Got on the bus this morning in Luni and asked the driver the cost. He shook his head and waved me in to the bus.
Was it because I am a pilgrim, i wondered, or should I have bought a ticket somewhere else? Confused, but grateful, I perched myself with my pack still on my back onto a seat and enhoyed the ride to Sarzana.
Back in Sarzana I asked the bus driver what direction the railway stations was. He pointed me the right and off I trotted. At the railway station, I discovered my wallet was missing. Shock! Horror!
I ran back to the bus terminal. I knew I had the wallet on the bus. I must ghave dropped in on the seat in all my confusion. The bus had gone. Mio Dio! What was I gong to do now?
At the ticket office I explained as best <i could to the man behind the window what had happened. He shrugged his shoulders and said something that sounded like there was nothing he could do and maybe it had been stoken.
I asked him if the bus driver had a phone. I felt sure that if the bus driver found the wallet he would hand it in. There had been four middle aged housewives on the bus, I felt that if any of them had found it they would hand it in too. But if anyone else got ont he bus after me – well – goodbye wallet.
'Non?, he said, the driver did not have aphone. Come back at 4pm when the bus returns, I thought he way satying, but I was flustered and not really certain. I looked around at the queue behind me 'anyone speak Englihs?' I asked. A lot shaking of heads followed. Then a woman came up and said in Italian something about the police and I gathered she was offering to take to the police station.
We set off at a run. At the police station she ran back to catch her bus and I tried to convicne a disintrested police man that I should file a report. Phone the bus company he seemed to be saying. I tried to give him my name and details but he didn't want to know.
My credit cards were in my wallet. I had some Auistralian dollars in my money, but unless I found accommodation in convents I was not going to have enough money to last until John arrives on Friday. I needed abank now to change my Australian dollars into euro.
The bank teller spoke English. It was such a relief to be able to converse. I told him story. He was very sympathetic but told me my wallet was probably stolen at the train station. That happens in Italy he said. I din't really need to hear that. I had heard all the stories about pick pockets in italy. But I was trying to stay positive and hopeful until I had to accept otherwise, and that was a 4pm when the bus returned.
Now I needed a toilet and I was hungry. I knew there was a free toilet at the railway station and a bar – the food there was probably cheap. If I didn't get my wallet back I now had to budget my money very carefully.
I walked intot he bar to check out the price of the paninis. As I looked at the rolls, someone tapped me on the shoulder. In my tense state, I was startled to say the least.
'Did you find the Via Francigen?' a man asked. I recognised him as being someone I had asked directions yesterday. I told him what had happened. The bar tender over heard – and he spoke English.
It was now 2 hours since I lost my wallet. He offered to phone the bus company and handle it for me in Italian. A few minutes later, he hung up the phone smiling. 'You are lucky, the wallet has been found.
I ran back to the bus terminal. Thew man at the ticket office smiled at my excited query and wrote a phone number on a piece of paper and told me to phone the number. I thought he was saying that the wallet is at Aulla.
I rang the number and gathered I thought that yes the wallet was at Aulla but I could not understand where in Aulla. Una momento I asked the man and ran back to the railway station to the bar. I asked the bar tender to call and find out where in Aulla I had to go to collect the wallet. He was happy to help. At the railway station in the bar at 5.30pm a man would arrive with my wallet I was to wait for him there until then.
Grazxie, Grazie. Back to the bus terminal I aksed the man behind the window of the ticket office, where I should catch the bus to Aulla. He sold me a ticket and pointed at a waiting bus gesticulating urgently. I raced over and jumped ont he bus.
Some time later, as there were nos signs on the towns that we passed as we headed back up into the mountians, I noticed road signs appearing for Aulla. Good. then as we turned away from where the signs were pointing I wondered now, are we taking a detour to pick up villagers or do I have a problem here.
I asked the bus driver to tell me when we were in the vicinity of the Aulla railway station. A look of horror on his face told me that yes, we do have a problem. He stopped the bus in the middle of the road. Definitely do have a problem here. He prattled away about something about a bridge, and 5 or 6 kilometres back. I gathered that is where I should have got off.
Another 5 or 6 kilometreds back to the bridge somewhere in Tuscany and around the corner I found a bus stop with a timetable on it that had a listing for Aulla. I had just missed a bus by 15 minutes and had 45 minutes to wait for the next - I thought.
Once in Aulla, the railway station was another 5 or 6 kilometres away from the bus terminal - silly town! I got the railway station at around 4.30pm and waited. At 5.30pm a man walked in as though he was looking for someone.
'Linda Stanley?' I asked him. He looked relieved. He piled me into his car and took me back to his office. Retrieved my wallet from his safe and offered me a coffee to celebrate. It was a strong desterspoon of coffee and a desertspoon of sugar stirred into it.
Grazie, I said as we downed the celebratory drink.
It was close to midnight before I reached Milan and began walking to find a hotel for the night. Phew!