Sentimento: HA SOTTOLINEATO
(Translation: Feeling Pointed).
Righto. Just a few points to make on Italy before I bust back over the borders (well, and the sea) (had a convo about this; in Europe, if you are flying to a country within the continent, is it still going “overseas” if no seas are in fact crossed over? Say if you were jaunting from Poland to France or some such – would you still deem it “overseas”? Or would it become “overland”? Or simply, “crossing borders”? “Going to another country”? Is it a terming that is more used in NZ and Aus as it is full on necessary to go “over seas” to get to another country? Mind boggling. The English language aye – so fab yet sometimes full of flaws when you take words for their literal meanings).
- Mistrusted Mugging Man
This morning was probably the first time I’ve felt unsafe since being in Europe. My flight from Milan Bergamo to London Stansted was scheduled to take off at 11.40am, meaning a 9.40am check-in at the airport; I had booked a bus from Milan Central Station to Bergamo for 8.10am for a 9.15am arrival and my hostel was a 29-minute walk away from the Central Station. So of course – what with all my insane angst when it comes to being late or missing flights and what not – I departed my staying place at 6.36am. (You never know what hurdles you may happenstance, all right?).
It was raining and overcast as I hiked along and being Sunday – and indeed still super early – many of the surrounding shops were closed with the streets deserted. About halfway to the station I crossed paths with a menacing looking man who caught my eye before his darted over the rest of me to take in my circumstances – little blonde girl, big backpack both front and back, map in hand, on her own.
I’ve said how I sometimes get instant vibes for people before? Yeah, well I got one here. And it was not good.
I immediately sensed this guy was iffy. Debauched, degenerate and dubious. Instead of looking away I held his eye (not actually in my hand I must clarify; I’m talking in a stare down) and sort of narrowed mine, giving off a very clear, Don’t fuck with me warning. As I passed him I pulled out my iPod ears (sorry Justin Biebs) (get that?) (and yes, fuck up, I was listening to him) and shoved them in my bag, my alert on high.
I continued walking and after ten metres or so I suddenly spun around to find he had changed his course of direction and was now going back the way he’d come (I.e., following me). I gave him the most severe of glares and then turned back and hastened my pace. Discreetly, I foraged in my bag and took my passport, my biometric card and my credit card and slid them into a separate pocket, leaving only a 50 euro note and my eftpos card in my wallet. If this guy was going to mug me, he wasn’t going to get the satisfaction of keeping me stuck in the country with no funds.
I looked back and saw he was a fair while behind, lurking along with his hands in his pockets. Had he gotten the gage that I was well aware of what he was seemingly up to? Or was he about to break into a sprint as soon as I passed the busy road to the even quieter – and empty of anyone else – one? I upped my rapidity yet again and when I turned back once more the man was gone.
That’s the thing – it may have been me being right on edge. Maybe he had just gone the wrong way and was turning back. Maybe he was completely anodyne and innocuous and not at all malevolent. But any which way about it, I fully trust my intuitions when they strike me and this man was most definitely not a trooper.
- Eye Browsed the Eyebrows
It’s one of those stereotypical things that Italian (and Greek, but I’m not going there so go with it) males have very expressive eyebrows, particularly those of the older age spectrum. Throughout my almost two weeks about Italy I have been on point watching out for some fab framed faces and have been significantly saddened to find I found not even one male whose eyebrows fitted into my desired description.
So it was greatly gladdening to find that upon lining up to clear customs, a gentleman ahead of me turned around and gifted me with the best set of brows I could ever have wished for. “Caterpillars” is often the metaphor used to illustrate thick, characteristic brows; mate, these were caterpillars ten-point-oh. They were Cara Delevingne meets Eugene Levy meets the OC’s Sandy Cohen. I was overjoyed at these wriggling stripes of groomed wildness, so much so that a gasp of glee escaped my throat. I only wish I could have captured them on cammy for your exultation also, but – alas! – aside from the fact I could never have caught them craftily, I was also in customs and unable to whip out the cellular (a rule I take extremely seriously since almost being slapped with a fine when unaware and attempting to snapchat in the Brisbane airport). So apologies, but you’ll just have to take my word for it – these eyebrows were exceptionally remarkable.
