“CIAO, BELLO!” I tell myself in a mirror in Italy.

I sleep like garbage here in Nice because it is about four thousand degrees every day, all day long, coupled with an unbearable humidity like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I live in Iowa, a place known for its tropical climate in the summertime, but the summers there seem a bit more manageable than here. I’ve long elaborated on my sadness about not having an air conditioner, so I won’t whinge on interminably again.

Me, all day, every day in Nice:

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I’ll just say this: WHY DOESN’T ANYBODY IN FRANCE HAVE AN AIR CONDTIONER? NO WONDER SO MANY PEOPLE DIE IN THE SUMMER! YOU CAN’T COOL OFF! YOU CAN ONLY SWEAT! AND DIE! Anyway…onward with my story.

After a few hours of sleep, since that was absolutely all I could manage before giving up, flinging my sweat-soaked pillows away (seriously…get air conditioners, Europe), I dressed myself in my casual pirate outfit — I’ve noticed that this is a look I’ve started unconsciously cultivating — and headed to the train station. All the trains were delayed, a sign I should have heeded then, but there was one going to Ventimiglia that was delayed ninety-five minutes…which meant that it was leaving just as soon as I stepped aboard. Convenience! The train ride to Italy was short and quite lovely, the tracks go right along the coast, and it seems quite precarious at some points. We didn’t fall off into the sea, though, so it’s quite safe. We passed through Villefranche, Èze, Monaco, and Menton (which hosts a lemon festival each winter I’m dying to partake in), and were soon in the first city across the Italian border.

I haven’t been to Italy in eight years…it does not seem that long ago…but my reunion with the country did not begin favorably. The station is decrepit, it smells of things I’d rather not smell, there are people lingering suspiciously all over the front, and there was a pile of actual human excrement on the floor of the restroom. WHY?

ME:

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I have never been somewhere so disgusting.

The next leg of my journey to Turin didn’t leave for an hour, so I hurried off on my little Chelsea boots to get a little look at the town. IF ONLY I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW ABOUT THIS STUPID VILLAGE! But that’s for a post a few down the road.

Areas around train stations are never picturesque; they tend to be in poorer districts. I’ve never understood quite why this is. I suppose the wealthy don’t want to hear a train blasting by their windows as they’re trying to sleep. Who knows? Times change. I found a bakery and discovered that my Italian is worse than I ever thought. Before summer began, I was doing fairly well with my Italian and German lessons in the DuoLingo app (highly rated by me), but my ability to reserve a room for a weekend and order a glass of red wine was not at all helpful in trying to buy a bottle of water and a slice of “torta verde.” After throwing some French, Spanish, English, hand gestures, and a grimace together, I got my point across and was soon nibbling on the tart in a little park.

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It was delicious. Rather like a potato leek pie surrounded by a delicate savory pastry. I’m a fan. Going to be making these back home.

I remembered what I’d read in a guide on Italy once and went into one of the innumerable shops all over the place, all of them unimaginatively named “BAR.” No, I wasn’t drinking gin at ten o’clock in the morning, though I don’t have a problem with that, I was getting coffee. It’s cheap in Italy, and the people are always drinking it. You don’t sit down and linger over an espresso for a half hour like you do in Parisian cafés; in Italy you stand at the counter, slam the espresso, and leave in a matter of two minutes. Very efficient, but not very charming. Ah well.

It was nearly time for my train to head out to Genoa (Genova), where I would be meeting the final train to Turin, so I sighed and headed back to the station, hoping that I would find a place free of fecal matter. I was amused to see a power sprayer hosing down the men’s toilets when I came through. People are disgusting.

As I sat in the waiting room for a while reading the second installment of JK Rowling’s detective fiction series (which I adore, but that’s my favorite kind of literature! This one wasn’t as good as the first, though, because she keeps switching perspective in an odd fashion that seems sloppy to me…but back to Italy!), some immigration people came through to check on passports. Mine was cleared much quicker than usual, but that’s only because I have long hair again like I did when I had that horrific picture taken back in 2007. Truly, it’s the stuff of nightmares. Can’t wait to get it updated. I’m going to wear a nice shirt and get my hair styled by a professional. It’ll be like this:

The train left on time and I was fascinated to see an extraordinary number of ruined greenhouses that litter the city. It seems that Ventimiglia used to be one of the flower growing capitals of the Mediterranean. Not anymore, if the state of the greenhouses is anything to go by.

The train began to run late almost immediately, much to my frustration. The connecting train left twenty-five minutes after I was scheduled to arrive. How was I going to rebook my seat in nonexistent Italian?

