By Tunnels to Italy – Cremieu to Turin, driving – Monday 25 May
Managed to leave at 11am on our 3-4hr drive to Turin. Some mountain pass road closures meant we had to take the 13km Frejus Tunnel at a road toll cost of 45Euro, and it was only one of the tolls and one of the tunnels. All up the tolls were about 70E, and Will counted 13 tunnels for total distance underground of over 40km! It was slightly overcast but we could still see glimpses of snow-capped alps above us when we emerged from our burrows.
Lunch at the town of Oulx on exiting the Frejus in Italy – the usual picnic in the park, kick of the soccer ball, and a coffee at a café to use their toilet. Without communications it was with some trepidation we made it into Turin to meet Stefano, our next airbnb apartment owner. After a short wait on the boulevard all worked out ok, and we were let in to a recently renovated first floor flat in an old 3-storey block, a couple of kms from the city centre.
After hauling luggage and unpacking, Jordy did his homework, and for tea found the ‘best-ranked’ pizza house in the area. Yumbo! He was a very happy boy as we even negotiated with Will and Grandma to share a double bed, so Jordy could have one to himself. After two weeks on couches he deserved it.
Don’t Touch the Fruit – Turin – Tuesday 26 May
Turin is an interesting place. Wide grid-planned streets with 4-5 storey buildings from 17-19th centuries reminiscent of Paris and Lyon, without an ‘old quarter’. It makes for spacious movement and ease to get around.
I was keen to walk…and walk, Jordy keen to sleep and Val keen to see the Egyptian Musuem, acknowledged as the best outside of Egypt. While everyone went about their preferences, I got a trendy haircut from the nearest hairdresser. That done, went past the huge market and got into trouble for touching the fruit as I selected some apples for morning tea! Is there anyone more testy than an offended market-stall operator?
Waited in the sun for the Egyptologists to emerge from the Museum, along with excursionary groups of noisy primary school children – certainly provided atmosphere. The team had lunch while I continued to walk: Valentino Park to see the Po River [an intimidating itinerant clientele within the park], a hilltop view over the city, great value kepeb lunch, famous landmark monument/tower [too stingy to go in!], and gelati shop for sustenance for walk home. One discovery is that museums are overpriced in Turin – each cost 12-18E entry and that adds up after two or three museums, and two or three cities.
The Shroud of Turin – Turin – Wednesday 27 May
Again I took to the streets while others went on public transport to town. En route, stopped in at the Shroud of Turin Museum – this one reasonably priced, and very interesting with the history of shroud fully described, its locations over the centuries and historical references, results of scientific studies that had been done, and explanations of all the markings imprints and bloodstains [AB type if you want to pass yourself off as the Messiah]. But the carbon dating indicates the Shroud is from the 12th century? It was mentioned that further conclusive work needs to be done?
Background reading done, it was time view the shroud. With lots of others! It is only on display now every five years; there are lots of signs and volunteers to assist with crowd control , but it was still complicated to get information. Passed the metal detector test into the darkened Duomo and sat about 10m from a projected image hanging vertically in front of the altar with curtains all around. Surely this couldn’t be it? There were people in front of me in a roped off area. How did they get there? Were they seeing the ‘real thing’? I went out to investigate further. “Yes, it is possible to get into that closer area, but you must book a ticket and follow the route over there”. Did all that, only to end up an hour later 5m away from the same vertical image. In the end I wasn’t sure if the shroud was indeed hung that way for maximal mass-viewing, or it was a smoke and mirrors show!
Reported back to the others who meanwhile had been in the Royal Palace complex. Parted company again, this time with Jordy in hand to buy a Juventus soccer shirt, see the Armory Museum, and get him a haircut at ‘my’ salon.
Jordy and Elly had issues still with their phone cards, so that was finally sorted [the shop had sold an out of date SIM card, so that money was returned and they went to another shop!] With the day nearly done, and everyone tired, there were no takers to hear Australian CW Stoneking at the Torino Jazz Festival –everyone opting for pizza and salad and a quiet night in.
