Yesterday, I left Perugia at 11:30 a.m. and arrived in Porto Maurizio, Imperia at about 9:30 p.m. It was a long train ride, and I traveled on three different kinds of trains. From Perugia to Florence, I was on the kind of train I rode all over Tuscany and Umbria to visit the hill towns. I started a conversation with an Italian man on the platform in Liguria, because I needed some help with my luggage. This kind man, Biagio, sat with me for the two hour trip and then helped me with baggage again in Milan. I didn't understand a lot of what he said, but we tried to have a conversation. He just talked too fast, even though I kept asking "parla lentamente, per favore"--speak slowly, please. Biagio works with crews that both construct and demolish apartment buildings and leaves his family in Perugia every week to work in another city.
From Florence to Milan, I rode the "fast train" and it was pretty luxurious by comparison. There were car and seat assignments--something new. The seats were much more comfortable, and there was a table between the facing seats to place drinks, books, magazines, computers, whatever. There was beverage service just like on an airplane and a car where you could buy food--snacks, sandwiches and salads. Pretty nice. I'd like to travel all over Italy on this train.
Then from Milan to Porto Maurizio, it was a less luxurious train, but different from the norm--this train had compartments on one side that seated 6 people, with an aisle on the other side. I had a really nice conversation on that train with two native women who complimented me on my Italian. I was pretty surprised and pretty pleased.
I had a chance to see the countryside north of Florence. It flattened out into plains fairly soon and was like that until we neared Genoa. We even passed some rice fields. I had no idea that Italy grew rice. I thought I was flashing back to southeast Asia.
From Genoa to Imperia, the railway ran mostly right by the sea and I mean right by the sea--at times the tracks were just a few feet from the edge of the cliff. We passed every few minutes through a tunnel, and then there would be the sea again. On the other side of the tracks were the mountains. It's the best of both worlds. And it seems that this is Liguria....the population is nestled between the mountains and the sea all along this province known as the Italian Riveria.
My landlord, Giancarlo, met me at the train station and we walked the 400 meters to the apartment building, and then....yes, steps again....45 of them up to the third floor. The apartment is lovely and seems to have everything I need, including an iron, which I haven't had since Sorrento. I've been a rumpled mess most of my time in Italy.
So here I am again, lucky stiff that I am, sitting in my little kitchen, typing this and looking out the window at this. (Please don't hate me.)
I'm right across the street from a new marina that has 1,300 berths, according to my landlord. This place reminds me a lot of my apartment in Sorrento. There are lots of restaurants in the area and lots of street noise at night. And a church nearby, with bells that rang every fifteen minutes throughout the night, but then stopped at 8 a.m. this morning. Now what kind of sense does that make??!! But there's also a lot of traffic noise because a road runs between this building and the marina. I stopped at a pharmacy this morning and bought a supply of earplugs.
The old town of Porto Maurizio is up on a hill (of course), and I went this morning to find the escalator that my landlord said would take me effortlessly up. But guess what? It's been broken for two weeks. So up more steps I went to get some groceries--four bags for starters--which then I had to carry up the 45 steps to the apartment. I'm resigning myself to steps. They are obviously my destiny for at least the next month until I return to gloriously flat southeastern Michigan!
With all these steps I've had to navigate, I think I should have really skinny thighs by now, but I don't. In fact, I sat next to a young man on the train yesterday who had thighs half the size of mine. There's something very wrong with that. It was bad enough to feel like a giant in the southeast Asian lands of toothpick women, but to be twice the size of a man is just humiliating. If I see another pencil thin man again, I'm going to buy him a huge gelato!