Monday, December 08, 2008

from Italy: fickle

If you’ve been an Ocean reader for a while, you probably think that I’ve been a nut about France forever.

Not so. France is a fairly recent love (at my age, “recent” has generous proportions). In my other years, I was smitten with Italy. And, like the young love that it was, I overdid it. And then I moved on. Fickle me.

But, occasionally, and now with Ed, I have gone back. I sometimes think Ed likes Italy best. Italy is forgiving. Not fussy. Not demanding. When you’re hungry, you can always get a fantastic pizza.

We flew to Nice, but we didn’t linger there. The city bus, taking us from the airport to the train station offered a quick glance, but that was it. Oh, but I remember the blues of Nice! They don’t disappear in December.


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The important point to make here is that I am, at least for this day, in the warm embrace of the sun. And in Nice, as we waited for our train, I felt warm enough to get rid of the winter coat.

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Off one train, waiting for another. An hour to kill at the border Italian city of Ventimiglia. We are, for the first time, traveling with a cell phone, but it hasn’t a card in it. We thought we’d buy one locally. So much cheaper! – those are Ed’s words. He says now – you didn’t tell me we’d be traveling into Italy on Sunday! We have grown comfortable with this: it is the way we travel. With amusement at how different the other is.

We walk through Ventimiglia looking for a place to purchase the card, but everything that isn’t in some way holiday-ish is closed. No matter. It’s a lovely walk. We watch children enjoying the presence of a bizarrely inflated Santa Claus…

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…and we pick up the Sunday stroll along the water’s edge.

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And a few hours later, we are in Genoa. It’s late and we have only a half hour between trains. We make a hopeful detour to a bar in search of food. It’ll have to be a mozzarella tomato sandwich. Chased by a miniscule tumbler of red wine. The bar owner tells us we have to hurry. In a few minutes the game begins and he is expecting a huge crowd. It’s a funny way to eat a first meal in Italy, but I’m supremely happy we’re pushing ourselves to move on all the way to Levanto. Fifteen minutes in Genoa seems plenty.

The last train ride. As we move from one place to the next, from afternoon to evening to night, I start worrying that we’ll sleep through our stop. I’m in that drifting in and out mode where I can’t tell if the train is moving. Lights outside, Christmas lights, one colorful string, another and another.

Late, very late, we reach Levanto.

Our b&b presents insurmountable (even for Ed) problems with the Internet and it takes a while to get the heater to wake up, but we are pleased. The innkeeper urges us toward a pizzeria in the village (town? who can tell… it’s dark outside) and there really isn’t a person in the world, I don’t think, who can’t be lulled into happiness with a perfect Italian pizza. So what that they forgot the salads, so what that it took so long to get here, so what that it’s just pizza, it is a great pizza, a fantastically splendid pizza, a great ending to a very very long two days.

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An old man engages the waitress, a group of young adults (or old kids, depending on your perspective) talks one over the other, the zebra striped chairs clash with the leopard dotted chairs, the air outside is cold and every one of the patrons wraps miles of scarf around themselves to brace for the near freezing temps. Winter in Levanto.