Planes and Trains

It has been a long time since I was last in Italy; sixteen years ago was my last due cappucini. I arrived in a Tuscan hillside town to join my home convent on a pilgrimage of St Benedict. Although I had read the rule, I was not so familiar with St. Benedict’s life, the cave or his first monastery and miracles, only knowing Monte Cassino, the famous hilltop monastery bombed to oblivion mistakenly in 1944. There were no enemy soldiers there!! Monte Cassino has been now exactly rebuilt so it can be visited. I arrived at Pisa airport from Belgium; it is small – no passport control (I think I just slipped through with all of the other EU passengers on my flight). Perhaps I am EU with my Belgian residence card.

My plane flight took me back many years. The plane was vintage 1960s, now in fairness probably not that old. I do not know the lifetime of airplanes. Boarding was outside up the stairway; bring your umbrella if it rains as you wait for others to find seat and stow carry ons. The life vest and demonstration was arguably 1960s and done by the steward in the aisle. The plane shook and rattled when it took off and landed – just like the old days you knew you were flying, no purring and smoothness to this flight. You remembered to pray!

The usual language misunderstandings happened. Told to exit outside to the left for my bus; I saw all the buses on the right and decided she meant the door to the buses was on the left. Turns out my transfer to the Pisa train station was the local bus – no luxury transfer on this cost effective trip. I grabbed the bar, dragged my suitcase up and away we went. ‘The habit and veil will be your protection,’ God distinctly told me many years ago when I thought my traveling days were over. And so it is; bus drivers point me where to get off, young orientals carry my bag not only up or down the old 1940s train station stairs but to my departing platform. Old men have heaved my suitcase into the overhead bins. God bless them all; they receive a prayer in gratitude.

As I sat in the regional train station awaiting my milk train into the Apennine hills, I saw what I hoped was not the the Italian air force. Brown dingy 4-engine propeller planes circled. Definitely Red Baron variety. I could think only of WW II films I had seen or a 1965 air show in Paris. My milk train arrived and 32 minutes later whistle stopped high in the Apennines; there I was collected by one from my home convent. We were off on Pilgrimage!



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