Forza Juve – Turin to Gravere, driving – Thursday 28 May
The quiet night in was a good idea as we were all up and packed in good time to venture into the suburbs to the Juventus [soccer] Stadium. It is only about 5 years old, and is a first – being designed with a shopping complex and museum around the expansive grounds and parking area. The museum was sensational: 33 league titles in 120 years or so, Del Piero’s jumper [over 700 club appearances], Jordy met a big photo of his idol Pavel Nedvěd, Platini’s comment about the winning mentality of Juve, and video of their pantheon of champions including current Italian goalkeeper Luigi Buffon. The stadium tour went through the corporate areas, side of the pitch, change rooms, press areas and took in the outside design of the stadium. The capacity of 43K is significantly reduced from the old 70K stadium, but it now sells out each home match with a thunderous atmosphere [according to the guide]. All this time, Elly and Val were at the adjacent shops, and supermarket getting lunch supplies.
Drove towards Gravere, stopping at a small village to have a picnic in the playground and a kick of the soccer ball. [I’ll skite about my 1-0 victory penalty shoot-out victory because it doesn’t happen usually!] Val wasn’t the only nonna in the park as a few others were there on baby-sitting duty with their pre-school grandchildren. Very pleasant on a 27 degree, fine Spring day.
Gravere only has 700 people, and the great airbnb apartment cost a mere 40E/day for 5 of us. But it meant a 4km drive into nearby Susa to check for tourist info, a phone shop, dinner supplies, and a bike rental place. The only joy was with the supermarket, so it was delicious crumbed chicken schnitzel for tea [using some breakfast cereal Maggie had dumped on us], at the Spanish hour of 10pm. [But then we didn’t have lunch until 3pm.]
Checking out the Susa Valley – Susa Valley – Friday 29 May
The late night, dark rooms, and village quiet meant there was no company when I got up after 7am. [Although Elly had woken at 5am with her sore wrist, and snapped a couple of photos of the snow-capped peaks while popping panadol.] Caught up on the Italian blog days, walked up to the town square internet to check emails, then drove to Susa to talk to the Tourist Office to see if they knew more about bike-hire and further explain road closures for tomorrow’s arrival of the Giro d’Italia bike race.
Got back, and Will and Jordy were still asleep at 10am! Invited Elly for a walk to Madonna del Losa – 400m of vertical climbing over 5km, and return. Walked up on old overgrown, narrow, stoned track that looked like it was last used during the Roman Empire, though it was marked as a walking trail and is part of the St James Way from Rome to Arles, then Santiago. [Seems like we can’t get away from St James.]! It was spectacular and serene tramping – passed by a small abandoned village and a couple of tobacco drying stone ‘sheds’, and were stunned by the Susa Valley view from the 1200m height of the ancient church of Losa. Both of us were very pleased with our 2.5hr, 10km walk…and moreso with our residual fitness level which seemed to have dropped off with less days cycling and more evening wines.
Lunch, then a drive to check out the Colle de Finisterre climb, where the Giro riders would tussle and pant to on the morrow. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to get to the summit as traffic upwards was stopped from about the 6km mark on the 19km ascent of 1500m. We parked and walked up a couple of kms to get a feel for the narrow, steep, forested road at the lower slopes. Already people had staked out a roadside place, and handfuls of wannabee riders were coming up and down. Including one Aussie who we sledged for ‘not having a dip’ which made him smile momentarily in his exertion. It was early days for his climb!
Drove up a neighbouring hill to the ski field at Frais – certainly interesting to see the off-season between winter and summer activities: no snow, spring growth, mountain bike tracks not opened, alp-walkers still absent.
