8th August, Monday
Noon in a park near the station in Bologna. We’re here since half past eleven. We have hours to kill here. It’s hard to believe the next train to Verona is not until half past three. The cicadas are sawing away in the trees. The grass is burnt. A couple of the male pigeons are doing 360° turns to impress the girls. How can we have to wait this long when Verona is only fifty minutes away?
The arena is bigger than I’d expected, at least from the outside. We had dinner nearby at a hotel restaurant (Torcolo) on Via Cattaneo. The lamb rack and varied veg were nice but there wasn’t any elbow room where we were seated, outside, between the German-speaking couple to my left and the French-speaking pair to my right. We didn’t say much. All the voices were low. Who wants to draw the attention of the neighbours? An assortment of flying insects buzzed my face too. Tomorrow we can can take our time and do Verona properly.
9th August, Tuesday
Juliet’s revenge or Juliet’s curse? We didn’t go to see her bloody balcony but everything was going OK until this afternoon when I paid the bill here with my card. A young Gianna Ten-Thumbs at reception most likely pressed something she shouldn’t have and somehow locked my pin. I had to ring Dublin twice to get that opinion confirmed and then I got on to my brother to provide help for when we get to Innsbruck. She looked like she didn’t know what she was doing and the sweet one (a bit older) had to give some guidance before she was, eh, finished with me. At least I had my receipt but my worries started when I went out then to get some cash. It was all hassle after that. I should have brought more cash.
Late on Tuesday. I have a f*cked credit card and though we still have €327 we’ll be relying on Western Union come Innsbruck. We’d seen a lot this morning. There are lots of tourists here speaking German and French but not a lot of Americans or Asians. Or Brits. We crossed Ponte Pietra below the huge cypresses on the Roman theatre hill.
That was before I found a café bar with no name on Via S. Rochetto, where we had a couple of great (Pampero) rum and Cokes each – in what looked like jam jars – plus a nice lunch (carbonara for me).
Then it was time for a rest from the heat, back at the hotel, but I wasn’t feeling particularly tired and therefore fatefully went downstairs to pay up. Immediately afterwards the card wouldn’t work.
I first called Bank of Ireland after we went half-way over the red-brick Ponte Scaligero by the Castelvecchio. It was on that hump-backed bridge that I told my mother I was worried about the card and what was wrong with it. A couple of jazz musicians were hammering away noisily nearby.
Out on my own later, the first advice from the bank – to try to change the pin at an Italian ATM – proved useless, even at a Barclay’s branch, and I used up the rest of my credit ringing Dublin the second time for confirmation of the bad news. I didn’t realise I’d been gone an hour and a half but at least had got back to the hotel when my mother began texting. I couldn’t answer her otherwise. My brother will replenish my phone too.
10th August, Wednesday
I’d thought I wouldn’t complain online about this but the dismissive attitude of the charmless young woman with the glasses this morning changed my mind. Hotel Siena will get a roasting. The defensive aggression kicked off with her saying it wasn’t nice and it was a serious matter to make such an accusation. I wasn’t accusing anyone of a crime or deliberate wrongdoing. I said it was clearly a mistake but, as she wanted to talk about seriousness, my “Siamo nei guai a causa di questo” (‘We’re in trouble because of this’) was only met with another contemptuous, f*ck-you shrug, just like the reaction to the opinion of my bank.
I told them to be careful in case it happened again but didn’t rear up because we still wanted to get the other (nice) one to call us a taxi. It was pissing rain outside. There was lightning last night, in the distance. Early this morning, heavy rain thumped some nearby roof or awning and that woke me at half past six.
Postscript: once I got back home and simply changed the pin code at my bank, the card worked as normal. There was nothing wrong with it that hadn’t happened in Verona.
Having proven there was nothing wrong with the card, before or after Verona, I then received a threat of legal action from the hotel proprietor (16/08/16). How much simpler it would have been for her to be polite and sympathetic at the outset, especially as I never asked for any money back nor made threats of any kind.