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Day 10: Sulmona

We didn't have to check out of our room in Pescara until 11.30 today, meaning we were able to have a nice relaxing morning. I didn't wake up until nearly 9am - the longest lie-in of the holiday so far. Tim was mysteriously absent when I got out of bed, but he demonstrated exceedingly good timing by reappearing a few minutes later bearing croissants and doughnuts for breakfast. Combined with the free juice and coffee machine at the hotel, it was much nicer than the stale bread we had been getting in Bologna.

We had plenty of time to catch the 11.47 train to Sulmona and, having purchased our ticket, spent some time browsing the station bookshop. Tim purchased an Italian version of the Sherlock Holmes story 'A Study in Scarlet' and then we headed off to our platform. In the process of doing this, we somehow managed to mislay our ticket and disaster was narrowly averted when Tim noticed and went back to retrieve it from the floor of the bookshop!

The train, when it came, was small but beautifully airconditioned and we had a pleasant journey of just over an hour to Sulmona. As we travelled inland from Pescara, the countryside became progressively more mountainous and when we stepped off the train in Sulmona, we found ourselves in a valley surrounded on by peaks on all sides. I knew from the guidebook that Sulmona's train station was a couple of kilometres outside the town centre and had printed a Google map of the 2.4km route to our hotel. It would have been an easy stroll but for two factors. Firstly, the map gave no indications of the fact that it would be a walk of 2.4km almost exclusively uphill. Secondly, we had to pull along our suitcases, an undertaking complicated by the fact that the wheels on my suitcase are broken.

In all honesty, I'm not sure what has happened to my suitcase. Last time I used it would have been in northern Italy in September 2012. We had a packed itinerary, staying in at least six different places over the course of a two-week period. I have absolutely no recollection of my suitcase breaking during that holiday but broken it has, so that although the wheels turn freely if you roll them with your hand in mid air, as soon as you try to pull the suitcase along somewhere, they seem to buckle and refuse to turn in a peculiar way. Some surfaces seem to suit them better than others. Sometimes they turn okay on tarmac or stone, but the polished marble floors of Italian train stations are a complete no-go. Even at best, pulling the case now requires brute-force dragging as opposed to just holding the handle and letting it trundle along behind you. I was lucky that Tim volunteered to pull it up the hill to Sulmona for me, otherwise I would probably still only be halfway up!

With the worst part of the hill behind us, we reached the town centre and decided to grab some lunch prior to checking into our hotel. We found a nice pizzeria where I had a pizza diavola (my new favourite, since Hawaiian doesn't exist in Italy) and Tim had a quattro formaggio (which in Italy routinely seems to come without tomato sauce). The hotel wasn't far away, and we were shown to a room beautifully decorated in blue accompanied by a torrent of Italian of which I didn't understand anything of at all, although Tim seemed quite happy to join in with.

It had started to rain towards the end of lunch, so we had a little nap while the weather blew over and then set out to explore the town. Sulmona is only a small place but has a very attractive centre, marred only by the fact that the narrow cobbled streets look like they should be pedestrianised - but aren't - so there is a constant need to dodge traffic. We obtained a map from the tourist information office and had soon walked around the main sights, so found a pleasant local cafe for a much-needed espresso. Our plan for the coming day was to visit the nearby town of Scanno but it wasn't entirely clear where the bus would leave from, so we popped back to the tourist information office in the hope of obtaining a timetable.

There were a couple of women ahead of us in the queue, talking to the assistant. And what a bizarre conversation it was! The nationality of the tourists was undetermined but the assistant began by speaking in broken English, then seemingly gave up and started speaking in Italian, before switching back to English for a few words in the middle of a sentence and then back to Italian again. Goodness knows what she was trying to explain to them but it took an awfully long time and at one point it seemed likely that the tourist information office might actually close before we got chance to voice our query.

Fortunately that didn't come to pass. We had already ascertained that there were no bus timetables on display in the office, but in response to our query the lady reached under the desk and produced a somewhat battered folder from which she extracted something which appeared to be a bus timetable. I say 'appeared' to be a bus timetable intentionally, because the times of some buses were printed, then there were gaps where the times of other buses had been handwritten in. If the bus isn't printed on the timetable, is it actually going to arrive? Babel began to question her on it and she produced a pen, with which she struck out half the buses on the timetable on account of them only running on Sundays. The only feasible bus for us to catch was one handwritten onto the timetable at 11am. Coming back we had a choice of 15.15 (too early!) or 18.45 (too late!).

All in all it wasn't much of a bus timetable. Back at the hotel room, however, internet research more or less confirmed the times she had shown us, so the plan is still to try to go to Scanno tomorrow. Whether we get there - and whether we will get back if we do - remains to be seen!!













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