My taxi driver took to the early-morning roads like they were a cobblestoned racetrack, careening around fountains, hurtling over potholes and streaking past Rome’s parade of monuments fast enough to blur them all together. We roared up to Termini with exactly ten Euro on the metre; the driver smiled smugly as he handed me my suitcase, no doubt thinking about all the speed records he had just broken.
Termini at 6:45 on a Saturday morning felt like it was wrapped in a foggy, tired haze. As usual, I arrived with far too much time to spare, so I wandered into a bar and lingered over a cappuccino and a cornetto for as long as possible – sipping, then staring off off into space, then slowly sipping again. Around me, people threw back inky shots of espresso before disappearing onto trains.
Observed on the train: A pack of American backpackers stuffing a pile of luggage into the overhead bin, sweating after sprinting down the platform and complaining loudly about the early morning departure time. One of them pulls a bag full of beer bottles out of his backpack; the others exchange high-fives and exclamations over how “epic” their journey is going to be. Fifteen minutes later they’ve all fallen asleep, slumped against the windows and draped sloppily over the tables. Silence descends over the train carriage.
As always, I started off the trip with the best of intentions. I opened my laptop, positioned it on the table in front of me, then promptly became engrossed in watching the Italian countryside streak by at 250 kilometres an hour. First there were suburbs, blocks of apartments intersected by highways and railway lines, then hills dotted with vineyards and villages and punctuated by long, dark tunnels. I’ve taken trains on this exact route several times before, but never so early in the morning, and never enough to get tired of the way the scenery changes: By the time the train reached the outskirts of Florence, the view had become decidedly Tuscan.