This day a year ago I boarded a sticky, crowded train in Vienna. We rattled through the night en route to Rome, but my stop was Florence. I didn't sleep.
Since our first hike in John Forrest National Park (‘she didn’t realise there’d be mud, but she did pretty well’ – he would say later), I thought there’d come a time where I would make this trip. For months it had been lingering in my mind. First as a sort of vague possibility while Nicola was on his 40,000+km odyssey around Australia: that quiet, vast, flat burnt land, full of snakes and sharks and spiders; concreted when he came back to Perth.
Tuscany was the first place my feet touched earth outside Australia (the airport at Rome, for the record, doesn’t count). This would be my third visit and, after all, non c'e due senza tre (there's no two without three).
I remember stepping onto the platform: I was overcome by the noise, the whizzing and whirring of people around me, looking up and seeing a green cross, lit up, signalling pharmacy. In the midst of chaos I had a strange and overwhelming sensation of being home. I was enchanted and soothed, fascinated and delighted, and I felt my feet root into the earth and my smile grow wide.
I was 16-and-a-half.
I never could have known that at double that age, just after my 33rd birthday, I would step onto that same platform to meet a man I’d known in person really, not very long at all, but who I’d been slowly dancing circles around for all that time. When I was 16 and sitting politely with my all-girl school group with our impeccably-groomed and super-organised teacher on the train to Viareggio, he was there too: long-haired and ripping up the backstreets on his scooter.