Home via the supermarket for tea supplies, where Will and I stayed in the car, ‘entertained’ by watching a beggar-come-trolley assistant who asked people to return their trolley so he could have the 1E coin. We were trying to guess who would accept/reject the offer. At least he was providing service-for-fee.
Giro Stage to Sestriere – Sestriere, driving – Saturday 30 May
Managed to cajole everyone to watch the Giro finish at nearby Sestriere in the mountains. It was a beautiful day for it, even if a little fresh at 2000m. Not quite sure of the crowd to expect, or the time of the drive there, but made it by midday without too much traffic. Wandered around ski village with a thousand or more others, bought all our pink souvenirs and staked out a spot about 150m from the finish line. And waited… for 3 hours!
The entertainment was initially provided by watching others, but eventually the promotional ‘caravan’ came through with song and dance and freebies thrown into the crowd. An hour later the winner, Italian Roberto Aru, zoomed past in a flash with much cheering from home fans as it meant he would finish second overall to Alberto Contador. Wormed our way down to teams’ area where we watched the pro-cyclists drop their bikes, get a couple of photos with fans then disappear into their respective team bus. Jordy was stoked, especially when the GreenEdge boys came in well after the winner, still getting a thumbs-up from team director Matt White as he spoke with an SBS reporter.
Great day made better by a smooth drive down from the mountain to our local Gravere restaurant – Spanish cuisine in Italy for 40 years by the same family! I immediately ordered paella and Galician octopus for old times’ sake, and nobody else was disappointed.
At home, watched the Spanish Cup Final [Barcelona vs ‘our team’ Bilbao] with Jordy and Will, while Elly went ballistic blaming all of us over the loss of her phone charging cord… she eventually found it in one of her own bags!
On the road again – Gravere to Milan, driving – Sunday 31 May
Left Gravere at 10.30 and hightailed on the autostrada to Milan – a sort of smoggy day with little sightseeing possible due to the flat plains of Lombardy and the high solid fences lining the freeway. Due at our accommodation at 4pm, we arrived 2 hours early but luckily Maria the cleaning lady let us drop our bags and Val off, while we drove out to the airport to sort Val’s ticket and assistance requirements prior to her departure on the morrow– she had been fretting, but all was sorted, to her and the family’s satisfaction.
With the afternoon gone, it was choice of evening entertainment – soccer at San Siro Stadium or opera at La Scala Theatre. No surprise the boys chose soccer, and even the girls declined the opera for a quiet walk around the block in the ‘burbs. The stadium was close by, only a few kms, so the strategy was to drive till we were in walking range, park for nothing away from busiest area, and soak up the atmosphere while marching in with the supporters. The strategy worked well initially. Got a takeaway kebab and a beer, bought the required Inter Milan shirt/jersey, fended off all the scalpers and got to the ticket box. “ID please – for anti-terrorist requirements!” Whoopps, I didn’t have any with me! Tried the ‘ignorant tourist’ line, and arguing in the Italian way, to no avail. With 40mins to kick-off, I left the boys with instructions to go without me if I was late back. Jogged 2 kms in my heavy walking boots to the car, drove 3kms to the apartment, just caught Elly returning from her walk with the keys, grabbed my driver’s licence, returned to the same parking spot, jogged the 2kms again, met the boys, purchased the tickets, and made it in to just catch kick-off with seconds to spare! Inter versus Empoli. The stadium capacity is 80,000, but only 35, 000 in attendance – a great view from behind the goals and plenty of noise still. Nil-all at half time but the second half was an action-packed goalfeast… 4-3 to Inter at the finish. Satisfying experience, but the hamstrings will suffer for days!
