Aaron Martina is an Florida based programmer and an international man of mystery. Well, he's not all that mysterious but he does travel the world now and then taking photos, eating interesting foods and diving the depths.

Italy trip - day 5

This is a continuation of Italy Trip series. Here are the previous posts for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. Finishing up with work This was the final day of work in the office. We had a couple of short meetings and spent the rest of the day tying up loose ends. It was a real pleasure to work with the people in that office.

Getting my tire fixed So as I noted on day 3 I had popped a tire and I needed to get it repaired. I was too busy with work to handle it on day 4 but since we were wrapping up the work for the week I had some time to deal with this situation. I also had access to a very helpful Italian coworker and I contacted the rental car agency to figure out how to solve this situation. My feeble attempt at describing the situation to the representative didn't work so I handed my coworker the phone. He spoke Italian very quickly only saying my name one or two times so I'm pretty sure he wasn't berating me. He hung up and let me know the results. Basically I had two choices. The first was to return the car to a local rental car agency shop and get a replacement car for the duration of the trip. The second option was to ride around on the spare tire until returning the car. As I was planning to possibly visit neighboring cities I really didn't want to try my luck on a donut tire. So I choose the first option and in the late afternoon I found the closest rental car agency location, which was in Varese, and I took my car there. I talked with the agent, who was extremely helpful, and she explained that she couldn't trade in my car because she didn't have any automatics. But she told me that the mechanic where they get tire replacements was just a block away. She contacted them and gave me directions and I drove over to the tire shop. The first thing that caught my attention was that the entrance to the shop was a single door wide enough for a single car and it was flush with the street. Luckily no one was attempting to leave when I pulled into the shop. The second amazing thing was that the interior of this shop was immaculate. One of the attendants directed me into a spot for my car. I popped the hatchback and pulled the tire out and he took it off to perform tests. I already knew it was a goner. The manager came out and between Italian, broken English, and some pantomime he was able to describe that it was dead and I would need a new tire. Then we proceeded to communicate about what to do. He informed me that the new car that I had had a new type of tire that he doesn't carry yet and he wouldn't have in stock for at least three days. This wouldn't work for me as I was heading to Milan the following day. He called the agent that I had spoken to just before coming to the shop and repeated the same details. He then handed me the phone and she told me the same thing which was fine. She then told me that I could take it back to the airport as they would be able to swap out the cars. I agreed that that would be my choice and she set everything up for me to pick up a replacement in the morning. I thanked the manager for his help, packed the dead tire back into my car, and I headed back to the office (because I was some coworkers' ride). Don't you love an hour and half of chasing your tail with nothing to show for it?

Walking around Varese I returned to the office just in time to finish a couple of small things up and then everyone was ready to leave for the day. I said goodbye to the people that I wouldn't be seeing, packed up my laptop, and we headed out the door and back to the hotel. We all decided that we would do something easy this night and one of my coworkers that had been working in this town for many months suggested that we go to downtown Varese and have dinner. I suggested that we walk because it would be good for us and it wasn't that far away and I didn't want to risk driving my rental car any more than I had to. It was a beautiful walk and we all chatted and laughed as we walked about two kilometers (just over a mile). As we walked I started to see locations that had become landmarks as we had driven around town like restaurants that we ate at or intersections that we stopped at every day. I was starting to feel like I was getting accustomed to this town.

Pizza As the four of us walked around town we were told, by my coworker, that there were two many pizzerias in the area. One had an extremely unique style of pizza that was like paper thin and the other was just regular pizza but was really good. We all chose the latter as we wanted the best experience that Italy had to offer. We passed by the paper thin pizza place and it was about half full but we continued on to the other place which was over full. Apparently if you wanted patio seating you had to have a reservation but we didn't care where we sat as long as we got some tasty pizza. The inside of the restaurant was small and very packed. The only place for us to stand was in the walk way next to the cash register and coffee bar (almost all food related establishments have one of these). The waitresses buzzed by us continuously as we were always in the way. If this were the US it would have been a fire hazard. The good thing was that I saw a ton of different pizzas go by so I was starting to get an idea of what I wanted. We had to wait about 10-15 minutes before being seated but that didn't matter too much for us. We then had to wait about another 5-10 minutes before a waitress got our drinks and gave us menus. I thought I had a clue of what I wanted until I saw the menu. There must have been at least 50 different types of pizzas each with slightly different ingredients that weren't (or poorly) translated into English. I ended up choosing a very delicious pizza with mozzarella, artichokes, mushrooms and ham. mmmm pizza The waitress was using a wireless device, like a Palm Pilot, to place the order as we told her. One of my coworkers was attempting to order beer to go with his meal and each beer he mentioned she would search in her device and respond that it was not available. It became comical. Finally he basically said you choose for me and she recommended one, checked it on her device, and left us. About a minute or two later she came back saying that that beer was also not available but she brought a substitute. It was funny but I guess you had to be there. That same coworker order a pizza with buffalo mozzarella which is basically a baseball sized ball of fresh mozzarella that is plopped onto a pizza. I tried some of it and the mozzarella was really good. My pizza was great. I'm going to have to see if some local pizzerias will add artichokes.

Gelato After the pizza we walked around town a little bit longer but we were all wanting dessert. We made a beeline for a local gelato establishment to indulge our sweet tooth. I had a stracciatella gelato. My best estimate was that it was a standard cream with bits of chocolate. Yummy! Stracciatella gelato A couple of my coworkers got crepes with nutella and banana which I tried and was good. But not as good as the gelato. The ladies behind the counter were closing up so we got the hint and finished quickly and headed out the doors and back onto the streets. We hoofed it back to the hotel and went our separate ways as we were all very content with the food and exercise of the night.

Italy trip - day 6

Trains, Bikes, and Automobiles