Travel from the Heart

This post is coming to you LIVE from the Milan-Brindisi train. Currently paused at Trinitapoli, where the air smells of rain and the clouds are ripped from oil paintings. Somewhere over there is the Adriatic, across which (with any luck) I shall be sailing tomorrow evening.

The man opposite me, in shirt sleeves and eyebrows, is eating one of those doughnut-shaped apricots, bringing the sharp tang of Italian soil and sunshine to the carriage.

The first half of the journey from Milan was uncomfortable at best: my reservation plonking me between a corpulent man with a breathing difficulty and a middle-aged woman who, through no fault of her own, obstructed me from both my baggage and a longing sense of freedom. She appeared to understand, despite our lack of common language, and offered me a chocolate.

I was therefore quite grateful when two apparently healthy (and selfish) males ejected from their seats a pregnant Frenchwoman and her young daughter, giving me the gentlemanly excuse of surrendering my disquieting seat to the mother. It was more pleasant to stand and watch Italy unroll itself before the window.

From Foggia onwards, however, the train emptied out and I secured this space at a table for four. Me and my apricot eating companion can admire in peaceable silence the olive groves outside, with ample elbow room.

Today is the last of three consecutive train journeys that have taken me and my bicycle 1,400 miles from London St Pancras, through Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon, to Milano Centrale and now Puglia.

To those who wonder why I couldn’t simply fly, I have no particular response. But perhaps a young Belgian I met in the Eurostar departures lounge put it best: ‘This is travel from the heart.’

I suspect, were his grasp of English more idiomatic, he would have said, ‘This is travel for travel’s sake’ – but I like his formulation better.

What do you think?

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