The ship had begun its voyage only a few hours ago. The Bay of Naples disappeared from view and not even Vesuvius was visible anymore. On board, they gave us the numbers for our cabins. The majority of the travelers were emigrants and the cabins were in third class.
I was assigned a two-person cabin in the women’s area. My traveling companion was a girl of my age, she came from a nearby town and she was traveling alone. She told me that her relatives were waiting for her in New York. The cabin was small with two bunk beds. The small ladder that led to the upper bed leaned on the foot of the beds. From the porthole, we could see the waves of the sea break against the ship. An unknown and mysterious world, which I had never seen before, was unveiling itself before me. I stuck my head out the door and I saw a long corridor with many small doors, some closed, others half open. From behind the doors, you could hear many subdued voices and every once in a while, some woman stuck her head out of a door and, like me, looked up and down the long corridor.
Lunchtime was getting closer, our first lunch.
As a group we all went upstairs towards the dining hall. The dining room was an enormous hall with many set tables an each table had a number.
On one side of the room, there was a line of tables that were set with an infinite variety of fruits. On the other side there was a very well equipped bar. Michela, my traveling companion, and I went to sit at the table with the number that corresponded to the number we were given. It was a large table of 20 people, and my father joined us there. Lunch was marvelous, we had everything: antipasto, first courses, second courses, fruit, cheese, coffee and pastries.
It seemed like a wedding banquet. The waiters that served us were dressed in impeccable uniforms. I felt as if we were in a luxurious hotel. There was a huge difference between our trip and the trips of the emigrants that had sailed at the beginning of the century.
After our meal, Michela, myself and other girls went to explore the ship. There was everything; a post office, a game hall, a bar, a reading room, a store, a barbershop and even a room with baby sitters. In the afternoon, tea or coffee and biscuits were served, and later on, dinner. On the bridge of the ship, there were no people lying on the floor, as so many emigrants had been forced to do in order to travel at the beginning of the 1900s. Now there were lines of chairs with beach umbrellas and people who were taking some sun. Everything was neat and clean.
That was my first day on board. Similar days followed.
We were between the sky and the sea. The intense blue color of the sea was mixed with the baby blue of the sky. After dinner, I would make my way to the bridge to enjoy the sunset. It was a beautiful show. The sky would be tinged with red; the large sphere of the sun would disappear slowly on the horizon behind the sea. Then everything was dark. The dark sky would be flecked with shimmering stars and both they and the moon would be reflected off the sea. There was no land, there were no obstructions; you could view the entire vista as far as the eye could see, as far as the distant horizon. In the shadows, couples would kiss. In the background, a soft music was playing. Even with all this, though, it seemed that the days would never pass. Sky and sea, nothing else. After seven days of traveling, the day before our going ashore had arrived. I got my luggage ready. I took out the baby blue outfit on which my mother had spent all her money (so that I could make a good impression, she had said) and I prepared it for the following day. Michela and I spent the night talking, we were excited: the following day we would be stepping foot in the New World. We imagined what it would be like to meet our relatives, we asked ourselves what they would say, how they would have greet us.
The following morning, the ship was teeming with people with their suitcases and bags in hand, mothers with their crying children, men and women. Everyone was pushing to reach the ship’s exit. Everyone wanted to be the first to disembark. It was a humid day, hazy on the horizon and we could see a bit of the port of New York City shrouded in fog. As if by magic, the grand Statue of Liberty appeared. People cried out and clapped their hands; we were really in the USA. The crowd had gone crazy at this point, they were pounding, pushing, elbowing to get out, no one respected the line anymore.