The fast express train to Milan leaves Santa Margherita at 13.35, first stop Genova half an hour later. The local train, all stops, leaves from the same platform 7 minutes later at 14:02 arriving in no less than 10 minutes at Comogli. We planned to train to Comogli, do a circuit bush walk and bus back to Santa Marherita. It was our first day of inclement weather. Rain had well and truely set in.
To further set the scene for the events that unfolded, I should explain it is a given that the Swiss train system runs with clockwork precision. It is apparent that all station clocks across Switzerland are synchronous. When the station clock at Basle shows the time as 13:45 and 47 seconds, it will be 13:45 and 47 seconds in Geneva. When a Swiss train is scheduled to leave at 13:45 and 47 seconds, that Swiss train will indeed start to move at 13:45 and 47 seconds precisely.
The Italian train system, as I learnt, today, runs like pasta – it bends in hot water. At precisely 14:02 the train pulls into Santa Margherita station. It is surprisingly full, so much so that we are forced to stand in the aisle along with several other elderly Italians. We can cope as the next stop, Comogli is all of 12 minutes away. The train picks up speed and enters a long tunnel, we are in darkness for several minutes, then suddenly travelling at 100km/hr we shoot out the tunnel, to a vast expanse of the Ligurian sea on our left and the small station of Comogli on our right. The rush of the speeding train creates a violent vortex and like a scene from the Wizard of Oz, several seagulls, thousands of cigarette butts, and a baby’s pram on the Comogli platform, are sucked into a spiralling tornado. We had failed to realise that the intercity express to Milan was running exactly 27 minutes late. It sped along, seemingly out of control, to finally run of out puff and stop at Genova,the capital of the Ligurian provence. We alighted, considered our options, that as were here, set off to explore the city. It was worthwhile, despite the inclement weather. More aware of the vagaries of the Italian rail system, we more carefully researched the return journey.
Had a great final dinner at the Ristorante Pizzeria dal Baffo. Their pasta is made on the premises. The spinach ravioli in a walnut cream sauce then steamed fresh fish with mussels, pippins, prawns, octopus and calamari in a tomato sauce. Both sauces so spectacularly tasty that they begged to be mopped up with crusty bread. We shared a warm apple pie with vanilla gelato. Then, as the night was cool and it was still twilight, contentedly satiated, we sauntered down Via Garibaldi. Which reminds me, if you are bored at any time, search for “via Garibaldi” in Google Maps. The result will astound you – hundreds of thousands of such streets in every village, town and city of Italy and then some!