I can’t quite believe it’s been 7 years since I last visited Italy. I remember the last visit like it was yesterday. My father had passed away 3 years before, my long term relationship was dead and both of which were on my mind. I had moved from a two bedroom flat into a small but functional room with a lot of boxes and some wonderful people that are thankfully still in my life (hello K & G). There was at the time a new relationship blooming. I saw a flight to Palermo and after minimum research to find out it was on Sicily I decided to go. Landing I was glad to be away and have time to think without the pressure of work or life for the next 13 days. I didn’t really have that much of a plan but knew I wanted to travel up Italy in search of something but what that something was I had no idea. After staying in Palermo for a few days I then caught a train over to Cantabria, my guide book to Italy telling me that I could actually go up and be on Mount Etna. Exciting and daunting does not really tell you just how I felt but it’s a good start. I remember vividly sitting on the train on the way there and just letting my brain flow into my laptop in an attempt to write out all the pain I was still carrying. This may sound cheesy but there is something about walking or being up a volcano to really put life into perspective. I remember distinctly at the top as I peered over the clouds into the big blue sky that the emotions came thick and fast. I probably had never felt something like this before, the power of the earth under my feet and my emotions more raw than they have ever been. It was an intense moment.
That night I got on an overnight train that went all the way to Naples, one that somehow fitted on a boat to connect Sicily to the mainland, it was hugely exciting. I slept a fitful sleep like I do whenever I sleep and travel. I actually quite like to do this from time to time, I find myself somehow energised the next day which is exactly the opposite of what most people experience. I got into Naples around 6am and checked into my hotel when I could. I only spent one night in Naples that time but during the day I managed somehow to see the cathedral, eat some amazing things and also give blood.
You may very well question my sanity on the giving blood when I tell you the full story. Let’s put it this way, I speak very little Italian, my brain was still in a very odd space wit lack of sleep and all sorts of emotions running through it. The lady who signed me up was very kind and spoke enough English. They took me for a little blood test to ensure I had no diseases and within minutes of that being confirmed I was in the donation van with a somewhat maniac Doctor who stabbed me in the relevant vein and then proceeded to talk to me about football. I also need to mention that THIS is the first time I have ever given blood. It was a strange experience. I remember walking out of the truck, with my arm hurting and aiming for a restaurant to replenish my sugar levels and feeling like my arm was bruised. Over the next few days as I travelled more North to Florence, Pisa and Bologna my bruise slowly faded leaving only this memory, I spent my final few days in Verona,. I left there and headed to Munich to meet my friend Michael for a very unplanned and unprepared Oktoberfest.
Today I returned to Naples and it felt weird walking back into a train station that I had only ver been briefly at all that time ago. Since then Naples has been busy building a metro system and is still crazy when it comes to traffic. Tonight I went out for some proper Naples style pizza and totally forgot just how mad the street is where it all happens. People quinine to get pizza from a place that they can’t even eat at, they have to walk away with it in a box and eat on the street. Okay Pizza is one the ultimates in street food but I wanted to sit and eat, grab a beer after spending most of the day wandering around Rome. It feels oddly significant that I visit this city again because I didn’t get much time in it last time. Plus I was in a very different state of mind and a lot more fearful about travelling. Lots has changed.
My plan over the next few days is to try and take in Mt Vesuvius and the surrounding area including the remains of Pompeii before this time heading more South. My destination being the very heel of Italy, heading for the Puglia region to two places Brindisi and Bari, both of which are going to take my final 7 or so days in Italy to be really relaxing. I return back to the Uk on the 13th October and stay one day in London before retreating to the slightly more calm of Bristol while I look for a new gig.