This morning I left the hostel at 10am in order to catch the 10.30 train. Upon using the ticket machine which screamed at me to beware of pickpockets in the least discreet way possible I found out that there were only first class. So I waited an hour for the next one. In the meantime I’d have a snack and read. Everything in the station was at least 2euros so. I found a supermarket and sorted a snack and water for €1.30 (I told you I’m not first class). I wanted to escape the crowds so I made a seat out of my backpack and guitar on a platform and watched all the people come and go.
After 45 minutes I went to check the departures board to see where I should really be waiting. An outburst of Americans knocked me off my calm cloud as they waved tickets and argued frantically where they needed to be. Unable to distinguish departures and arrivals, unable to match the time on their ticket to the one on the board and unable to not bump into people as they lived their life as if acting on a very large stage. Large, loud and in a rush so luckily they soon left.
I hopped on a train and was sat opposite a mother and son who sounded American but the son had exceedingly good Italian when he spoke on the phone. After a while, a daughter also joined the table in Bologna. They all had names I can’t remember but it was a pleasure to meet them. The mother was from New York but they had all moved to Tuscany a long time ago (Italian skills explained). They were all off for a trip to Venice. When I left we all wished each other well. All smiles and happiness.
I got off the train and found the adjoining platform was where my next train went from. I was a happy chappy. I asked someone where I could find the ticket machine (you have to stamp your ticket before you ride). It was downstairs, In stamped my ticket and was safe in the knowledge I wouldn’t get fined, found, founded or dumbfounded (a particular risk for me). My train came and on the front it said ‘AIDS! AIDS! In large graffiti, and to think I could have gone first class.
Before I knew it I was on the way; rattling, rolling, writing, belly grumbling and butterflies tumbling excited to see the mountains. We wound, winded but wounded no one through small Italian towns before dismounting, disembarking and disem-meowing at Conegliano to catch the final train. The landscape all day had been flat as a pancake with a very low altitude. As we drew into Conegliano I could see some mountains in the distance and I got all excited.
The train soon whinged into action which was lacklustre and difficult by the feel of things. It also made it hard to know when we were moving and when we were stopping. i arrived in Vittorio Veneto and boy was it pretty! The mountains hung over the train like stumbling giants. I would be living in one of those drunks very shortly.
Upon my arrival, again, I was unable to communicate with my phone. It rang but I could hear no answer. So, I went to the nearest café in search of wifi. Still overwhelmed by the sight of the mountains, I snailed down to the street which took me through a beautiful park filled with flowers, colours and a fountain at the centre. It was a lot to take in.
I sat down in the café and ordered something small to eat and a drink. Before I knew, a woman was running through the down shouting, ‘I found you!’ She was not mad but my new host, Ruth. Shortly after she was joined by vegan chef, Regina, from New York. We arrived at the house and waiting for us was a delicious mushroom soup and salad with a magic dressing.
Then it was time to get to work. My first job was tidying the woods. Dragging lots of sticks through the woods and then wheeling them down the hill in a wheelbarrow. I felt my calves working hard and burning into life. When I got back to the house after getting them all down, there were guests, Italian guests and I tried to string together a few words but after the day I’d had, my brain was fried and useless. Luckily, no one seemed to mind.
We ate dinner and after followed a flood of wine. People drifted off to bed and as they did, curiosity about my guitar grew and before we knew it, Andrea and I were playing the blues long into the night. It was just what I needed after a long day travelling and an afternoon of work. When I finally got to bed, no thoughts had a chance to cross my mind before I slept, but if they had, they would have been of the view from the bottom of the mountain, the top of the garden and how everything in between was just dust in a dream.