“When in doubt… hitchhike it out…!”
That’s how I will begin my blog. After a wonderful breakfast, Bridget went downstairs to ask our host what the best way to get to San Galagano was. It was complicated, but our host, Bice said she would drive us to San Rosia and from there we would take the bus to San Galgano. We came upon a tiny store in San Rosia, and two ladies behind the counter were talking with Bice about how public transportation was becoming sparse, even in Europe. But it sounded like they were fighting! Now and then smiles would appear, some laughs but many frowns. It was confusing for an English speaker. In the end, we received our bus tickets, and went outside into the blazing sun, and we waited. We waited, waited, waited. A bus pulled up… “San Galgano?” No, was the reply. We waited some more. The thing about Italy, is that it is hot! And by hot, it is too hot to be out in the sun, but it’s a dry heat, so I actually enjoy it! Finally at 14:14 (2:14pm) another bus rolled up and sure enough, it was the bus to our destination! We climbed in. Yes! Air-conditioned! It was a thin slice of heaven, until the curves came. This road was all up hill and every few feet was a sharp turn. We had this for about 40 mins. I hummed to myself, as a good friend of mine once told me, “just hum! It stops car-sickness!” And sure enough, I was fine.
I felt like I was in a movie. The bus dropped us off in the most desolate place. Wheat fields for miles. The open sun on our skin. Bags around our shoulder, and faces so perplexed, wrinkles were forming in the heat. But the bus driver gave us a small clue and pointed up toward the hills. We crossed the road, and walked, and walked, and walked. The sun was blaring down, and I finished my water by the end of the road. We turned right at a row of trees, and saw cars parked all along the side. Some civilization… We still walked, passed the cars, and at some point saw a sign for a restaurant. We began to see people, and soon enough, there stood in all it’s glory, that which we came to see! “Abbazia de San Galgano”.
It’s an old abbey which has now been abandoned and lies in ruins, but is more majestic than that which lives somehow. It was the first abbey ever built in Tuscany. It spoke about the Knights Templars and even boasted a “sword in the stone”, which was said to be from before the days of King Arthur.
Up the hill some more, and there was an old church. Very catholic! We made our way into the gift shop at the end, which had all sorts of jams, jellies, honey, wines, candy… it was packed! From action-figures of knights to small rosaries. An old man, with a green baseball cap was behind the counter, leaning over the glass as we browsed. He was an observer! He was quiet and watched us out of pure fascination. He didn’t smile, but held something quite peaceful. As we were just finishing up, his wife came out of the side door, and immediately I felt a big presence. The little couple reminded me of the old couple in The Princess Bride, who gives Wesley the magic bean/pill. This old lady however, constantly looked like she disapproved. I’m sure she did, as we women now all wear bare arms and no head coverings anymore. She went behind the counter, and without notice, her husband had slipped away behind the door. She, on the contrary to her husband, was loud (she cleared her voice about 12 times before she was satisfied with it…) and constantly fussed about the presentation at the cashier area. She stared at us, she didn’t observe, she stared. Wrinkles and a furrowed brow was all I saw. I saw a small porcelain thing. I didn’t know what it was, but I put it on my finger, and no sooner had I, then an “angry” voice come out of the small woman. She bellowed away in Italian, and told us that you don’t put it on your finger, (it was the angry look and hand gestures that suggested it was NOT for the finger!). At some point she tried hard to use noises and we heard a “bing-bong!” in her description, but to no avail. No one knew what she was saying. I however tried so hard to not bust out laughing. It’s so wonderful traveling! You really come upon all sorts of people. This was a character I don’t ever want to forget.
We came back down, and had both spoken about the idea of hitchhiking back to San Rocco — because a taxi would have been €80 to get back! We knew we wanted someone who spoke English, but only heard languages of other countries. As we filled our water bottles, and we took a rest on a chair by the bathrooms, Bridget said she heard a man on a phone speaking English! She followed the voice, and sure enough, a man with a white shirt, black khaki short and Teva-like sandles was on the phone. He was speaking English, with an Italian accent. She approached him once he was off the phone, and asked whether he was going back to Siena tonight. He said yes, and then came the question, “could we possibly hitch a ride with you?” I could tell he was an international traveler. His face almost lit up, and he said, “Sure! But we have plans to go to a small city before we return to Siena, we’d get back around 9:00pm, but if you’re up to coming with us, we would be glad to bring you home! I’m not alone tho. I have two women who are in my school, learning Italian. They are right around– oh! Here they are! We have to girls who would like to join us, and we will drive them back toward Siena after our next excursion.” Smiles were endless.
We rode in the car for about half an hour and hummed again. It worked! We arrived at a very small village called Massa Marittima. It was darling!
This was the view when we went up the hill. We trudged along, and enjoyed the company of our new friends. Around 7:00pm we found a bit of food at a small sidewalk cafe. Then we went down to the car again, and drove, and drove and drove. Bridget was getting quite car sick, but we hummed and ate.
We got dropped off at our door and by 9:30pm safe inside. They were amazing! An Italian man, named Mauro, a Czech woman named Petra and a woman from Boston, Ma. with her thick Boston accent, named Deborah. Mauro even invited us for lunch the next day. So we will join!
It was such a great experience to get a ride with total strangers, and have that kind of trust, and know that we are in good hands.