayed an hour, or two, or three. He suggests I leave tomorrow or try my luck anyway but anticipates I will run into problems in Genova. I call Anja (I am headed to Piemonte fyi to stay with the La Spinetta gang for whom I worked last year) and tell her I am going to try my luck! I will just buy my ticket to Pisa Centrale for now then we will see what they say there. Giorgio tells me if there is no trains, to use the same ticket to come back and try tomorrow. Anyway! With all this negativity about my subsequent journey I decide to give it a go nevertheless. Also because Anja informed me that tonight there will be a surprise birthday party for my old boss Andrea which means it will be a great opportunity to see everyone again.

Arriving into Pisa it’s a bit of a brothel. People everywhere in the main foyer, a queue a mile long to buy tickets from the teller, and the main screen is blacked out because perhaps there’s no point with so many delays. The smaller screens in the station list only those trains from this morning that are hours behind so there is no space to write the new trains on arrival. All one can do is wait! I decide to buy my ticket from the machine – stuff having human contact – and wait patiently at platform 4 in the bitter cold with others for our IC510 train to Torino Porta Nuova. We’re all hoping there’s no delay, it seems that only trains from this morning are really late. Otherwise, others have arrived a maximum of 20minutes late. Finally at 12:30pm the screen lights up to indicate our train exists! Woohoo! But will it arrive punctually? That is the question my friends! Everytime the screen goes black for some changeover we all expect to read that it has been cancelled or to read how many minutes ‘in ritardo’ it will be. Fortuunately my stars were well-aligned and the train arrived and we departed a measly 10minutes behind. Che fortuna!

The coastal landscape we took was beautiful and interesting as it was like winter in Pisa, spring in La Spezia, and winter again with snow in Genova. Overall, no problems and we arrived on time! My next train at Asti I took to Castagnole delle Lanze. Ahh…memories! Here at 17:30pm Anja with Giorgio and Lidia in the back picked me up and whisked me away from this cold, bitter chill in the Piemontese air. -1C outside it said. Brilliant.

I learn that Giorgio has lost his licence for drink-driving, and Lidia has grown and says my name and sings ‘Tanti aduuuri Andrea’ the whole way as we drive up Via Annunziata to the Castagnole delle Lanze winery of La Spinetta. I haven’t told any of the gang here that I am coming – only Clara knows as it was her organising the surprise party for her 30-year old son Andrea. When I get out of the car my old Italian mamma Emiliana was there and trying to see who it was so I said, ‘Ciaooo Emiliannaaaa’, and she got a shock and after a bit of ,’O Dio‘ (Oh God) I passed cautiously over the icy pacement and gave her a big hug and recollected what I am doing here, etc. Then I saw Clara and France, the other mums who live above the winery, and did the same. They haven’t changed, though France cut her hair short so she’s cute!

I grabbed a bottle of Impronte to give to Andrea as a birthday gift then went inside to the new degustation area they’ve finished. Impressive room! Eventually the parents of Andrea’s partner Noemi arrived and I chatted with the mum for awhile, she remember me from the Tuscany party last year. I went into the bathroom and when I came out I gave a surprise to Ele and Manuela, the girls I lived with for three months. Manu has cut her hair short and is a little pixie! We were speaking in Italian and she congratulated me on how well I speak. But then it was strange for her to be speaking Italian with me as last year all we spoke was English. I also met her boyfriend Simone who is very handsome and lovely and on meeting me said, ‘Ah, si si, Krystina Menegazzo, ma non sei in Turchia?’ Strange that he knew my last name and they’ve all seen my Turkey photos from Facebook!

Andrea finally arrived and was a little surprised, he also had his new baby boy Giulio with him too. Andrea had a big smile when he saw me. Stefano wouldnt be coming tonight which is a shame, I would have liked to see him too! Clara had made everything herself so we ate delicious Piemontese food. I tried a morsel of most things, insalata russa, carne crude di vitello, etc, everything bar the cheese and salami. Giorgio was doing the right thing and made sure I always had something in my glass as did his son Andrea, showing me the next vintage of La Spinetta Campe’ Barolo 2006…just like old times…vini vini vini! Turned out to be a superb evening seeing most of the crew, but I will try come back on the weekday to see everybody else properly too.

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