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.
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.
After leaving Florence and going back to Scotland, I did not return to Italy for many years. When I did eventually go back, it was to a place far away from the tourist trail followed by most British visitors–the border city of Trieste in the beautifully named region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is located on the tip of the Istrian peninsula, not far from the Slovenian border, and it is a short trip down the Adriatic to the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.
The reason I chose Trieste was because a friend of mine (whom I’d met in London) lived there. I thought it would be a good idea to go somewhere a bit different and also where I at least knew somebody. It also helped that my friend didn’t really speak much English so I’d be forced to speak Italian the whole time. I really wanted to make a point of only using Italian and not resorting to any English, no matter how tempting.
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?”