“Is the station open all night?” In Florence with no hostel to stay at and frightfully expensive hotel options, we had no choice but to stay at the station.
“Yes,” replied the lady and walked away. I wonder if she even understood the question.
We made ourselves comfortable in the waiting-room, as comfortable as we could get. There were other people, thankfully, so we didn’t feel destitute. Sitting in the waiting-room somehow bordered on the normal, even though we had not done it before. We lounged on chairs, hugging our luggage, trying to get the seats not to poke us too much. And then, at midnight, they chased us out of the waiting room. “Station-strike,” they said.
We groaned, picked up our luggage and went out. We were three teenagers outside a station in a foreign country in the middle of the night. Yes, there were others, but they spoke a language we didn’t know, they were all older than we were, and most of them were drinking. We were more than a little afraid.
“We can’t sleep any more,” we told one another, worried. But we were so tired and so sleepy! What could we do?
“Name Place Animal Thing!” suggested my sister.
And that was what we did. While one person slept on a station trolley, using a backpack as a pillow, the other two kept each other awake playing Name-Place-Animal-Thing. We took it in turns, naturally. Sitting outside the station while people around us drank, laughed and sang, we diligently played Name-Place-Animal-Thing all night. When the letters of the alphabet got over, we started again. By the end of the night, the only ‘thing’ I could think of with ‘z’ was ‘zombie’.
The next day, we visited the city and fell in love with it, but the night at the station remains my most powerful memory of Florence. Maybe it’s time to visit it again.