Saturday, September 21
From Bettola to Genoa is a fairly short drive, about two hours. We needed to make good time because Kyle and Lisa needed to catch a train in Genoa to get back to Rome in time for their flight home. So we got on the road fairly early to head to Genoa, which in Italian is called “Genova.” Our residence here is La Marcelline, a multipurpose institute offering a music school, a sports institute, a pensione, and a soggiorno. A pensione is a place where retired people can stay, and a soggiorno is a place where people like us can stay while we’re in town.
The place is on rather extensive grounds, with its own gate to get on the property. La Marcelline is run by sisters, but there the similarity to Casa Santo Spirito ends. The soggiorno is more obviously set up like a hotel, with bilingual notices of various house policies, and guests get little preprinted squares of paper identifying the numbers to be used to gain 24-hour entry to the main gate and the building door. Perhaps more important, it has free Internet that actually works.
Here as in Rome, the main desk sister is once again named Gisella. Our new Gisella is a cheerful nun, perhaps a bit older than me, who speaks fairly little English. I was able to find out that Sorella (Sister) Gisella comes from a town near Lake Como, a few hours north of Genoa.
A fairly comical scene ensued as we tried to communicate just what we need in rooms and for how many nights. Most of us will leave on Tuesdayt; but Kelley will leave on Monday, and Lauren and Bill will stay until Wednesday. Our plan is for Noël and Kelley to stay in one room for the next two nights while I stay in a single (the same arrangement we used in Bettola); then on Monday, after Kelley checks out, I’ll vacate my room and move in with Noël.
It would have been hard enough simply to communicate not only which rooms we needed for which nights, but we thought (incorrectly, as it turned out) that they wanted to know would be staying in each. My use of the Italian phrase book had its limits! We were dealing with Italian numbers and dates, and to make things more complicated one of our rooms is actually Room One (Camera Uno), so we had a hard time distinguishing between “one room” and “Room One.” Judy speaks Spanish, and her “Spitalian” has come in very handy. But if you try to imagine the Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First” routine, only with hotel rooms instead of baseball positions as its topic, carried on in three languages, with three or four participants, then you have a fair idea of the scene. Fortunately, one of the pensioners, Seniora Mirella, an Irish widow who has lived in Italy for several years, came to the rescue by providing translations between us and Sister Gisella.
La Marcelline is a block or two from the Ligurian Sea. After Kyle and Lisa had been delivered to the train station, several of the others went for a walk to the sea; but Lew and I had another mission.
The sisters didn’t think we’d be able to find a laundry nearby; but Lew had found one online, so off we were. When we arrived at the lavanderia automatico, several young men were there watching a movie on a computer, but none of the machines was in operation. None of the young men spoke English, and my phrase book doesn’t have a word for “detergent”; it soon became clear that they had no idea what was what at the laundromat: they weren’t using the WiFi while waiting for their clothes; the laundromat was a WiFi hotspot, and that was their reason for being there. We chose our detergent as best we could from the half-dozen choices offered in the vending machine; fortunately, what appeared to be the cool-water detergent turned out to be a good bet. We had to do some trial-and-error to figure out how the pricing worked on the machines, but in the end we were rewarded with truly clean clothes for the first time in a week or more.
Once we got back to La Marcelline, it was time for us to head out for dinner at a restaurant that the others had scouted on their walk by the waterfront. I had heard that one should walk carefully on the streets of Genoa. The Italians take their dogs everywhere, and some are less good than others at cleaning up. We had our advance walkers sound off “Code Brown” or simply marrone, the Italian word for brown, as a warning to those following. We were able to avoid the marroni both on our way to the restaurant (in twilight) and on our way back (in the dark). And by the time we were done with dinner and the obligatory gelato stop, it was time for us to head to our rooms.
Not for all of us, however. Noël and some of the others have been playing a game called Pictureka on Noël’s iPad, and that will go on for a while yet. For me, though, it’s time to make use of the free Internet here.