Arrivederci Nonna – Monday 1 June
As usual, a steady start to the day; Jordy too crook to make a start even. Caught the tram into the city to give Val an afternoon taste of Milan on her last day in Europe. Strolled through the pack of heterogeneous tourists in the famous Victor Emmanuel shopping mall while Elly sorted her mobile phone out. Then to La Scala Museum and café for expensive drink – a hot spritz taking Val’s fancy as much as the museum! Then to the gelati shop a few blocks away, first discovered on our 2007 ‘Rotterdam to Rome Ride’ by Cal and Billy. The tastiest, best value ice-cream in the world – 2 big scoops of the richest chocolate, and coffee with beans in it, for 2 euro. We were thinking of you boys as we ‘took one for the team’!
The big current event in Milan is the World Expo, from May until October. The theme of this year’s event is food – production and sustainability. A hundred or so nations presenting displays – but not Australia or New Zealand!? I queued for 2 day pass tickets [no ID required San Siro!], and met the others back at home who had repacked all Val’s gear… and given her another bag to take full of our stuff! Good move.
Arrived at the airport in stress-free good time, chatted to some New Zealanders in the check-in line who had been touring Morocco and Portugal, and waved off Val with her wheelchair attendant. ‘Nonna’ had gone a great job. Ninety years old and still capable of a ‘European Vacation’…or a ‘European Vacation II’ if we had videoed the amusing/daggy/hairy moments!
Love Your Land, Fight Poverty, Drink your Milk – Expo Milan 2015 – Tuesday 2 June
Jordy was too crook to go to Expo – a sore throat and headache. A shame, but one less sleepmaster to try to rouse in time to leave and utilise our 24 hour tram/bus passes before they expired at 11.18am. Our route to Expo took us through a huge cemetery, and being a public holiday for the Feast of the Republic, lots of people were visiting to pay respects and put flowers at their dearly departed. We expected a massive crowd at Expo, but everyone apart from foreigners must have been at the cemeteries of Italy, because it was surprisingly quiet.
Elly had a schedule, so it was straight to the Albanian site for front-row seats at a sampling of typical rustic cuisine of the north, prepared by one of the famous chefs of that area. Accompanied by wine, the degustation featured antipasti of dried, stone-hammered thin meat jerky strips, lamb stewed in a big terracotta pot, ‘pancake’ of layers of flour and butter cooked with heat from the top, bean soup, spicy cheese melted amongst marble-sized dumplings, and dessert of crunchy things covered in honey and a sweet pickled fig. Lots of things got lost in the Italian and Albanian translations, but we filled ourselves! [But still had a South Korean lunch for good measure.]
Next, a brisk walk down the full 2km length of the event main road to another cooking show…which turned out to be ‘The Cooking Show’ – a live filming of an episode of the Italian TV channel RAI cooking show! Two ‘competing’ Milanese chefs producing a dish typical of their restaurants – a typical Italian doing pasta shells filled with a tomato paste, and a Sri-Lankan doing Japanese trained/inspired entree of grilled beef strips. Bit of a hoot with make-up artists, camera crews, applause and oohs and aahs being directed, and the hostess talking a thousand words a minute. But the funniest thing was several people in the 20 or so strong audience having bits of tape put over any identifying brand names on their apparel for when the cameras swept around for an audience shot. I nearly had to have my ‘Cycling Across Borders’ logo on my t-shirt covered over!
Filled in the next hour or two visiting random exhibits including; a beer with the Czechs, reading a quote from the Tanzanians on how to tackle the future [Love Your Land, Fight Poverty, and Drink Your Milk], and a thought provoking UN display on food waste, sharing and need to preserve memory of ancient agricultural traditions and knowledge while still going forward. By then it was dark enough to watch the ‘Tree of Life’ sound, light and water fountain display. Day One done.
A Camel is a Camel and is worth a Camel – Expo Milan 2015- Wednesday 3 June
Market day in the suburban street outside our apartment block, so Elly and I paid a fruit shopping visit, while the boys were given an ultimatum to be ready for a second assault on Expo when we returned.
The earlier start than yesterday came to nought; we were stalled at the starting gates – scores of schoolkid and pensioner groups were lined up to go through just a handful of metal detectors. It took an hour to get through. Tired feet at midday before we even entered!