- Dapper and Debonair Staff, Regal and Resplendent Stations
I cannot comprehend how on point the public transport is about Europe. Detonates my mentality (I.e., blows my mind). But in Italy it goes the step further in the majestic stations and insanely voguish station staff.
Like, this is a transport station. Ok ok, maybe it is the main one in Milan, but considering it is purely a place for trains, buses and such to come and go it’s bloody brilliant, don’t you think? Gringotts-esque and all that.
And the staff! My wordo, the staff. Even at the Cinque Terre stations on the coast the men milling about helping passengers with their tickets and what not are ridiculously well dressed. Polished, elegant and modish, they look like they are off to work in a corporate high rise office.
Italians definitely take all areas of public transport seriously – and stylishly.
- Harmless or Hounding Homeless?
After being in India for an extended period I became somewhat indifferent to the homeless and beggars all around. Part of me sees this as a plus, because at first such sightings would get me upset; however, a segment of myself is saddened I am now ever so slightly unsympathetic.
What has really struck me however is the different ways in which the homeless act in each country. In Prague they lined the bridges and some streets, with their heads bowed down and arms outstretched for money. They sat like statues, unmoving for what seemed like hours, just still and suppliant. Some of them had pets with them, usually dogs (really grinds me; if you can’t afford to keep yourself, don’t get an innocent animal in the mix as well) (though I do sort of find comfort in the thought they have a bit of company to cuddle), while others roosted alone on ragged and ruggled blankets, never looking up to meet your eye or actually voice their woes and pleads.
However, in Italy the homeless people are much more in your face. Beseeching eyes, outstretched hands waving in your personal space, signs declaring “bambini” needing looking after and the like. They would shake little tins or gesticulate turned up hats, some even standing in your way as you walked in a bid for you to take note of them.
I don’t know what is more preferred (well, not preferred as such – I would prefer there to be no homeless people of course); the in-your-face or the circumspect on the side-lines?
This morning as I bowled up to my bus to the airport (so early I made the 7.10am, meaning three-and-a-half hours in duty free, woohoo. Was so fortunate to get a lovely lass on the Ryan Air desk who checked me in well ahead of time – in the business plus line, no less – so I could rid myself of my bag and get going) a collection of homeless men and women were still in slumber outside the station. While it broke my heart a little to see them huddled together under the cover of a slightly slanted roof, I was solaced to see that they all had thick blankets and some even had mattresses. It made me feel just a little bit better about the thought of being back at Christina & Co.’s flat later today, able to have a steaming hot shower, put a wash on and go to bed warm and welcomed. (How lucky am I really?).
- Incensing Inhaling
You may recall that in my previous post I said how I was to be staying in a 14-bed dorm in a Milan hostel for the night and was not expecting much sleep. Well even though I did say that, there was still a rather large portion of myself envisaging at least a passable amount of shut eye.
Then I came across the plastic sheeted snorer.
For fuck’s sake. And I mean, for fuck’s sake. I thought I had won out upon 10pm striking and there only being three or four others in the room. Then at 10.20pm the door opened and in came my narky nemesis.
Even though the rest of us were obviously nestled down to nest, she decided to repack her entire suitcase, unzip zillions of zips and rustle a countless number of plastic bags (in the light of day I must admit – this is probably something I would do). After an hour or so of such activity she got into bed where our ears were met by the sound of synthetic reverberations every time she moved – her underlay was one of plastic proportions, and she was a squirmer.
She fell asleep straight away, whereupon I learnt perhaps the worst of all details about her – she was a snorer. And not just an in-loud, out-slightly muted one; this female was raucous in the whole act of breathing. It was blaring and guttural and grating, and I found myself growing all the more exasperated as the minutes ticked by. (Luckily I got a few hours in. But I was not a happy chappy in the AM, flying a certain finger to her sleeping – and yes, still snoring – cadaver as I departed the room).
- Prodigious Produce
Mate, how MASSIVE are the fruit and vege about the place! Particularly in La Spezia. On visiting each and every F&V shop on our street (“Come on now PMS, I want to see the size of eggplants in every place!”) I was astounded at the sheer scale of the ground growers and tree tillers. The tomatoes! The onions! But most gobsmacking was that of both the green beans and the capsicums. Photos below for you to be flabbergasted at also (though you probably won’t be. As I’m sure you already well know, I am amused and amazed by sometimes the most mundanest of matters).
