Italy seems far different to me this time around. Last time I was here (admittedly many years ago when I was younger and more foolish) it was hot, dusty, orange and filled with scooters and people who would steal your seat on trains and pretend to be asleep. I was not here for long.
This time it is far more beautiful, ten times more interesting and a lot more friendly. It has better tea than I remember, and no one has stolen my seat. The scooters are still here though. There are lots of gorgeous landscapes, two dimensional trees (grown that way so as to be easy to harvest, I guess), and old stuff (houses, walls, towns) littering the landscape.
Last time Florence left me thinking I was just not a renaissance man (and you can imagine for yourselves what a devastating rationalisation that is). While I did not make it to Florence this time around, other bits of Tuscany made me start to think that I actually could enjoy being in this country. And not just because of Ultimate.
We had a pretty difficult start. I say ‘we’ because I was travelling with three kindred spirits from Rimini. First there was the actual decision to leave early in the morning. My memory is hazy on this point. But I do recall it seeming like a great idea to head off to Sienna at 6 in the morning when Dave suggested it to me. Alcohol might have had something to do with it.
Google tells me that a guy called Mitch Ratcliffe is responsible for saying “A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history – with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.”
And this is what I am getting at. Promises made late at night, mildly (or seriously) intoxicated, should be assumed to be insincere unless ratified at a later date, not under the influence.
I think “insincere” is probably the wrong word. I was very sincere. What a great idea it was to get up about three hours after going to bed, leap on a train and head off to some place I had only vaguely heard of. It really did seem like a good idea. Even if it did not involve a handgun at all.
I read the other day that F Scott Fitzgerald had a sign on the door of his mansion (at which he held enormous parties) that said, among other things, “Invitations to stay over Monday issued by the host or hostess in the small hours of Sunday morning are not to be taken seriously”. A very good exclusion clause.
Anyway, if the other person does take you seriously when you make your sincere committment, you have to do it. Without your word, what are you?
So, far too early, I rouse myself from bed. Laura is up. She seems to be the only one actually ready to go on this trip, even without having hardly slept a wink. Dave dallies in bed. We get to the train station. Mike (fellow traveller) is not there as planned. We get tickets. Dave discovers he has lost his passport. Frantic investigations discover that it is in the hotel room and that Mike is waiting for us somewhere else. Mike gets passport. We get breakfast. Mike arrives. We board train (three hours after planned time). No seats, of course. We sit on bags, then change to another train where at least we can sit down. Mid afternoon sees us wandering around Sienna, searching despairingly for a hotel that does not want to be found. The streets are not labelled, and when they are, they reveal a mysteriously illogical layout.
And it seemed like such a great plan the night before
Things worked out in the end, of course. The hotel, the room (not without three flights of stairs), blessed sleep, amazing sights, delicious dinner.
And now I am heading south on a train to Naples. In the restaurant car. Drinking pleasant Italian tea. I figure that a night and day with the Romans at Pompeii will be fun. Vesuvius has not erupted for a while. I figure I am pretty safe on that score.