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A Return to Sarzana

I wrote previously about Sarzana in Liberation Day in Sarzana.  I had stopped here before beginning my Alta Via hike and really enjoyed the town.  While there, I had noticed they were having an acoustic guitar festival the third week of May – right up my alley, so I filed it away in the “like to do” file.  After some other plans fell through, this became my agenda.

Ever have a really bad travel day (like a bad hair day, but with trains)?  Well my trip from Bergamo to Sarzana would qualify.  Sarzana lies about 1.5 hours almost due South of Bergamo as the crow flies.  However, it lies about 5 hours, 3 changes, and a big “C”-shaped route as the train goes.  Miscalculation #1.  On the train, a “ticket-cop” was busy chasing down a woman who conveniently decided she had to go to the W.C. when she saw him walking through the car.  Lucky for me I happened to be sitting near the W.C. when this man was in grumpy “enforcement mode”.  As fate would have it, for some stupid reason, I totally spaced validating my ticket.  As a non-feminine person, I wasn’t getting out of this no-way, no-how and was offered two tantalizing options: pay 50 euro now or 200 euro later.  Hmmm – tough choice.  So, what I thought was going to be around a 10 euro ride to Sarzana was now nearly 80 euro.    Upon arrival in Sarzana, I found all accommodation near the city center full.  Miscalculation #2.  So I ended up paying 20 euro for a taxi ride to a rather dumpy hotel an hour walk outside of town (the bus didn’t run after 8p.m. and I didn’t ever get back before midnight).  Only 100 euro to get from point A to point B – good thing I’m rich!  I think the only thing that kept me sane was all the nice people I met along the way – a woman from New Mexico with whom I enjoyed witnessing a good 30 minute “heated discussion” between a couple and a ticket cop over an improperly booked ticket – a nice older gentleman from Santa Margherita on his way to listen to a friend give a lecture in La Spezia – and last, but not least, the taxi driver with whom I had to finish watching the last 10 minutes of “Braveheart” (in dubbed Italian of course – they don’t do subtitles here).

These kind of things often make me wonder if the something is trying to tell me I’m not on the right path.  I sucked it up and headed to the guitar festival to see if this was all worth it.  Was it ever.  Turns out I was on the right path – I guess sometimes you just have to be persistent (and maybe plan a little better :) )  I have never seen so many talented guitarists and gorgeous guitars in one place before.  Did I also mention the whole thing was set in a medieval fortress?    Somehow that 2 a.m. walk to the hotel was a piece of cake now.  There were 3 concerts with an amazing array of talented musicians from Europe and USA.  Among my favorites were Massimo Varini, Peppino D’Agostino, Alex De Grassi, Giua and Armando Corsi, John Gorka, Victoria Vox, Eileen Rose and Rich Gilbert, Massimo Bubola, and of course Jackson Browne!  There was also many new artists there – my favorite was Giulia Millanta.  Also check out my HD video of an open-mic performance by Giulia Millanta and Paolo Loppi.

An overall inspiring and amazing experience.  I must admit I was feeling some travel blues before this and the openness and kindness of the people I met here set me right again.  I miss my guitars..

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