Posted by: Noni | January 11, 2010

Italy by train… is there any other way?

NOTE* – sorry for late posting… this blog somehow got lost in process and never published as I had thought.

On a train headed north to Genova from Roma. I don’t know why there is a “v” in Genova since you don’t pronounce it. The Italian language is fascinating… so fluid and lyrical with emphasis on letters that don’t exist and disregard of those that do. I guess much of it is in the translation; from the Latin origin to the bastardized English version.
We have just emerged from the blackness of a long tunnel into the brightness of the city outskirts. There is a constant and gentle rocking of the train that makes typing a slight challenge. Occasionally I find myself inserting a word inadvertently into the middle of a sentence in a paragraph above. It’s hard to concentrate on my keyboard with such gorgeous green hills and obscure little stone buildings scattered along the route. I wish I could wash the outside of the window on my carriage… the mud splatters prove to be a distraction with the sun shining directly on the glass. We pass a small cluster of buildings and the tracks curve graciously to the right so I am afforded a slightly better view.
I wonder what these lush green crops are. Grains, vegetables, perhaps even cranberries grow in this area since I notice deep ditches surrounding the rectangular plots of land. The past week has dumped many centimeters of rain and everything is shiny and clean. I spot a gaggle of geese with a donkey, some sheep and a lama or something. It looked like a lama but may have been something else. The terrain is relatively flat with the occasional hill or slight valley. We pass another town but the train is going too fast to read the sign… Cerevetaccia? I check my blackberry Google Maps for the correct location and see that we have just passed Cerveteri. Not too far off with my wild guess. I wish I could take a photo now since the view of the Mediterranean Sea is fabulous… but the reflection and grime obscures a clear shot. A marina packed with sailboats designates a popular seaside resort and we slow as we pass through the village of Civitavecchia. I make a mental note to come back here in springtime… I imagine sailing along this coastline and promise myself I will return before too long.
We cut inland now and there are rows upon rows of grapevines. I should have brought a bottle of vino along for a truly authentic Italian journey. Each meal is accompanied by red wine; well, not breakfast which is strong coffee and sweets, but both lunch and dinner. I’ve gained at least 5 pounds this week (or 3 kilos) and admonish myself for not getting enough exercise or restraining myself from the second or third helping of Panetone. (A rich yellow cake with or without dried fruit that is commonly eaten during Christmas season)
As the countryside gets hillier sheep herds appear. They seem smaller than the sheep in Scotland and with shorter wool coats. There is a constant network of rivers and streams to cross and the train passes this area much slower than the past section. I curse the filth on the window while I wonder if they ever clean them. I take a photo and hope for the best…

View through a dirty train window along the seaside in Italy

I managed to capture a tiny glimpse of the spectacular beauty of the Italian coastline.


My resolution for this year should be for more tolerance. It’s the second day of 2010 and I feel ashamed that I haven’t changed my websites, updated my blogs, written new chapters in my book and structured a payment plan for my film classes that will start in February. Tolerance and patience for me and others is a focus I will meditate to achieve. After all, I am on holiday in Italy! Why on earth would I, or should I, waste precious time that could be better spent exploring and experiencing wondrous adventures. I had hoped to sit next to a handsome Italian gentleman, but as luck would have it, I am accompanied by two young girls who share an iPod headset and mouth the words to some unknown melody. They giggle and pop their gum as they listen and dance in their seats. I am surrounded by the unfamiliar rhythm and cadence of the Italian language and it frustrates me that I can’t eavesdrop on the conversations.
We pass might well be a fish or shrimp farm. Large pools of water with irrigation and aeration flank the land between the tracks and the sea. It reminds me of mini versions of the shrimp farms I saw in Malaysia. There are more trees now and the terrain is more rugged and less populous. The couple across the aisle has opened their lunch of salad and crackers and the smell of vinegar wafts over to me. The smell reminds me of cleaning the windows again. We pass another river that is overflowing its banks.
I hope the rain holds off for the rest of the day. The sun feels so good when it warms my face and I have experienced my first patches of blue sky since landing in this country. Another river, the color of milky coffee, tests the boundaries of its banks as the last had. None of the TV stations in Italy have English broadcasts, but I did understand from the footage on the news that many areas in the Tuscany region have experienced flooding this past week.
I wonder where I left my umbrella… perhaps in a taxi the night I rode home from the center of Rome after too many glasses of red wine and having missed the last bus at midnight back to my host’s home north of the city. The cost of the taxi for a 20 minute journey was the same as this 4 hour train ride. A valuable lesson for being punctual when catching the last bus of the day; not only did it cost me 40 Euros, but my umbrella as well. Chances for snow are more likely where I am headed than for rain though so my North Face jacket and gloves will be sufficient.
I daydream as I look at the passing landscape and reminisce about the end of 2009 and the opportunities ahead for 2010. New Years Eve in Roma was fun as I experienced new traditions and learned of superstitions and customs. I was sure to put on red underwear for the evening, to bring love, happiness and sensual pleasures for the coming year… That would be a welcome change… We ate fish to bring luck, lentils for money and toasted with Spumanti popped ceremoniously at the exact stroke of midnight and poured zealously to bring cheer and new ventures.
Amidst the thunder and racket of the pouring rain the sound of fireworks could be heard until well after 1am and we were careful to keep the dogs and cats indoors so they wouldn’t get spooked. It was a quiet and intimate night of gossip, secrets and conspiracy for both business and pleasure. I didn’t make too many commitments other than to enjoy each day as if it were the last and to give myself more credit for the accomplishments I have made so far in life. I need to learn to accept that I have skills and value far above that which I have claimed to date.
So… I have no earth shattering resolutions this year with the exception to challenge to myself to be kinder to the earth, myself and fellow mankind. I will attempt to deliver responsible messages in my productions and to “Be the Change I Dream to see in the World”

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