When I was in Taormina on Friday, I overhead someone at the café saying “ci sara’ un temporale” (“there’s going to be a storm”.) With such amazing sunshine the whole day, I assumed he was joking. In the end, there was indeed no storm that day and the weather held up beautifully.
My host in Lugano had let me know that she’d be leaving for work around 8am, so I decided to make sure I was up and ready by then so I could say goodbye. I set my alarm for 6:45 but in fact was up long before, tossing and turning in bed. No idea why–the night before had been very easy. Anyway, at some point I fell back to sleep and had some absolutely bizarre (though realistic) dreams that had absolutely nothing to do with the journey. Anyway, moving on.
I arrived at Lugano train station at around 11pm last night, and of course by then it was completely dark. Leaving the station, I used the GPS on my phone to make my way on foot to the apartment where I would be staying. I’d rented a room through Airbnb, so I knew it would be a room in someone’s house. On the way there, a car with a group of loud young men honked at me, and one of them called out: “Ciao bello, vai in centro? Tu con la valigia!” Yes, I was the one with the valigia (luggage). No idea what that was about! :-O
Over the last few years, on most weekday mornings and evenings, I have walked along London Bridge railway and underground station in Central London, watching the ongoing building work change the London skyline and the feel of the very streets themselves. It’s actually hard to recall what lay before on the spot of the now towering Shard–the tallest building in Western Europe. In London, and indeed in many UK cities, the construction of new buildings has embraced bold, sometimes controversial architectural styles. In this respect, there have been both success and failures, as in any enterprise.
Of the things I missed when I was living in Italy were the sliced loaves of bread that are a staple of shopping in the UK. When we went to the supermarket, the only thing similar was hidden away on a small top shelf at the edge of the bakery area and labelled something like “American style”. It was expensive too, so it didn’t become part of our regular shopping. On the odd occasion when we bought a small pack, it was like tasting a small piece of ‘home’. How strange that putting together two slices of the soft white bread and spreading some peanut butter or chocolate spread would remind me of life back in Scotland.
In just over a month, I’ll be heading off on my next trip to Italy, which will last for six days. During that time, Back In Italy will turn into a travel blog with a daily post about the day’s events as well as small updates and photos on Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.
It will be similar to a trip I had last year in which I travelled by train to Genoa. I was inspired by the BBC TV programme Great Continental Railway Journeys, which is presented by the former British Conservative politician (and train enthusiast) Michael Portillo. Just as in the programme, I will be going by train to various locations on the route to my final destination.
When my family was moving to Florence (which I talked about in my first post), we first flew from London Heathrow to Milan airport (I don’t know if it was Malpensa or Linate). We waited for our connecting flight in the departure lounge, which, as far as I remember, wasn’t all that busy. We were looking at the flight schedules, slightly puzzled, since we couldn’t see “Florence” coming up at all. Now, the next part is a bit hazy for me, but I think an American gentleman sitting nearby overheard us and explained that in fact we should be looking out for “Firenze”, which is the Italian name for Florence. Or perhaps it was my mother or father who explained it to the American.
I will start with a story that I have told many times over the years–so often that I sometimes wonder if I’ve accidentally embellished it and turned it into more of a personal myth than a true account of a random day at primary school. I sometimes think we all have a tendency to invent stories for ourselves to explain significant events in our lives: why we met the partners we did, why we chose certain subjects at university, why we decided to move to a certain city, or how we landed our jobs. Often we base these stories on real memories but with the details left out, keys parts emphasised, and sometimes outright exaggerations (lies?) introduced. I dare say this is only human.
Still, I digress. Back to an afternoon at Primary 4 in a small Scottish town near Falkirk (in between Glasgow and Edinburgh). Our class was going to be doing a project on different European countries and the teacher had decided to divide us into four groups–one each for France, Spain, Italy and Germany. She gathered us all around one of the big tables in the classroom and explained to us what we would be doing, before proceeding to put us into groups.
“So, who would like to do France?”