- Mania of Monuments
Paris, Rome, Florence, Vienna… seriously, so many statues. It’s insane the sheer sum of erected effigies dedicated to significant someones of the country or city’s making.
It made me wonder, should NZ be the same, who would we place on a pedestal in concrete? Although my first thought was the only and only John Key (I don’t care what anyone says, I love that lad) upon writing down possible people, the selections were slim. A sculpture of James Cook here? Abel Tasman there? Who else would we have adorning the sides of our streets and standing statuesque in our public squares?
I came to the conclusion that of course it would be All Blacks that would be constructed if any at all. A Richie, a Manu, a Kevin and absolutely a Jonah, all up and down the country. They say you celebrate your greats, right? Well these men are most definitely ours. I shall put in a submission to Johnnie when I get home. (Joking. Flag that one). (Get it?).
- On Camera Catch-Up
Being so fabulously early at the airport as well as a superbly strong wifi signal gave me the outstanding op to make like ET and phone home. Late Sunday evening back in Cambridge, Deb and Henio were in the process of pouring a glass of wine each and making some dins.
You know how now and then you can get overwhelmed with love for people? (Sounds so hackneyed, but bear with me). Just those special someones who mean so much to you? I’ll admit, after we hung up I had a bit of teary eye. (Which continued when upon requesting if I could buy a single carrot from a delicatessen within duty free, a bella of a babe got a brown paper back and gave me one plus a crisp green apple for free. She seemed quite alarmed when I almost broke down in my gratitude. “Grazie, grazie, you wonderful woman!” as I blew her kisses may have been a tad above the pinnacle – I.e., over-the-top. But I was, all right?).
But seriously, I am so bloody lucky (with my fam I mean, but with the gratis apple and carrot as well). My mum and dad top the charts in parental polls, they are so fucking fab. Although I don’t always show it (I can be prone to being short-tempered and morose at times at home, it must be said) I appreciate them more than they will ever know.
And I miss them. I actually am one of those who genuinely enjoys hanging out with their parents. Movies with Deb, just driving about with Henio; those moments mean so much to me. I’m already filling my diary up with activities to do with the two when I return (Tongariro crossing with Papa is well on the cards, as well as a weekend in Wellington and caper to Christchurch with old Dee-Dub).
I guess no matter how fiercely independent I am nor how much I adore my world roaming and what not, I will always need – and want – my mum and dad.
During our lengthy-ish yarn Deb said to me that I seem to have matured quite a bit on this trip. And I have to say, I must agree. I feel like I now know what I really and truly want. What’s important. And most importantly perhaps, what isn’t important (yes, I did just get “important” three times in the course of nine words) in the scheme of being (Don’t worry, a whole load of juvenile Pop still remains. The kid in me will never fully make like Lockhart and dispel). (Yes, that was an HP pun). I’m well aware of my shortcomings, flaws and inadequacies, but I also know my strengths, metiers and capabilities (and whenever these tend to rise so that I am a little too chuffed with myself I listen to Don’t Forget Your Roots by Six60 to bring me back to earth a bit. Hey, everyone is prone to a bit of condescension at times- you just need to be able to recognise it and bring yourself back down that rung when it gets too much).
Yes. To get all on board with those philosophical travelling memes that often make me cringe, travelling truly does – I apologise for this banality – broaden your horizons. It makes you see the world is not at all just black and white, that all you have been told, all you have learnt, isn’t necessarily the complete and utter case. You go and you see and you formulate your own worldview on things. And you grow.
So that’s the last of the lagging. Onto London!
Tomorrow I’m off to the my most animatedly anticipated place of my whole adventure. No, not Heathrow as Jaas guessed on the phone last night (though that would most definitely be number two), but HARRY POTTER WORLD with the one and only Christina. I am beyond enlivened, almost to the point of almost being nervy. (See? The puerility in me is well and pure).
As I said before, life is fecking grand. It’s what you make of it and what you go out and get for yourself.
And mate, I’m out to go get a whole lot more.