Had picked out 10 well-reviewed pavilions, and by evening had seen them all and several others. We had: eaten Sicilian antipasti, drunk glasses of Maltese wine, were informed by the Dutch that God made the World but they made Holland, had a kepab from the Turkish restaurant, watched a Jordanian sand-in-bottle artist, and learned that in Oman the value of a camel…is a camel. Oh, and we got hot and occasionally bothered.
Highlight displays? Undoubtedly Kazakstan, who will host an energy-themed world expo next year. [A 3d film in a motion theatre showed an agri/cultural travelogue, and a sand artist working over a glass table filmed from underneath depicted the country’s history.] Honourable mentions to France, Lithuania, Russia, Israel, Netherlands, Uruguay, and China [only because the film in their theatrette began with the caption ‘you will watch this film’.
But the highlight was the number of free water stations around the grounds – frizzante or natural – and there wasn’t much for nothing.
Overall.Thought provoking, interesting…’been there done that’ type of experience.
All hail Palladio – Milan to San Fior, driving – Thursday 4 June
Everyone must have been happy to move on from Milan, or we found it hard to sleep after a hot night , but all were up and packed before 10am when cleaner Maria wanted us out to ready the place for the next arrivals. It’s a tough gig being an airbnb apartment rentor? Answering online queries, organising cleaning, washing of sheets and towels, perhaps not getting a huge amount of money. All our accommodations so far have cost $20-25/pp.
The freeway east to Vicenza/Vienna/Austria/slavic countries is three lanes wide; the outside given over to a convoy of trucks, the middle one for them to slowly overtake the slowest of the party and cars trying to stay out of the way of the fast cars and mad drivers of the inside lane. Lots of concentration required, strangely more-so than on the single-lane slow roads with cyclists, tractors, pedestrians, turning traffic…and heaps to look at!
I railroaded the others somewhat to visit Vicenza for a street walk around the buildings designed by famous architect Palladio in the mid-1500s [from whom palladium gets its name, and after whose style such buildings as Buckingham Palace and the White House were built.] The flat, spacious interior pedestrian zone of the town was filled with market stalls [on market day], university students having lunch, cyclists of all ages on the widest variety of bikes, a film crew shooting an interview, some architectural tour groups, and a couple of Jehovahs’ Witnesses! The evangelists must bloom when the temperature gets over 25 degrees – we’d come across them in Milan in the central city and hovering outside Expo. Beggars of a different sort?
Dropped into the Palladio Museum which is a detailed and modern presentation of the architects works and place in history – lots of video projections to go with cut-away models of his famous buildings. The bonus was seeing some beautiful enlarged prints of church altars from Spain, planned and painted by El Greco, who for a short time studied architecture in Vicenza and incorporated in his carved wooden altar backdrops features of Palladio’s designs.
Even though the tour was stimulating, as was the coffee halfway around, we still struggled on the 2km circuit after two long days of standing and walking in 30 degree weather. But I think the others appreciated the ‘optional’ [not] experience of learning about one of the great historical figures in monumental building design and construction!
Decided on the 90km ‘cruising’, non-toll, route to San Fior, our airbnb accommodation, at the edge of prosecco wine country [one of Italy’s ‘champagnes’]. Almost caught ourselves out though, as it was slow going at times but still made it by the appointed 6.30pm to meet host Bruno and his english-speaking daughter Julia. Another well-appointed place – half of a renovated farm-house on the edge of a village overlooking paddocks of maize. Handy being rural as it was a straw-drawing exercise between Will and Jordy as to who got the couch and who got the non-master bedroom. [There was a choice for Jordy to sleep in the same room as Willful Snoring – but not even ‘Hobson’ would take it. Sorry Will!]
