a t t e s a

[ 21:55 wednesday 17 october – binario 4, stazione di milazzo, sicilia ]

sitting here now on a marble bench bathed in flourescent light, my feelings for milazzo are quite different from one and a half months ago when i sat writing in the cafe, impatient to be away from this place.

i took the afternoon hydrofoil from stromboli, feeling most reluctant to leave, and docked here at twenty to six. a travel agent was able to tell me that there would be a sleeper train departing for rome at ten to eleven, arriving there around nine tomorrow morning. perfect. since this left me a few hours i walked up to the old castle and around the back streets. many impressions. ancient wizened women sitting in doorways, participating vicariously in the passing world, returning sage acknowledgements to shouted greetings. a street of shoe shops, a street of clothes shops, a street of bakers with sacks of flour piled to the ceiling and men in white hats pounding dough. a huddle of youths on the pavement, one of them accompanying their chatter with his guitar. something about these simple things made me feel very moved. i walked on with a lump in my throat. i love the way these people live.

later, trying without success to find a bus or taxi to the station, i asked in the restaurant where i’d supped. they laughed, said it wasn’t easy, and called a friend. ten minutes later an old mercedes pulled up, lovingly polished. mario, its owner, and i were not done chatting by the time we arrived here at the station and we continued standing by the boot with my bags at my feet for a good ten minutes. i complimented him on the car, said i much prefered the old ones to the new ones. he wanted me to drive it around for a bit but i was too shy. he gave me twice as much change as he should have done, counting it into my hand so i would know it was not a mistake. everyone told me i would be robbed blind here in the south.

landon arrived just after dawn yesterday. it was a perfect day. even the islanders were remarking on the stillness of the sea. we swam. talked of the work ahead. dined magnificently at punta lena. then i led landon halfway up the volcano where we sat watching eruptions for, well, however long it was. on the way down we passed three boys and sat on the ground chatting with them whilst watching a while longer. the volcano was more vigorous than i have ever seen it; orange plumes soaring high into the air then tumbling down the black flanks of the mountain. i think landon felt he had arrived somewhere.

yes, i was sorry to leave.

[ 08:23 thursday 18 october – sleeper train milazzo to roma ]

we’ll be in rome in twenty minutes or so. the countryside beyond the window looks more autumnal than in the south. a watery sun, misty fields. i have slept excellently on my little berth, though with strange dreams. just 21,000 lire (£7, $10) on top of the basic ticket. i love sleeper trains!

at messina the train is broken into several sections, each of which is then shunted onto a ship and conveyed across the straits to regio di calabria where it is reassembled and continues on its way. i was dozing through must of it but subliminally aware of the nudges and changing motions. one day i am sure a bridge will be built from sicily to mainland italy, cutting an hour from the journey time, and this wondrous feet of engineering will be forgotten.

crumbling sections of ancient aqueducts fly past. we are arriving at rome.

: cH

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