I rose at 6am to catch the ferry from Ventotene to Formia. I rode south from Formia to catch my next ferry to Stomboli, one of the Eolian Islands, from Naples. Naples! The very name makes me start, break out into a sweat, swear I will never, ever ride a scooter in that city ever again. I love the city itself, its energy, its apparent chaos, its passion for food, its many beauties. I love it on foot. I do not love it on a scooter.
It all starts going wonky as I drop down from the tangenziale, the ring road. Immediately I enter a confluence of traffic, like many streams in spate suddenly flowing together at a dizzying speed. Decisions have to be made in trillionths of seconds. The road system makes Kazuo Nomura’s celebrated insoluble maze seem a model of simplicity. The broken road surface and then cobbles set my head juddering.The world becomes a blur. The sun beats down like a hammer. The signpost for the city centre is – is – is gone. Which direction did it say? Who knows? Who cares? Certainly not the man carving me up from the left, hooting at me from the right, pulling out in front of me without any warning. Stop, start, start, stop. Pip goes a horn, pip another, paaaarp another. Scooters and cars are talking to one another. Around we go to the right. But I want to go down there. But I can’t go down there because the one-way system says I can’t. Inexorably I’m being dragged away from where I need – NEED – to be. Dear Heavens. And the bloody bag carrying all my most precious things, keeps being shaken loose from between my knees and threatening to fall onto the road. Why, oh why, did I ever set out on this venture. I’m too old, far too old for this. I should’ve stayed at home. How are the broad beans doing? And the carrots? Has anyone watered the pots? Haven’t I been through this tunnel already?
And then, miraculously, I’m on the sea front, where I want, need to be. Hallelujah! Now all I have to do is find a) the Siremar ticket office; and b) where my overnight ferry sails from. This turns out to be easier written than done. It takes me one, two, three passes along the sea front and that means three further engagements with the one way system to find the ticket office and to discover this wasn’t the place from which the boat sails. The man in the booth gives me instructions. Either I misunderstood his instructions (very likely) or his instructions aren’t clear. Either way, where I end up is not the right quay. I ask a young man. Confidently he points out where I need to go. No it isn’t. The sun is very hot now. I have almost lost the will to live. Finally I ask a young woman in the booth of another shipping line. Her instructions are clear and explicit and correct. I love her
It’s a long, long time since I left the tranquility of Ventotene. I ache all over and a feel drained of energy of any kind, but finally, at long, long last, I’m the right man in the right place at the right time. At least, I think I am.