For once everything had gone to plan. Melbourne - Hong Kong a brief stopover and then Hong Kong - Rome overnight. This is my favourite flight - arriving at either 0650 or 0710 depending on the season. Uncharacteristically I'd managed a good night's sleep on the flight and arrived feeling rested. I'd also begun to perfect the skill of travelling slow and I arrived feeling not only fresh but relaxed.
The crisp January morning was something of a shock - stepping out of heat stricken Melbourne into single digit Rome was challenging. I drifted through the airport with barely a nod from immigration and disinterest from anyone else. A short wait and onto the Leonardo Express. It always reminds me of the North Coast Mail - the train that used to rumble down the North Coast of NSW collecting blokes with beer, sheilas with dogs and various others with bongs and dope. The Leonardo Express lacks the colour and the carriages are better but it still rattles and shakes and the engine sounds just like the Mail.
Roma Termini is a favourite of mine, despite its fascist style and the pay to pee loos; it has something about it. The early morning winter light, the steaming breathes of the passengers and the bustle. I bought a ticket on the all stops to Naples then grabbed a coffee and slice for breakfast. Life was looking up and soon enough we were on the track again. The trip to Priverno-Fossanova was only 50 minutes and then I was met with warm greetings by an old friend.
It was 2 years since we had seen each other so there was plenty to talk about. First stop was the factory to check on progress but soon enough the familiar question: Mangiamo? Why not? For some reason we never discuss where we're going for lunch. Giovanni decides and off we go. I know where we're going when we get there.
After 30 or so minutes we arrive at a little restaurant. It's beside a drainage canal and set amongst open fields. In the '30s this area was drained, on Mussolini's orders, and turned from swamp to productive farmlands. Wherever you travel on this little coastal strip the drainage canals are a reminder of this.
We parked the car and strolled in the bright winter sunshine for 100 metres to the grass airstrip. Two people were lying in the sun near a little airplane waiting for us. Giovanni introduced them: "This is Giovanna and Mauro." I shook hands and then realised that I had seen this aircraft before. In December 2 years ago I had seen this aircraft in the factory with "Giovanna e Mauro" scrawled on the firewall in marker pen. "He delivered it to us on 24 December" they said, nodding towards Giovanni.
We strolled arm in arm to the restaurant and ate a leisurely lunch. Giovanna and Mauro had travelled in Australia. We talked about the world, business, flying, life, Italy, food and the difficulty of being married to American women. Finally the lowering sun made it necessary to make a move.
We strolled back to the airstrip. This leg back to Roma was Giovanna's turn in the left seat. They strapped in, taxied out and ran up for departure.
Then out of nowhere a Hughes 500D arrived to disturb the peace, make several approaches, hold up departure and then leave.
Finally they departed climbing away in the broad sweeping turn into the soft light of the winter afternoon and we walked off to the car. This set the tone for the next 2 weeks, work, food, friends and flying. Only in Italy.
2 weeks ago