We’re passing through the south of Italy by train, a grueling, patience-testing ten and a half hour ride. Our second class train tickets have bought us two worn blue seats by the window. Technically, of course, I didn’t even have a seat on the train, since they had assigned me a nonexistent seat number. The men who work the trains, with their sharp navy uniforms and smart caps, have all been amazingly blasé about this fact, shrugging and nonchalantly assigning me other seats, which, of course, were already taken. Thus, I’ve become a kind of wanderer on the train. By the time we got past Napoli, getting a seat wasn’t much of an issue anyway, since few were going this far south.
Our destination is Siracusa, a port town on an island right off the mainland, as far as I could see on googlemaps. Our only purpose for staying there is to catch the train to Pozzallo the next afternoon, so that we could catch the ferry to Malta, a country I wasn’t even aware existed until my dad insisted we go, as he had some business on the island. My geography has always been an embarrassingly weak point for me.
The landscape outside the train window has been a continuous panorama of the Italian coastline, with the mediterranean ocean on my right and the scraggy mountains on my left. Here, the sand is dark, a volcanic purplish gray. The ocean, by contrast, is jewel blue, that kind of blue you see in little babies’ eyes before they outgrow their infancy. On the way, old, stone towns resting on the cliffs, ruins of castles clinging spotting the mountains, men fishing, fat women suntanning, even a little girl with a red bucket, running along the coast. The beaches look rocky, and as it’s only the beginning of April, with a chill that still endures during the mornings and after the sunsets, I suppose few are visiting beaches. It’s also a Tuesday.