Opted for dinner at a recommended restaurant nearby – perhaps our last chance to eat ‘authentic italian’. We have been apartment cooking for ourselves mostly in Italy, with a few purchased pizzas and kepabs thrown in. Elly went for spaghetti, Jordy ravioli, Will grilled seafood, and me beef fillet strips. All washed down with house-prosecco. The restaurant sponsored a [semi-pro?] women’s bike team – team car parked outside, and lots of photos inside. Unfortunately the waiter had no English so we couldn’t elicit further info.
Back home, threw another load of clothes in the washer, and Jordy convinced the others to play cards; I having the excuse of writing this absolutely essential and thrilling blog. Maybe tomorrow night mate?
Prosecco, Prosecco! – Prosecco wine route, driving – Friday 5 June
Jordy was a no-show for a ‘winery tour’ – but we saw more than that. First stop was Conegliano where the market was in full-swing; Elly deciding it was a ‘good one’ on whatever criteria she applies? I got some apples, and Will a shirt, so were happy too.
With a map we then tried to follow a 50km, signposted ‘Prosecco Wine Route’, and we were semi-successful. First stop the School of Wine on the edge of town where we purchased some of their products – then to an ‘historic site’, a restored waterwheel mill, where we got an impromptu prosecco tasting. The guardian of the site obviously filled in his day imbibing the local drop, because as soon as he sold our entry tickets he was clapping us on the back and happily handing over plastic cups full of prosecco. It was one for us, and two for him! The only communication we could understand was the laughing “prosecco, prosecco”.
Several flags and buntings were hanging en route, noting a ‘Giroprosecco’ event; we swung into one winery to investigate. “Domenica” [Sunday] was the reply. With downcast looks we asked if it was still possible to taste, as we would be gone by Sunday. Convinced, the winemaker took us into his cave and after a long tangled Italian/French conversation we discovered he was a bit of a legend, and his wine backed it up. Fermented in the bottle without added sugar, and made only with grapes from the one vintage, his 50,000 bottle production/yr was in demand in London and Tokyo! They will now get two less!
Finished our day out with a walk around the village of Valdobbiadene, then Will torturing us on the winding, narrow, hillside drive home! We needed a nerve-steadying prosecco with Jordy’s gourmet ravioli before Will and I headed out again to some cultured evening entertainment. A concert duet of pianoforte and violin playing some Mozart and Beethoven in the courtyard of the Conegliano art gallery. The performers were well-credentialled; one having played concerts in Australia for ABC-FM; but I guess playing with La Scala Orchestra probably ranks higher? After sustained applause from the 100 strong audience, they came out for an encore of Shubert’s Sonatino #384. Now there’s a hit if ever I heard one.
San Fior to Muggia, driving – Saturday 6 June
‘Our’ winemaker from yesterday strongly recommended we visit Trieste before going to Ljubliana, so off we went after thanking Bruno profusely for his parting giftpack of prosecco – giving in return a ‘prosecco’ kangaroo [made from the wire that holds the cork on].
Found a coveted free parking spot near to the centre, got the obligatory map from the tourist info and wondered where to start. Trieste is a port city with wide streets and buildings – nothing in particular standing out. Elly had googled the meal specialty of the town – a dish of pork parts and sauerkraut with beer! When in doubt with what to do, sit and eat! Well, Will and I enjoyed it – the tongue, hocks, sausage as well as the spec and roast pork! Jordy and Elly not so much.
Walked off the experience towards the central castle-hill and park of remembrance, with memorials to soldiers killed in WW1 on the Italian – Austrian front. Interestingly, great uncle Doctor Dave Greenham had briefly served as a medical officer for the British in this sector, before being sent to AIF lines in France.
It was still well over 30 degrees, so a swim seemed a better option that more walking. Drove to our hotel at nearby Muggia, where we were granted free entry to a private ‘beach’ in town. To be fair, the hotel reception said it wasn’t really a beach – more a section of breakwater with deck chairs and a square of grass. But it was a beach for the locals, and I maintained the record of a sea swim in each country visited: Portugal, Spain, France and Italy – and this was the warmest by far!
