The train left Rimini while it was still dark.
Young men were hanging out of the windows, waving and making noise. It reminded me of people waving from a window of a house on fire, except their expressions were happy. I’m not sure if it was early morning or late night, but it was an Italian August, hot and humid. Rimini was a town for parties.
I stepped in and found my seat. It was in a cabin for four, with only one other occupant besides me. I settled down and looked at the crocodile leather shoes on the man seated opposite me. He introduced himself as a lawyer from Milan, going to the south for some business.
After I told him my destination, he gave me an impromptu speech on the perils of going to Napoli all by myself, waving his finger in a warning tone. Then he got back to the stack of yellow papers he’d dug up from his brown suitcase.
My train ride was a long one. Near empty stations passed as the train lazily sled toward Naples. Since I would arrive very early, I was planning on going there for the day and then continuing onto a nearby beach town to find a hotel for the night.
At some point the lawyer left the train. Another Italian man entered the cabin and sat down opposite me.
He was a poet and one of the first things he did was hand me an autographed copy of a little self-published booklet. It was light blue and had short poems in it. I almost understood the words but not quite the meaning: those were the limits of my Italian.
He, too, warned me to be careful in Naples. Contrary to the first man, he also gave me something positive to think of. “Try the pizza, it’s especially good there.” Yes, I had already heard all about the pizza.
My day in Naples went fast. I didn’t get robbed and I didn’t meet the mafia. I walked, I saw, I stepped aside for vespas. I ate pizza. The cook made it into the shape of a heart.
It was one of my first heart-shaped pizzas in Italy, but not the last.
*** Memories from summer 2003 which I spent traveling around Italy by myself, before internet hotel booking sites and mobile apps, when booking a hotel room in August could easily turn into a chore. It’s one of my favorite destinations… more about it later in this blog