We’re somewhere south of Rimini. We’ve been on this train for hours already, and will be so for a good few more. I’ve dozed my way through much of the journey, but am now wide awake and restless. Rimini station was industrial and ugly, the area criss-crossed with giant metal pipes and concrete pillars. It wasn’t a great wake-up call, and I’m grumpy at being trapped on a train without either entertainment or a pretty view. I huff sulkily, belieing my thirty-odd years, and garnering myself an old-fashioned look from the middle-aged Italian next to me. She’s come prepared with a book, but it’s in Italian so I can’t do as my inner Londoner dictates and read it over her shoulder. Instead, I stare mournfully out of the window.
As we glide south, the industrial feel improves, but the land is still rocky, flat, and uninspiring. The sun is sitting low in the sky, and I squint in search of something interesting in the landscape. There’s nothing. I turn my gaze from the right-hand side of the train, where I’m sitting, to the left – and physically gasp. We are in the sea! Of course we’re not, in reality, but we are running so close to the Adriatic coastline that from my viewpoint it seems like we are. I gaze, open-mouthed, at brilliant turquoise water running up to and blending with the horizon. Sometimes we inch a little further away from the edge, and I catch glimpses of yellow sand and tall, black bulrushes, but it’s the sea that is the star. The colour in the early-evening sun is almost impossible to believe. It practically glows. If I could, I would dive out of the window and into the water, ignoring the Italians’ shrieks of horror at daring to go in the sea before the prescribed summer months. Chuckling to myself at the chaos that would cause, I instead lean back in my seat and enjoy the view.
The guard walks along the carriage, checking tickets. Seeing him, I am thrown straight back to the 1940s: no grey slacks and cheap shirts here. Perish the thought! Instead, he wears a navy-blue serge suit with red piping and matching peaked cap, complete with highly polished shoes and a pocketwatch on a chain. His hair is silver, wavy, collar-length and beautifully coiffed, and he has the most impressive walrus moustache I’ve seen in a very long time. Also silver, it covers the entire area from his nose to his top lip and is fastidiously trimmed, with not a hair out of place. He gazes scornfully at my sleeping travelling companion’s two-day-old stubble, turns up his nose and moves on. I return to my contemplation of the sea, but in that minute of distraction the magic has gone. The water is no longer blue, but murky grey. Smiling, I close my eyes and dream in azure.
Image by Kate Bailward