It was a long ride in an uncomfortable seat, but thankfully my resting bitch face kept anybody from sitting beside me. If I didn’t have that face, I’d probably already be married. In Savona, I decided to do a little experiment, so I raised my eyebrows to a position where I know they don’t look hostile and waited. Seconds later, and I’m not even exaggerating, somebody sat down beside me and said, “Bonjourno.” He wasn’t cute, and we’re not getting married, so my efforts were wasted. I came to discover that I like looking mean more than pleasant anyway, certainly saves time.

To the shock of everybody on the train, we arrived in Genova on time. How this happened is a mystery to us all since we had been running an hour late. I shrugged and headed to the next platform, only to find that Beyoncé had listened to my desperate pleas. It was a bit like this:

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I had asked Lady Beysus to delay the next train just enough so that I wouldn’t miss it. She certainly listened. It was delayed an hour. Annoying. Francesco, my AirBNB host, would be sitting around Turin twiddling his thumbs for an hour. Not my fault.

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Thrilling to watch the delays keep building.

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I went to the front of the station and sat on the steps for some time laughing at my own jokes about Christopher Colombus. They weren’t very good, most of them along the lines of, “Hey, I’m gonna claim this land for me!” “LOL…smallpox.” “India!” I was tired.

The next train eventually left, an hour and ten minutes late, but I spent the ride feeling my look (seriously, the casual pirate is a thing) and listening to the people speaking. I can get the gist of Italian if I don’t think about it, which sounds odd, but that’s what works. Numbers and specifics…no, but the general idea, I’m good for it. Don’t ask me for a translation, but my brain can grasp the soul of a sentence.

As we headed into northern Italy, I was rather gobsmacked by how lovely it was and how vastly different it is from the tropical trees and plants along the Côte d’Azur. Here are the most gorgeous pine trees — a variety of tree that I have a great loathing for, mind you — with soft  boughs. Mountains shoot up everywhere, which reminded me that Turin was the sight of the Winter Olympics a while back, so these must be an offshoot of the Alps.

Eventually the train chugged into Turin, and I met the host of my apartment, Francesco. I have had many positive experiences with AirBNB, but he truly went out of his way to be an exceptional host. (Later I found out that he had spent decades in the hospitably industry, which clearly shows. He was impeccable.) As we walked to the building, which wasn’t far away, we chatted about visiting Egypt. He’s always wanted to go but is frightened. I cleared his misconceptions up at once! Egypt is portrayed as a scary, negative place where you will surely die, but it is full of the most humble and gracious people I’ve ever met. Every Egyptian that I’ve come across outside of the country is the same and all of them universally lament the state of their public image. It’s horrible. People need to get back to that wonderful country — just not when I’m there, because I kind of like being the only person in a temple.

And I’m not going to rant…but…the world isn’t a bad place. It’s not a scary place. There aren’t terrorists and gangs on every street corner. There isn’t a shark or radioactive waste in every ocean. Not ever train has a bomb or a thief on it. The media makes people so worried. You’ll be scared all of your life if you don’t leave your house, your city, your state, your country. There’s a whole big beautiful world just waiting for you to see it. And what on earth are you waiting for? Time’s ticking, you know. As Judge Judy clearly illustrates:

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Listen to her. Go places. Be scared. It’s okay. You’ll be fine.

Anyway…

The apartment was flawless, like being in a nice hotel. There were a variety of espresso makers, a comfortable bed, a marble bathroom, a cute little balcony, and tastefully appointed furniture.

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The wifi worked splendidly, and I couldn’t have been happier. And the lighting was fabulous:

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After unpacking my bags, I had to head out and see the city. I was lucky enough to be in the center, so it wasn’t too far to get anywhere, a blessing when your size twelve feet are squished in a size ten and a half shoe for the sake of fashion.

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The Museo Egizio, the world’s second largest collection of Egyptian antiquities (the entire reason I was here) was only three blocks away. Reconstructions of statues of the warrior goddess, Sekhmet, were flanking the entrance. I found myself explaining the story of Sekhmet to a German family. They spoke Italian for some reason. So, I managed to get the story of Sekhmet being thwarted from destroying humankind by drinking beer dyed as blood across using a blending of English, Spanish, German, French, and hand gestures. They got it…I think. Who knows?

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It was late after being hopelessly lost for a while in the streets, so most of the restaurants were closed. I found a branch of Eataly, that wonderful food emporium we have back home started by Mario Batali, but a much smaller version. They had pasta, butter, cheese, and wine, so I was good. As I was about to head to my apartment, I noticed a little shop selling dozens of varieties of focaccia. I was immediately enamored, so I bought a few pieces to go with the meal. They was fabulous. I’m a convert to the Church of Focaccia. Focaccia forever.

Stuffed to bursting, a bit tipsy, and thrilled to be in this beautiful city oddly lacking in sidewalks, I fell instantly asleep. (BECAUSE THERE’S NO HUMIDITY HERE!)

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