Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Molto Monday: A Bump in the Road? More Like a Mountain Range

Guru's Note: First, to those of you looking for the this week's AP voter's link, here it is. We should be at week No. 15 when you look at individual ballots.

Next follows yet another of Acacia's Molto Monday columns _ this one marking the fourth in a series from Bologna, Italy. She also includes a link to the work she's doing for her school paper at Vassar.

We'll be back in the next 24-48 hours with a look around the country.

Now, take it away in Italy.

-- Mel


By Acacia O’Connor

BOLOGNA, Italy -- If you’ve traveled anywhere you know to expect the unexpected, no matter how bullet-proof your itinerary may be.

Even the best laid plans are bound to be confounded by mishaps, missed trains, changing times and general confusion.

With poorly laid plans, the margin for error is even greater—a fact I experienced several times this weekend, when my friend Molly Finkelstein visited me from London.

Molly and I share a column from abroad in Vassar’s The Miscellany News entitled Two Broads Abroad.

One of the beauties of Europe is proximity.

When living in Europe, a dozen countries are within a couple hours flight from you at all times.

And flights are also very cheap, thanks to airlines such as Ryanair.

Booking through Ryanair, Molly was able to get a roundtrip flight from London to Forlì, an airport outside of Bologna, for something like $60.

It was all set: Molly would get into Forlì around 10 a.m. on Thursday. I would take a quick, hour-long train ride to pick her up, returning to Bologna for my classes later that day.

Thursday morning came and I was up and running early, making an 8:10 train.

I wasn’t on the train ten minutes when my phone rang.

It was Molly, informing me that because of a freak snowstorm in London, her flight had been cancelled.

Since she didn’t know any more info, I was to stay in Forlì for a little while.

Forlì is home to a branch of Bologna’s university -- And little else, as I discovered in my hours of waiting there.

Molly’s flight got changed to that night, and I hopped a train back to Bologna.

Problem solved, right?

Yeah, right.

Since I had a cooking class that night, I wasn’t going to be able to go back and get my friend.

There was only one train and one bus left running after 10 p.m.

Therefore, she had to get from the airport to Bologna alone, knowing absolutely no Italian, with a very small window of time.

I waited anxiously at my cooking lesson (though I did my best not to let my worries cloud the excitement of making our own pasta by hand—tagliatelle al ragù, in fact).

Just as we finished clearing the dinner table, my phone rang.

It was Molly, who said she was at the station. I breathed a sigh of relief and went off to fetch her.

Our plan for the next day was to go to Venice.

I love Venice, Molly had never been there and Carnivale, the famed pre-Mardi Gras (is it Mercoledì Grasso in Italian?) celebration, had just started.

Friday morning, however, we got an email from another Vassar friend, Kathryn, saying she was coming to visit that day as well. So we made a very successful and uncomplicated daytrip to Ferrara instead, returning that afternoon to meet up with Kathryn.

Things had smoothed out and we were excited about the next day’s trip to Ravenna, a scheduled tour with my Program.

I set my cell phone alarm for 7:30 a.m.

Around 9, I woke up wondering why it hadn’t rung yet. Could it possibly not be 7:30 yet?

On the bedside table, my cell phone was buzzing almost inaudibly.

Someone was calling me.

“Hello?”

“Hey. Where are you? We’re at the train station and the train leaves in 8 minutes.”

Great.

My phone was on vibrate.

I told the group members we’d try to catch the next train and meet them there. Molly and I headed to the train station.

Standing at the self-service ticket machine, we checked out train times.

It was a little before 10 a.m., and the next train to Ravenna wouldn’t get in until 12:30.

Basically, there was no point in going.

I suggested we go to Venice instead, and switched over to those times.

The next train was set to depart in approximately four minutes.

What did we do?

We sprinted.

Three minutes later, we were breathless, but we were off to Venice.

On the train, we threw out possible leads for our next column.

“How much can go wrong on a trip and you still have a good time?”

“You can’t make this stuff up.”

“This part of our trip is called RUNNING.” (Have you seen the movie Pursuit of Happiness?)

The train ride from Bologna to Venice is a flat two hours and costs about 8 euro.

I still can’t believe that I can get on a train and be in Venice by lunchtime—pretty sweet, I have to say.

Although it was raining, Venice was as lovely as ever.

It’s beautiful, but also sad. There is very little in the city that could be called authentic.

Despite the fact it was February, Piazza San Marco was swarming with tourists taking pictures and buying Carnivale masks.

The best way to describe it is Cultural Disneyland. There is nothing there that exists outside of tourist consumption—the city now is nearly synonymous with its tourism bureau.

To escape the crowd, Molly and I walked back to the north side of the city where you can catch a waterbus (vaporetto) to the small islands off the lagoon, including Murano, home of Venetian glass production.

We had our sights on the very gothic-looking island of San Michele—the cemetery island where Ezra Pound is buried.

I was psyched, until we stepped off the vaporetto and onto the platform. The waterbus pulled away from the dock just as we realized the island had closed in that precise moment, as the clock struck 4 p.m.

We caught the next vaporetto to Murano instead, and wandered around there for a couple hours.

Murano was quiet and serene, a stark contrast to the tourist-ridden center of Venice.

But all it had to offer besides the serenity were stores upon stores of glass knick-knacks.

Still, the stop was worthwhile, if only for the return boatride back to the main island and into the blaze of setting sun.

When Molly and I got back to Bologna, we wrote our column and looked through our pictures.

Truthfully, all one can do is learn a lesson from these sorts of things: don’t let one little bump in the road ruin your time…

…because then what will you do when there are 10 more bumps?

Sto scherzando.

As we walked back to the dorm, I told myself how good it was to be back at “home.”

Well one of them.

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