Italian bus drivers, like their conduttore-kin elsewhere in the Mediterranean, are some of the most skilled to be found anywhere. Adept at funneling their craft through impossibly narrow streets, able to handle scooters and tiny Fiats that constantly cut right in front of them, and pretty timely — considering the traffic they have to deal with — they are a proudly professional lot.

We’ve had a hiatus from posting this week, as three of us were struck by a very nasty 30-hr stomach virus which only rivaled (in my experience) the Great Turkish Stomach Bug of ’99. But yesterday we all boarded the G bus to find a store called Anna Sport, several miles outside of town, so the boys could get measured for their Don Bosco soccer kit.

It took about 40 minutes to travel 6 miles, winding through the ridges and switchbacks that make up Perugia, and accounting for 44 bus stops. Google Maps had the store in the wrong place, so we had to walk around and inquire a bit before we found it (this gave Jakob a chance to drool as we passed a Ferrari-Maserati dealer — and why not).

On the way there, most passengers seemed to ignore payment (by validating a ticket in the slot near the front); the driver did not bother policing this (he’s a driver). There’s a marvelously integrated public transport system in Perugia, which allows a ticket on any system (and any number of transfers) to work for a total of 70 minutes. This includes the awesome 5-yr.-old Minimetro, which is perfect except for one deficit — no interesting drivers.

At one point, four men got on at once, standing at the front, three dressed in the light-blue short-sleeved Oxford and dark pants that comprises the uniform for Umbria Mobilità drivers. They had a merry conversation up there, and then at about 11:30 the driver with the official-looking bag slung over his shoulders switched places with the actual driver (it seemed at first to be at a random sport in the route but turned out to be near the Umbria Mobilità HQ), and we continued on. The other drivers soon left as well.

That left one man in jeans and a white polo who remained up front. He’s an example of what one might call ‘the Questionably Official Guy’ in Italy. This Guy shows up in the company of other clearly official personnel (whether on buses or elsewhere), but has no uniform. He’s always friendly with his companions; often he may wear glasses with a lanyard so that he can take them on and off easily. He may be a supervisor (and then doesn’t have to wear a uniform, perhaps); he may be a plainclothes ticket-checker; he may just be a pal of the drivers. But The Guy clearly has some status. Those of you who have been in Italy for any period of time will know what I’m talking about. We’ll leave him as a mysterious figure for now and see what we learn.

The visit to Anna Sport took some time (we’ll post on the immense amount of gear that we’re getting, with no idea how we’ll get it home). Anna Sport were experts about cleats, and there was much back-and-forth about the best pattern and shape and size and depth of the cleats for the artificial turf at Don Bosco. A youth director for the AC Perugia Calcio club (the local professional team) also came in and helped with cleat advice, even as he jokingly tried to recruit the boys to his club.

On the way back, we trundled up to the bus stop to return home, and the bus was a few minutes late. We soon saw it around the corner going the other way, and the driver noticed us, giving us a couple of friendly toots on the horn to let us know he’d be around soon. What’s a professional? Attention to detail.