Posted by: gmelvin | May 25, 2014

First Italian Impressions – To Pistoia

Alitalia International Dinner

Hey – “Free” Food!!

First – a link to my Facebook Photo Album – Lucca & Pistoia

So, I’ve decided to post two separate blogs. My first will cover small oddities seen in Italy – with a tale or two about the general flow of things. My second will cover the 21st American Spaces Convention here in Pistoia. The convention is my first opportunity to work (in some degree) with the international community.

I hope to make it interesting enough for everyone to read; otherwise, I just wasted your time.

I am staying at the Resedenza d’epoca Puccini in Pistoia, Italy. They do have a Facebook web page. Obviously, this place looks the same as any other building on the street – the construction workers just wanted to make it hard for foreigners like me to find their way around town. I didn’t know where I was going for the first few days.

But before I move on, keep in mind that my descriptions below are limited in view. I’ve only visited Pistoia (and the rest of Italy) for a short amount of time. Descriptions may not be universal among all of Italy:

ImageHave you ever watched Agatha Christie’s Poirot TV series? That’s the only reason why I believe I know what the second toilet is for… In one episode of Poirot, Inspector Japp obnoxiously washes his face in something very much like the smaller toilet in this picture. It also took me awhile to figure out how to flush the thing. See the two buttons?

I know how to turn on room lights, but it’s not that simple. In essence, I had to ask someone in my group with more experience in Italy. Apparently, to save electricity, this Bed&Breakfast requires you to slip in your door key card in a small slot to bring power into the entire room. I think it’s also a safety catch. When the guest leaves the room, keys are typically taken.

Lucca, Italy

Lasgne & Cafe @ Old Charlie, Lucca, Italy

Italy is hyped on café – specifically cappuccino & espresso in small cups, on a small saucer, with a small spoon. Some will drink Americano. Some will drink regular coffee. But when it comes to the Italian’s casual breakfast, it’s cappuccino (with a pastry). No mochas. No large cups. No Starbucks. I really miss bacon, sausage, and eggs when it comes to this breakfast.

It’s not uncommon for the customer to drink the whole cup on the spot it was served – even if that spot is the counter of purchase. Even more so, I have not seen one person with a coffee cup outside. I’ve been told (please recall my limited experience) by one lady that many Italians are just as surprised on the amount of coffee Americans drink in a day. She’s always assumed it’s the physical or psychological feedback of what a person gets when holding a coffee mug.

Pistoia, Italy

Saturday morning in Pistoia, Italy

Literally, I’ve only seen one truck since I’ve been to Italy. I’m sure they’re more – but apparently not many residents have visited Oklahoma. Everyone walks, or drives a car, or rides a moped. Most vehicles here are smaller, as they have to fit through the tight streets and walking pedestrians. The cars are quite respectful in stopping before a walking pedestrian; whereas, if this was done in America, you would have someone yelling your face off!

ImageI unwittingly started Italy without a wall adapter. Big mistake. Fortunately, the library lent me one for the day to use during the conference. When I asked the library tech guy about loaning the adapter out for a week, he replied that I could keep it. Many thanks to the Biblioteca San Giorogio staff!

Pistoia, Italy

Waiting for the train to Lucca, Italy

New Italy Travelers – Be Warned!!

We arrived at the train station a few hours before our ride to Florence. Several times, small boys would run up to us and offer assistance in getting to our destination. They never asked me. While I am the only guy in the group, it proved quite burdensome for the others. Worrisome for me. The boys were quite proactive in taking the baggage and forcing help.

Something then happened that still to this moment, I have yet to figure it out. I will make this short.

We were in a small train café shop – inside the station – and I recall some guy having a sort of confrontation with the cashier. This guy quickly walked out, and I never grasped what the conversation was about.

We left the café about 15min. afterwards. As we walked out, I noticed that same guy on a nearby bench inside the station. This was nearby the shop, and in easy view of everyone inside the shop. Still not thinking much about him, we stepped outside the building and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. I then happened to turn my head, and was somewhat surprised to see that same guy standing just outside the doorway looking at us.

I looked at him. He stared back, but didn’t move from his spot. A few in our group left for some sightseeing along the streets, and I remained with the two that stayed. Not feeling too comfortable with my back towards this guy, I informed the remaining ladies that I wanted to settle down near a concrete column attached to the train station. It was nearby, and offered me a good view of everything moving around us. No of the remaining ladies were aware my thoughts, and I hesitated to say much of anything on the belief that I might be over exaggerating the situation.

When I sat my luggage down, I leaned against the wall and exchanged another quick glance at the guy. One minute later – he walked by, gave me a hard look, and left the train station.

A few seconds later, I realized he left in the same direction as the others who went sightseeing. I couldn’t call anyone, because no one in the group had the phone. I also didn’t want to leave those that remained. But I will say I was a bit pre-occupied in thought.

There was another man near the train station that kept my attention until those who went sightseeing arrived back to us. I won’t go into details, but it was enough to keep me on alert. As a word of caution, newcomers to any foreign destination are relatively easy to spot. I can be over-thinking the whole situation, but it’s usually best to be aware of one’s surroundings.

If you want more details to the thing that happened after that guy left, just post a comment or send me a message.



  1. Greg, when things like that happen I honestly believe God is telling us to beware. So, what happened?

    • Hi Rosmari – Please know that I could be over-analyzing what happened. Nevertheless, I noticed afterwards that there was a man in an alleyway who wouldn’t stop looking at us across the street. He was on a cell phone at times, and was standing somewhat in a recess next to a door (I think). I didn’t make it look like I was staring at him, but for the next 15-20min., he kept turning his head toward our direction. His stare didn’t follow other people, nor did it appear that he was waiting for somebody (even though that may be a possibility). People passed by, and cars moved in and out. The others were just talking, and didn’t take notice. It just didn’t settle well with my stomach, especially after that guy in the train station.

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