So I found out about this cool thing.
If you type in the name of your train station along with “live departure” (for example, “Piacenza live departures”), the look for the Google search result from g2 (sample screenshot below left), and then scroll down, you can find live departures and platform assignments that look like this (below right).
I discovered this because was slightly freaking out about the fact that we only had a 9 minute stopover in Piacenza to catch our connection to Voghera, then a 16 minute stopover in Voghera to catch the train to Sestri Levante, for which the Voghera train was 5 minutes late. But hey, presto, I could save time by finding out which platform my next train would be at ahead of time! (And on a later train trip, a young Australian guy told me about the app called Train1, where you can buy Tix, get status updates, see which stops are on the way, etc.)
Our Airbnb host met us at the station. She was a Bohemian looking woman who would fit right in in Santa Cruz, very chatty and outgoing, helped us carry our bags, and delivered us directly to her studio. Having lived in South Africa and traveled extensively as well the studio had lots of African and Balinese art. It also had giant windows which opened up and out, allowing for lots of air circulation.
We settled in and I texted Caterina that we had arrived. She was working late that night,but plans were made to meet for breakfast and dinner the next day. David and I walked to a nearby osteria for dinner, which we found out was one of the oldest osterias in Sestri. Of particular note, we had a vegan appetizer of panissa fritta topped with caramelized onions. The panissa fritta is like a thicker version of farinata, made from chickpea flour, and it was YUM. David ate so much that he declared there would be no more eating for three days. I suggest walk through Sestri instead.
The next morning,David slept in and I met Caterina on front of the train station. She cried when she saw me and gave me a big hug. ♥️ We walked to the coffee shop near her work, had cappuccino and focaccia for breakfast (her usual – focaccia originates in this area, by the way), and chatted. The last time I saw her was seven years ago when my son and I came through Italy. I wanted him to meet the family I had lived with for a month when I was 19. Caterina’s father had passed away before my son was born, but her mother was living with her sister Paola, and she gripped my hand and beamed at me the entire 3 hours that we visited her at Paola’s. At the end of the visit she insisted that my son return to Italy so she could teach him to make her ravioli. At Christmas that year, we received a box from her with hand-knit scarves and gifts for my mother and grandmother.
But last year, my “Italian mamma” passed away before I could return. I lost both my grandmother (who Caterina and her family had met and were fond of) and my dog last year, Caterina lost both her mother and her cat. We shared in our loss.
After breakfast, Caterina returned to work, and David and I did some shopping at the nearby markets and some walking around town.
I also had been thinking that morning of getting my upper left ear repierced (they close during covid – lost too many earrings during mask removal so I stopped wearing them), and what do you know? One of the first shops we passed after breakfast at home advertised ear piercings. So for €12, I got double-punctured. (The original two were very close together, as I had done them at home myself with a needle and ice. So the top one is a new spot.)
David and I continue to walk along the Bay of Fables and over to the Bay of Silence, then headed back to rest again and shower before we met Caterina and her friends for dinner.
The Bay of Fables is named such because supposedly this was a favorite vacation spot for Hans Christian Andersen, and legend has it that he was inspired to write The Little Mermaid here.
Later we caught up with Caterina, her friends Augusta, Roberta, and Gian, her nephew Fabio (who was a baby when I lived with Caterina’s family – now a handsome man in his 30s fond of working out and world travel), and Caterina’s one-year-old dog Lola. Caterina had made reservations for us at a local restaurant, which even welcomed Lola inside.
If you’ve read about any of my past summer travels, you might recall how heat intolerant I am. I think we’ve already established how my body reacts to heat. I’m just a delicate flower grown in the mild climate of central California, what can I say? I was perspiring so profusely, it was as if I had been doused with a garden hose. My only consolation was that Augusta seemed to be suffering almost as much, and both of us had our paper fans flapping the entire dinner. I am sure I absolutely charmed my dining companions. 🙄
Caterina’s gorgeous twin daughters, Laura and Letizia, joined us at the end of dinner, and took over dog duties. We all took a night time walk along the two bays again together, which brought me back to life, and then said our good nights. Sadly I was so engaged with our visit that I forgot to take photos, but if David took any I will add them later…!
The next day was spent in the Cinque Terre town of Monterosso (separate post), and then breakfast with Caterina and her wonderful sister Paola (a recently-retired train conductor who was caring for their mother). They gave David and I some lovely gifts, including a bag and doilies their mother had made, and a bracelet from Gian and Roberta, then we caught the train out of Sestri.