The journey home: Turin – Pisa – Rome – Dubai – Melbourne – Castlemaine

We woke early after our show in Rome and began the long drive up to Torino. The journey takes six or seven hours depending on traffic so we settled in and watched as the weather changed out the window. We soon left behind the sunshine of Lazio and Toscana and moved into the colder climes of northern Italy, complete with its grey skies, cold wind and rain.

The hardest thing about being on tour has been being away from our families. It’s a new thing for us, and why we limited the trip to just two weeks. My heart melted earlier this week when I got a picture from home of the calendar with days being crossed off until ‘daddy gets home’. And although regular Facetime and phone calls have made things a little easier, I’m very excited to be heading home soon.

My eldest daughter asked that I bring something back with her name on it. And as Veronica is a popular name in Italy, it seemed a sweet and simple request. So over the last week I’ve been on the lookout for gifts with names on them. I remember seeing them countless times in the past. However, someone must have been one step ahead of me this week, removing all trace of them before I arrived.

I did find a little ceramic tile with Veronica’s name on it but there was no matching one for Isla so I had to let that one pass. I have to make sure my presents are evenly matched otherwise things don’t play out so well. But time was running out…

Finally, on our way to Turin I found a tacky little make-your-own charm bracelet kit with some princess trinkets (that they both love despite my best efforts) and a pack of shiny silver letters. I seized the opportunity even though it’s not the kind of gift I like to buy and set about putting them together in the back of the van. But would you believe it? Despite there being about 200 letters, there was only one A. There were about 10 Ds, Os, Fs and plenty of all the other letters that I didn’t need a duplicate of, but only one A. And A is a pretty popular letter here in Italy! So I had to improvise, flipping a Y upside down for Isla. Thankfully she can’t read yet so I’ll just have to have a quiet word with Ronnie to make sure she doesn’t let on.

We arrived in Turin and enjoyed a great show at Spazio 211, a place we played on our last Italian tour almost exactly ten years ago. A couple of local guys arrived with a laminated photo of us with them from ten years ago. So we headed outside to recreate the picture. We also caught up with some old friends after the show and then headed back to the hotel with the gear. It’s always a weird feeling coming to the end of a tour so its nice to mark the moment somehow.

Unfortunately, usually by the time you’ve loaded out and settled everything with the promoter it’s too late to find anywhere particularly welcoming. So like many previous tours, we ended up at a random old-man bar in the middle of nowhere to celebrate and reflect on the past few weeks. We enjoyed a quiet whiskey in the company of a disinterested Torino barkeep, some old timers, and a few end-of-the-night revellers while the line-up of Italian poker machines provided the mood lighting.

The next morning we began our journey home. And it is a long one: Turin – Pisa – Rome – Dubai – Melbourne, and then the drive up to Castlemaine for me.

We took the coast road down to Pisa from Turin – a route that we have taken many times before and one of my favourites. It’s a magical drive with the hills to the east and the Mediterranean to the west, cruising past the port of Genova and countless seaside towns and hillside villages. It was our last trip with Leonardo, who has been our tour manager for the second part of the tour. It’s been great getting to know him and also get an insight into Italy’s next generation. Like many young people he has a wildly eclectic taste in music that can surprise, inspire and confound an old fella like me.

Our last night in Italy was spent in the company of dear friends in Pisa. We took a stroll through the centre at sundown (passiagata as it is known by the locals), enjoyed a bicicletta (a local drink comprised of Aperol and white wine) in a local bar, and then had dinner at Luca’s house. We grew up with Luca and Enrico from Locusta on the highways of Italy and Europe, and it has been a real blessing to reconnect and share this time with them again.

6.45am arrived far too quickly and soon we were on the road to Rome with Luca. We said our difficult goodbyes at the airport and made our way through the labyrinthine hallways, gates, security checkpoints and shopping malls of Rome airport. It seems that before you’re allowed to do any actual travel, it is necessary to walk through the equivalent of at least five full-size shopping malls.

We settled into the luxury surrounds of the Emirates A380 and I chose the Iranian film Salesman from the some 300 options on offer. The choice is quite overwhelming on this airline but the film was quite the revelation and I’m so glad I was able to catch it. It’s the kind of story that stays with you and I keep thinking back to the various aspects of the film.

Dubai came and went like any other shopping mall and now we are just a couple of hours out of Melbourne. My parents will meet me at the airport and then I will drive an hour and half north to Castlemaine where I live. It’ll be tiring after such a long journey but I can’t wait to walk in my front door and see Eli and my girls again. The girls will be asleep but I’ll kiss them goodnight and look forward to a beautiful day together tomorrow.

karl smith

Castlemaine, VIC, 3450