It’s 10 pm on a steamy summer night in the Italian region of Lazio. I’m alone in a stuffy railway carrozza that’s taking its time getting to my dad’s home province of Frosinone, a bit more than an hour south of Rome. It’s dark, there’s not much to be seen except my reflection in the train window. I’m equipped with two things a traveler should never leave home without: her backpack, and an unopened bottle of white wine. Naturally.
As we bump through the countryside, I’m at a loss for what to do with my time. My paperback is buried in my backpack, which is packed beyond capacity. I don’t want to put in my iPod and zone out, lest someone comes into the car unnoticed to rob me of my worldly possessions. (I’d have been especially sad to part with the wine…). So I settle into my thoughts and smile at the prospect of relaxing for a few days at my relatives’ house, getting “back to my roots” a bit, if you’ll allow me the cliche.
Just as I was imagining my aunt’s savoury eggplant parmigiana, one of the railway conductors makes a grand entrance into my car, letting the door slam shut behind him.
“Signorina, what are you doing in here?!”He was an older man of about 60. He looked kind, but I was somewhat startled by his question.
“Umm, I’m sitting. Am I not allowed in this car?”
“Allowed? Sure you’re allowed! But this is the only car that doesn’t have the aria condizionata in it.”
No air conditioning. I had already noticed. “I’m fine here, thanks,” I say with a smile. And I was. The warmth was pleasant. I’m not an aria condizionata junkie.
“Signorina, if I may ask, where are you from?” My lightly accented Italian had betrayed me. He sat down gently in the seat opposite me, obviously wanting to hear the story of my provenance.
“I’m Canadese, but spending some time in Siena.”
“So you must be visiting relatives down here then, since foreigners don’t usually come to Frosinone without a reason.” He tilted his head and squinted one eye, questioning.
“You’re right. My dad is from here, and we still have some relatives in the province. They’re meeting me at the station,” I explained, happy for the bit of company.
“Ahhh, then we’re paesani, me and your father! I’m from this province too!”
We chatted a little longer, and when he finally realized that he was still at work and there were other cars to attend to, he stood to leave and shook my hand, thanking me for the pleasant conversation.
“But wait!” I said to his back as he moved towards the door of the car, “Don’t you want to check my ticket?” I had just realized that this conductor and I had been talking for over 15 minutes and he hadn’t even made sure I wasn’t riding illegally.
“No, signorina, non ti preoccupare. Down here, we’re fiduciosi,” he smiled with a glimmer in his eye.
No miss, don’t worry. Down here we trust people. He made my day.