We’ve been in Forte Dei Marmi since Sunday. It’s an hour’s bus-ride west of Lucca and on the coast – up the road from Viareggio, where that train carrying fuel crashed and set fire to houses a month or two back. The beginning of our stay here was perhaps the worst.
We got the bus from Lucca, but could we get the bus driver to tell us when we’d arrived at Forte Dei Marmi (there were stops all along the coast and he was going on past Forte Dei Marmi)? Nope. We knew we’d passed Viareggio because we could see from the bus the blackened remains of buildings burnt in the tanker explosion. When I made my way to the front of the bus to ask the driver yet again, his chatting bus-man chum cried “Attenti!’ or some such – i.e., sit down, is forbidden to stand on bus, you dopey English-speaking slobber. We we did finally pull in, it was pointless for me to ask regarding the whereabouts of Casa del Mar – which was all the info I had cleverly brought with me when I printed the sheet from the internet. In fact I even harboured a secret doubt if this was the place I HAD booked – I kept peering at the little b and w picture of the place attached, trying to make out if it resembled what I recalled from viewing it at the time. Anyway, after considerable trucking with our two on-wheels suitcases along the sea-front, we got directions (that is, Maureen got directions) that took us to either an estate agent’s or a tourist information centre. My money’s on the former. There a young black woman slim and lovely in a muted green dress, looked up Casa del Mar on the internet (phew – it exists!) and then a taxi firm to come and take us there. While waiting, Maureen used the toilet and hadn’t the nerve (maybe she had but I, ever a coward, advised her not to) to tell the young woman that she couldn’t get it to flush. Eventually the taxi-man came and charged us €15 for a drive of about one mile that lasted all of seven minutes. He dropped us at the gate, we rang the bell. Then we rang it again. And again. And again. Nothing. The sun beat down – it’s 4.00 pm – and we hear the bell bzzzz inside, but nothing. Through the grating we can see the porch, and a lovely comfy couch on it, and an open mag, and a cardigan – but no people. Eventually,rather than go on standing and swearing, I head up the hot road to find a shop or ristorante. I find both but both are shut. By the time I make my way back, Maureen has been let in by some German fellow – B and Bers. They let us sit on the porch and try ringing the landlady, but she’s left her mobile at home, they can hear it ringing inside the house. One of them brings us a nice cold bottle of water and two glasses and apologises he can’t let us inside. Eventually landlady’s two sons arrive on their bikes and when we confess that we are indeed bed and breakfasters, they ring her and tell us she will be with us in five minutes. It takes her about ten but hey, who’s counting? When she arrives she’s in her forties, petite, smiling, slightly coarse skin. I’ve been trying to contact you on the phone she says. I’m not in Ireland, I tell her. You should have tried the internet when you got no reply. Once again, no reply.
But the house is quite lovely in a show-house kind of way. Air-con in the room, wi-fi which I have installed for me by the nice Dutch guy who is caught in the jacuzzi on the terrace with his fiancee – or maybe that’s his wife. Either way, he’s very nice and very helpful ( did I mention the terrace and the jacuzzi?) We walk down the road to the ristorante, but since everyone there virtually is getting a take-away rather than settling to dine, we do likewise and start eating it, alone, on a table to the side of the house. I’m just oohing and aahing about how lovely it all is in the late evening sun when a couple of mosquitoes sink teeth into my flesh and I’m forced to make a run for it to the house.