Today, despite a gelato hangover, I managed to get on a train from Nice to Genoa. On the train I met two American travelers, Shane and Allen. They seemed like fun, so we all exchanged email addresses and discussed possible travel plans together in the near future. Eventually they hopped off the train, and I continued on.
My entire life had been leading up to this moment. This was the reason I endured the humiliating act of busking year after year. From a lifetime obsession over spaghetti with my equally obsessed best friend Jenna, to my favourite song from ‘The Wiggles’ being ‘Balla Bambina’ because it was Italian… Today was the day I arrived in Italy.
One of the main things everyone warned me about was Italian men.. Italians even warn me about the Italian men. So of course it was only fitting that within 5 minutes of arriving in Italy I would already have a story to tell. I got off the train at Genoa, and needed to catch another train to Riomaggiore. I wasn’t sure what platform I needed to be on for my next train so I found an old train conductor man and asked him where I needed to be. He helped me out, and then helped me get the elevator working, asked what my name was, pinched my cheek and walked off. A couple of minutes later I was standing on the right platform and there he was sitting on the platform opposite. He sees me, smiles and waves. I wave back then continue messaging Jenna. I look up 5 minutes later and there he is walking straight across the train tracks over to me! He comes over and starts talking to me in Italian, making sure I knew what time the train comes and just general chit chat that I somehow understood (maybe it was his hand gestures). He asked what my name was again, and I asked his to be polite. He walked off for a couple of minutes and then came back. He asked me if I remembered his name and laughed in disappointment at me when I didn’t. I asked him if he remembered my name and when he couldn’t remember either I laughed back at him. I asked to take a photo with him, knowing this would be a funny memory. And what does he do? SMILE!! is what I said to do.. but KISS MY CHEEK is what he actually did!
He then proceeded to get his wallet from his pocket, and take out some ancient looking photos. He showed me a photo of a teenage boy and then pointed back to himself, saying ‘me’. He asked me if I thought he was handsome when he was younger, then pointed to his bald head and laughed saying he was a bit old now. He said I was beautiful and that he was too old for me… I made my agreement for that last bit UTTERLY clear. I have to say. It was the introduction to Italy I had been forewarned about but still didn’t expect.
Message to Dad: Don’t freak out! Hahahahahahaha
My train then came and off I went to Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre (a place that I had put as my laptop wallpaper for 2 years!). I had gotten in contact with another host on couchsurfing named Mattia. He met me at the train station at Riomaggiore and introduced me to some of his friends from France. We all went to the rocky beach to eat pizza and drink white wine. On our way back into town we heard somebody singing and playing guitar, and of course Mattia knew him! So we climbed up the rocks and sat with him and listened to him play and those who knew the songs also joined in singing. Afterwards we collected our stuff and drove to La Spezia to his family’s house to have dinner, chat, and get ready to go out 🙂 While waiting outside they asked me something about fireflies, and I said I had never seen one, so into the garden we search and they catch one! It was so beautiful looking into the bushes you could see them faintly glittering.
In the car Mattia played his cool Reggae music and off we went into town. We found this cool little bar decorated with lots of mirrors and frames on one wall and different artwork on others. Outside was packed with italians (and their dogs) all hanging around. After a drink there we went in search for a place to dance. We got in for free thanks to Mattia convincing them we were all foreigners here for one night only. At first when we were inside the dance floor was too empty to be able to dance, but soon it filled up and we all danced to a mix of 90s english songs, and random italian songs. After we’d had enough dancing we made our way back home, had something to eat and went to sleep.