TURIN, ITALY, JUNE 24 -- Planes, trains, automobiles, buses and a good pair of shoes. We need them all to cover the World Cup. We may need all of them at the same time if we expect to reach the Cameroon training camp. It's only a rumor that the camp is halfway to Cameroon. When the "Lions of Africa" scored yet another upset Saturday -- 2-1 over Colombia -- to make the quarterfinals, reporters got out their maps to find Selva di Fasano. Not every map had it, including mine. It looks to be a two-hour drive south of Bari, if you've ever heard of Bari, which is on the Adriatic. I know one thing, I'm not going all that way to chat up the French-speaking Lions without my friend Keyvan. A bright young man, Keyvan speaks six languages. Just the other day he held a dazzling three-way conversation in English, Italian and French. June 22, Rome
I'm walking past the downtown office of the newspaper, Il Messaggero, admiring the building's architecture, when a woman nursing her baby darts in front of me. I'm stunned. Baby and all, she keeps rushing toward me, talking fast, most likely one of the many gypsies in Rome who seek money, mainly from tourists. I back up. She keeps coming. "Wait a minute," I say. I backpedal into the street. "Back off," I plead. She does. What next? June 23, Rome to Naples and Back Again
On the autostrada from Rome to Naples. John from Amsterdam offers a ride and I accept. It turns out he has a BMW with a sunroof. It's a brilliant afternoon. Down south, we smell olives from the trees. "Could you ever have dreamed of doing this," John says, "driving to Naples on a perfect day to watch Cameroon play?"
On the autostrada from Naples to Rome. We go along and . . . what's this? The autostrada closed for repairs? The road to Rome shut down right after a World Cup game? No. It can't be.
You think it takes time to get from the District to an Orioles game? Try bumper-to-bumper that distance -- practically stationary.
Finally, we get going. Not fast, but at least we're moving. Country roads, dusty country roads. We're talking major dust. John washes the windshield and still we can barely see.
And what to make of the road signs? Roma left. Roma right.
The Italians must have invented hanging out. In every town and crossroads we creep through, the youth of Italy are congregated on street corners, on steps, outside taverns. It's Saturday night and they're rocking in . . . what's the name of this place?
Brazil-Argentina begins in just a few hours in Turin, and that's halfway to Paris. June 24, Turin
Who conceived such a south-to-north turnaround? The next Naples-Turin back-to-back comes July 3 and 4, for the semifinal matches. I know which road not to take.