2 Trains, Un Panificio, & a Priest

Every time you make a choice, it has unintended consequences.”
~ Stone Gossard

I love trains, and I take them all over Italy. Due to the schedule of towns my friends wanted to visit this year, I made reservations that covered cities from Rome to Catania and beyond. One of our legs was a trip from Salerno to Tropea so I could check out Tropea since I’d never been. I considered both Italo and TrenItalia and settled for a mix—Italo from Salerno to Rosarno, and TrenItalia from Rosarno to Tropea.

The Trains

The change of trains in Rosarno was tight, but in a small station with only three platforms, three minutes is doable…….*IF* your inbound train is on time. You have probably guessed that *our* train was not on time. For some reason, we sat on the tracks at one stop for longer than normal, and while we made up time, we were still behind. As we pulled into the station three minutes late, we saw our connecting train sliding away right on time. Of course.

The “watchtower” outside of the Rosarno station

“Well”, I sighed to Mike, “I’m not going to stress out about it.” I was lying. I knew darn well that I *would* stress about it because I was not happy we missed our connection by three minutes and were now going to have to wait three hours for the next train to take us about 25 miles. I started thinking about how long it would take to walk there with two suitcases in tow or how much a taxi would cost. (Of course, both were out of the question because there was no way on God’s green earth that I was walking 1 mile let alone 25 dragging luggage. And taxis apparently are not a big business in Rosarno because there were none to be found anywhere near the train station.)

“Let’s get lunch,” Mike said, and we walked into the little “cafe” in the station. We found drinks and chips and chocolate and cookies. We did not find anything resembling lunch, so we decided to go outside because there *HAD* to be a bar or cafe near the station.

Oh, silly, silly us.

Un Panificio

Out the door we went to find the station in the most desolate place I have ever seen a train station. Located at the end of what seemed to be a long alley, the station existed along with dirt, trash, and torn-up blacktop. We yanked our luggage through the mess and to the main road where we found a hotel. Mike went in and asked if they had a restaurant. They didn’t. A woman pointed to Mr. Chicken, a lunch spot up the street. On we went.

Mr. Chicken was not open on Wednesdays, we found out after struggling up the narrow, sidewalk-less road. The bar next door was open, but they had no food to offer.

“Is there no restaurant around here?” I asked the barista. She told me there were no places close by, but if we walked a few kilometers, well…. I stopped her and pointed at our luggage. “No,” I said, “we are not carrying these any farther.” I turned to Mike. “Let’s go back to the train station and just have chips or crackers.”

“Will you eat a panini?” the barista asked me. After assuring her we would, she pointed to a panificio across the street a half-block away. “They make good panini,” she assured me.

Up the street we continued, jerking the luggage along over the cobblestone street and broken sidewalk. Let’s just make a long story short and tell you that the panificio did, indeed, have panini made with their fresh and very delicious bread. We ordered two and sat at the only table, a small, square plastic thing with unsteady chairs that matched it.

While we ate, we watched as people continually entered the panificio, ordered bread or rolls or panini, grabbed cold drinks from the cooler, paid, and left.

After about 40 minutes, we felt we couldn’t stretch out our time there any longer, so we paid (four euro for two panini and two drinks) and tumbled out of the door, luggage in tow, to head back to the station.

The Priest

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know I was pretty cranky after hauling our suitcases down that busy, pothole-ridden street with few sidewalks or safe places for pedestrians. By the time we got back to the station, my nerves were bundled all in my right shoulder blade (or it might have been muscle strain from yanking that luggage).

The station cafe did not have much—a few pub tables and two small, square plastic tables with unsteady chairs that matched them (Does this sound familiar?). We sat at one of the tables and bought drinks since we still had a bit of a wait. I was workin on something when I saw Mike wave someone over to the extra seat at our table.

Padre Nilo on his cell phone

A small, bent man dressed in black robes, socks, and sandals shuffled over and sat. While he was balding on top, he had a well-groomed, full white beard and mustache. He picked up his equally small backpack and put it on his lap.

“Grazie,” he said. “Grazie mille.” He opened his backpack, took out something rolled in wax paper, and laid his meager lunch on the table. “Grazie,” he intoned again.

While he ate, Padre Nilo answered our questions about where he had been (Reggio-Calabria); where he was going (Stilo); and when his train would come (It wouldn’t since he had to take a bus). Padre was going to Abbazia di San Giovanni Therestis, one of two monasteries his order runs near Stilo.

He told me that the monastery had opened its doors to Ukrainian refugees, and he was going to help minister to them while they were there. We asked if there were many there, and he said he wasn’t sure of the number, but that there were enough. “War is terrible,” he sighed. Amen,

After lunch, Padre fiddled with his cell phone (He may or may not have been playing “Psalms With Friends”). When his bus arrived, he pulled his backpack from his lap, stood, and wiped the crumbs from his lap. “Grazie mille,” he said, again. “God bless you.” Mike handed him 20 euro. “For you or to help out,” he told Padre Nilo. The priest thanked us again.

I found out later that the monastery where he was going, Abbazia di San Giovanni Therestis, has been a popular pilgrimage site since at least the ninth century. In the 11th or 12th century, the Byzantines built a monastery in honor of St. John Therestis, a Greek monk who ministered in that area from the beginning. The monastery has changed hands a number of times—Greek Orthodox, Byzantine, Basilian rites. In 2008, the Romanian Orthodox Church of Italy received a 99-year grant to work there.

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