Paul Bailey's visit to Italy turned into a catalogue of adventures straight out of a picaresque novel

Paul Bailey
Saturday 02 August 1997 23:02

It began at Gatwick when, already drunk on duty-free and awaiting our delayed flight to Rome, Jam and I delayed it a further half-an- hour by leaving the passports in our bags, by then stowed in the jumbo. We met a woman on the plane who drove us at kamikaze speeds through narrow Roman streets to the YMCA and a cheap bed before catching a morning train northwards. The YMCA was manic, we got drunk on whisky only to wake to find our bottle had been stolen by lunatic Poles and so left for the station, clutching headaches, in the clothes we had slept in.

We managed to catch our train with minutes to spare and when it stopped at our changing point we left the train on the wrong side, following a local girl who looked as though she knew what to do. This led to an immediate confrontation with wild gun-toting policewomen who took our passports and then demanded pounds 20 to give them back. After we paid up they told us in near-perfect English the best restaurant in town in case we were hungry.

But instead we left and slept rough in a station somewhere awaiting the first train to Siena and after a slight detour of 200 miles because there are two villages in Italy called Nunzetina we finally made it to the most obscure place in the world where Jam's girlfriend was nannying for an Anglo-American historian. Alas, Jam's girlfriend wasn't really expecting us and the Sloane family Robinson she worked for were appalled when two northern lads turned up, sunburned, wild and ready for anything.

They did their best to make us feel unwelcome, especially when I slept with their daughter, and so quickly shipped us back to Rome, with the two girls in tow, and the keys to their apartment, which was minutes from the Trevi fountain. I duly blew up the shower, although I'm still unsure how, and Jam vomited on the stairs after his girlfriend finished with him. The maid hated us and the daughter said she was falling in love with me, that she was obsessed, and so Jam and I decided to leave.

On the subway Jam got stuck in the door as it shut on his rucksack and the train sped away before I could board, leaving me on the platform trying to look as blase as possible in the city of cool, surrounded by amused Italians. We met up through common sense somewhere underneath Rome and with an unbreakable bond left the country until Jam decided I was going out with his girlfriend and never spoke to me again. He still owes me pounds 100 in fact.

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