An overnight train ride to Lecce, down in the heel of the boot of Italy, the diagonally opposite corner of Italy to Turin. Going to sleep in the south of Piemonte after watching the sun set over cornfields and rolling hills, waking up in Puglia. Red dirt, dry grass, ancient olive trees. “The light really is different here, isn’t it?” says the Pugliese woman we’re sharing a couchette with. She’s right. The sky is blue, blue like it is in Australia, and the light is clear.
Her husband, also in the couchette, is a gentleman, not letting me put my bag up in the rack myself even when I insist it’s not heavy. He tells us about how his whole family has been up in Turin for his son’s wedding. His nephew and the nephew’s wife are in the next carriage and they pop in for a chat. “What’s going on?” asks the conductor as he walks past this little gathering hanging around the door of the couchette. The nephew grins. “Oh, just a family reunion!”
As we roll through Puglia in the morning, we chat about the usual Italian things — food (we should definitely eat orecchiette), and history. The gentleman has studied archeology, and he tells us about all the influences that have gone into this corner of the world, not just the Romans and the Greeks but also the Carthaginians and the Normans and even some Germans. Later that week we’ll see in a museum some of the artifacts found from these powers but for now I can feel the sense of history rolling as invaders come and go.
At last we can see the sea, deep blue behind the rows of olives. We’re getting close to Lecce. “The sea so close makes the weather much nicer here than in Torino,” says the woman.
“Ugh, yes, it always stays hot in Torino, even at night…” I reply. “We’re from the coast, too, in Australia.”
“Australia! That’s a long way to travel.”
“I’d love to go to Australia,” adds her husband.
“Yes dear,” she says to him. She adds to us, laughing, “Listen to him, he wants to go to Australia. He won’t even take me to Venice!”
PS: It’s almost exactly a year ago I wrote a little blurb about cyclists in Turin and decided to stick it on a blog since it was a bit long for facebook. A post (roughly) per week later, and now my friends introduce me as, “This is Zoe, she has a blog” (?!) Thanks for reading, commenting, and generally encouraging this little project!
PPS: I love the guys in the photo for this post, clearly if the piazza doesn’t have enough seating the correct solution is to byo plastic chairs!