Not So Hot Water

Sometimes the best thing to do is just call it a day and go get a massage. ~ Unknown

When Kelly asked about accompanying me to Italy, she mentioned going to Montecatini Terme, a Tuscan spa town about two hours by train from Bologna. I didn’t really know much about it, but I checked out the town’s information and found that the spa services, which include sitting in the thermal pools or drinking the mineral-rich water, are not very expensive. I booked the train tickets, and we set out early this morning for Montecatini.

Train traffic control at Bologna Centrale ©chriscutler2019

Our journey to-and-from Montecatini Terme involved a change of trains in Prato, so I chose a train that left at 8:08 so that we’d arrive around 10 am. We got to the train station, got to the platform, and waited. And waited. And waited. Our train finally arrived, but it was about 10 minutes late.

“We’re going to have to hustle when we get to Prato,” I told Kelly. “We have only 12 minutes between trains.”

Prato Centrale

“Maybe the next train will be delayed, too,” Kelly assured me. I wasn’t too confident in that, and there was a good reason. By the time we arrived in Prato, the train had lost more time, and we missed our train to Montecatini by 20 minutes. Trying to stay positive, I went to the ticket window and explained to agent what had happened.

“I’m sorry, Signora,” she apologized, “but the next train to Montecatini isn’t until 11:59.” I stared at her and repeated the time to make sure I heard it correctly. “Yes,” she said, “11:59.” It was 9:50.

The weather has not been the most cooperative this week, so Kelly and I went to the Moka Cafe in the station, ordered caffe, and sat for almost two hours. The train to Montecatini was on time, and the half-hour journey passed quickly. It was 12:28 pm.

Of course, never having been to Montecatini, I wasn’t quite sure where to head first, and I thought that the train station, like the majority of train stations in Italy, would have information somewhere. Nope. Niente.

“Let’s walk up here,” I suggested as I had looked at a map last night and remembered that the biggest spas was in the direction I was pointing. We took off and ended up in front of a hotel that advertised spa services. Since what we wanted was a place with the thermal pools, I put the name of the place in my iPhone, and Liam (My name for my Irish-man-voice Siri.) told us to backtrack, turn left, and turn left again.

Leading us in circles

“He walked us in a circle,” I said to Kelly as we entered the grounds of a grand hotel that was literally a block from where we had started. “Liam! You are in trouble,” I informed him. Since my phone doesn’t answer to that name, I guess it wasn’t too concerned as Liam informed us we had reached our destination…except that it was not our destination.

“No, Signora,” the desk clerk snapped at me. “We are only a spa. For the thermals, you must go out and left. Keep straight, straight straight for five minutes, and you will be there.”

So, we went out, turned left, and kept straight, straight, straight for five minutes. We were in the middle of nowhere. Liam was begging for another chance, so I pulled him from my pocket and asked him to lead us to Terme Tettuccio. He informed me that we were 800 meters—and five minutes—away.

Terme Tettuccio

We walked 20 minutes and heaven knows how many meters we walked before we finally arrived at Terme Tettuccio There were a lot of cars in the lot, so we were hopeful as we walked up to the grand palace that held a few hours of relaxation and respite.

The grounds of Terme Tettuccio

Terme Tettuccio was not open because it was lunch time. It would reopen at 4:00 pm, but since our train tickets were for 3:57 pm, there was no way we could indulge. We walked the grounds for a few minutes, and decided to walk back down to the town. “Let’s go to the first place we saw,” Kelly suggested. “We maybe can at least get a massage.” A nice massage sounded good to me, so we headed back to town.

Kelly and I found Giacomo Puccini who had turned to bronze waiting for spa services.

We walked into Hotel Columbia and looked at their list of spa services. You’ll note in the photo above that some of the treatments involve covering the body with honey, yogurt, and even Nutella to compact the muscles and leave the client with smooth skin. They also had pineapple, chocolate, coffee, and vanilla mud baths listed, but we had walked so much the last two days that I thought maybe the peppermint or seasonal fruit leg balms would be a better choice.

Some of the Hotel Columbia’s spa services

The hotel clerk walked up to the desk, and I asked him if the spa happened to be open. (You know what’s coming, don’t you?) “No, Signora,” he apologized. “We closed for lunch at 12:00, but we will reopen at 3:30.” My forehead hit the counter, but I started laughing. I told Kelly what he said, and she started laughing, too. I explained what had happened to him, and he shook his head. We thanked him and started to walk away.

My caffe from Hotel Columbia

“Signora,” he called to me, “can I offer you a coffee? No charge.”

“We might as well have some hot water,” I joked, and we gratefully took him up on his offer. While we waited, he asked me where I learned to speak Italian. I gave him a brief history of the family, and he informed me that he, too, was from Abruzzo. We had our caffe, chatted a bit longer, and decided to go find lunch.

Montecatini Terme is a one-track town.

The weather was turning a bit nasty, so we went to the train station a little after 3:00 to wait. For a town as touristy as Montecatini is, its train station is horrible. There is one track, no bar, no live human assistance, and about 10 seats in a dark waiting area. We were very happy when the train to Prato arrived on time.

Of course, that didn’t last long as the train had to wait at the first stop, and we were eight minutes behind by the time we reached Prato Centrale. Our connection time was 11 minutes. We hoofed it down the stairs of Platform 3 where we’d arrived and back up the steps of Platform 7 where our train waited. We were out of breath, but we made it onto the crowded train and found two seats together.

You might think that is the end of this bust of a day, but it’s not. An older man who had obviously had something spicy for lunch sat in the seat across from us. Worse, though, he took out his phone and started playing music. LOUD music. POUNDING music. LOUD, POUNDING music.

“I’m going to kill that guy,” I moaned to Kelly, and we both glanced at him. He had earphones in, and we could still hear the pounding. “I can’t take this.” There was nowhere to move, so I put my finger in my left ear, closed my eyes, and tried to ignore him. No good. “I’m going to throw this Coke bottle at him if he doesn’t turn that down.” I gave him the eye, but he didn’t notice. He had his eyes closed, and his was music entertaining everyone in our general vicinity.

Music Man

At the next stop, I got up to see if there were any empty seats ahead of us, but the train was full. Just before the third stop, I noticed a man and woman putting on jackets about 10 rows ahead of us, and I told Kelly I was taking off as soon as their butts were out of their seats. “I’ll tackle anyone who gets in my way, I told her as I shot down the aisle. We were in their empty seats before the train had even stopped.

When we got to Bologna, I wanted to walk out behind the dude and smack his head with my now-empty Coke bottle, but we went out another door.

“I should buy a pea shooter,” I told Kelly. “I could have beaned him from afar.”

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