Day Thirteen: The Creepiest Man in Italy

This picture isn't from Day 13 (it was taken in Rome, actually), but we didn't take any pictures on this day, so it'll have to do.

We woke up at the crack of seven to grab an early coffee and head out. But — alas — the cafe beneath the hotel wasn't yet open. (Perhaps they opened late on Sundays.) We went ahead and checked out; the guy at the desk assured us we could find another cafe nearby, but we wanted to get moving.

We made it through the metro to the train station and, after standing in line again to reserve our spot on the train back to Rome on the 24th, grabbed coffee and croissants at the train station cafe. I'm finally getting the hang of the order/pay-first, get-food-second procedure. We waited for an hour before our train showed.

On the train we shared a car with a nice quiet twentysomething lady. Eventually a German-speaking couple joined us and then, one stop before ours, a lady with a heavily-highlighted stack of papers sat in the last seat and began muttering something to herself. Rehearsing for a play? Getting her story straight for the police? Who knows?

We made it to Lamezia Terme in the region of Calabria three hours later and waited for a taxi to the hotel. After several minutes, I noticed the hotel across the street from the train station had the letters GHL, so I checked the name of our hotel: Grand Hotel Lamezia. We imagined getting into a taxi: "Please take us to the Grand Hotel Lamezia." Driver: "Uhhhh.." Or, even better: "Yeah, sure, I'll take you there." (One hour of driving in a big circle) "Here we are!"

We checked in and got lunch at a pizzeria right outside. I bought some Italian gum, which was tasty but intensely artificial. The big metal map of the town indicated a much bigger array of tourist destinations than we'd imagined — museums, soccer fields, archaeological sites, and an airport. We'd expected it to be a remote little outpost. We wandered around the town a bit; it reminded me of Watsonville: nice small homes, cool breezes, small parks scattered regularly, and a gentle layout of streets.

As we returned to the hotel, an unusual gentleman approached us. He was in his late twenties, wearing normal if slightly-dirty clothing. In a bizarre sing-song voice, he said some things in Italian which seemed to add up to: "Can I have some money?" As he spoke, he rubbed his stomach slightly and leaned a bit from side to side.

By this time, I'd been assailed with rapid Italian enough to have a reply ready: "Io parlano solo Ingles." Usually, the person apologizes and speaks English or goes away. But when I said it to Creepy Guy, he smiled, nodded, and said — still rubbing his belly — "Io parlano Ingles." ("I speak English.") I waited for him to prove this by saying something in English.

Instead, he just kept smiling, nodding, and belly-rubbing. Starting to feel nervous, I gave him a few coins (around twenty cents, probably) and walked a little more quickly back to the hotel. We should have taken his picture.

The GHL website is quite correct when it states that "Hotel very confortable." The pillows were fluffy, and the air conditioning was a gift from the gods, after our sweltering fan-less room in Naples. We read and napped and showered, then ate dinner at the in-hotel restaurant.

For the first time, we faced a menu with no English. We chose an appetizer at random, which turned out to be a plate full of meat. It was tasty, if contrary to our vegetarian values. (Diane had not been cheating with seafood, as I had.) Diane had shrimp risotto, and I had cheese ravioli. After we ate, I asked for a dessert menu, but the waiter told us that the "creme" dish was very good, and that he'd bring two orders. Eat it, American, and shut up. It was a fairly tasty rum cake.

We tried to find something in English on TV, but had no luck. I watched some football highlights, then read and slept.

Next: Misfortune in Maida