Showered and changed for the main attraction of the day – a restaurant for Jordy with the Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus on TV. Sadly the result went against him; Barca having the cheek to win after he had bought a Juve shirt in Turin and done the Stadium tour.
Good Italian, Bad Grass – Muggia to Ljubliana, Trevisio, and Bologna, driving – Sunday 7 June
A big road trip began with a lovely full breakfast at our ‘Park Hotel’. The second delight of the day was the freeway from Trieste to Ljubliana – very new, fast with not a lot of traffic [but eclectic, as Elly counted 12 different country’s number plates en route].
The joys continued – Ljubliana on a warm Sunday afternoon was clean, nicely ‘alive’, and interesting. Listened to a brass band for a while, wandered through a collectables market [Will getting a Yugoslav soldiers cap with tassle, just because he could], walked up the steep central hill to the beautifully restored castle, and bought a cheap-by-comparison-to Italy panini lunch.
In some ways our trip was over. Having initially tagged the ride as ‘Lisbon to Ljubliana’, and got the t-shirts made stating the same, it was quite a buzz to be ‘home’. It is certainly a place to return to.
As is the rest of Slovenia, discovered on our drive back into Italy via Tarvisio, it looked like Switzerland – plains of pasture in various stages of being made into fried fodder [a lot of area is under snow for 3-5 months], neat villages, chalet-style homes, and wood piles being accumulated for winter. All very purposeful and orderly, unlike Italy?
Stopped at the uncle and aunt of Gabi, a friend of Will’s, who was visiting them from Australia. Great homemade tiramisu with coffee, and interesting conversation ,as the uncle was a keen Masters’ Games participant and had competed in the World Games in Brisbane 15 years ago. He joined Jordy and I for a kick of the soccer ball outside, and related a story when one my shots on goal ‘rebounded off the post’ and bounced downhill into a patch of nettles and blackberry. I had shorter socks on, so I sent Jordy down to gingerly retrieve. The uncle then told a joke about the ‘Italian bloke who needed a pee; he walked a distance into the bush so as not to be in full view of passersby, but found himself amongst the nettles. When others laughed at him, he replied ‘I am a good Italian but we have bad grass’.
Will was handed the keys to practice his driving, and managed to negotiate the 300km to Bologna without us dying. Though it did take a lot of backseat driving advice at times Elly reckoned – reminders to drive on the right, but not that far that we sideswiped things! In between closing our eyes, we rang several accommodations in Bologna and ended up with the ‘Elegance B&B’. With such a moniker it was likely to be the exact opposite, but it wasn’t so bad – convenient and clean. Trouble was, it was quite hot overnight and Will had no fan or aircon in his room where we had banished him to snore on his own!
In all, about 6 hrs driving and 600kms covered, and some great scenery and people met.
Bologna and Louisiana – Monday 8 June
A significant day as we farewelled our last ‘Barry Be In It’ [Will] who kindly offered to drop the much-loved Kangoo off in Milan, giving us a day to wander Bologna and prepare for our last hurrah in Albania. It was with crossed fingers we waved Will off, hoping he’d make it accident-free and he wouldn’t be stung with an 80E cleaning fee for the vehicle! [As it turned out he payed 10E at a car wash to have the Atlantic sand, bike grease, and biscuit crumbs vacuumed from inside, and the bird-poo and dirt washed off the outside.]
Another hot day, but Bologna is famous for its portico verandahs so it wasn’t hard to keep out of the sun. Walking around town still requires a great deal of concentration even in the shade – Bologna is a bike town, and they are everywhere. As was the case in Trieste and Vicenze. Good to see people of all ages using them to transport and carry, much like Holland.
Purchased our train tickets for Bari [ferry point to Albania] at the station, then into centre of town to climb the tallest tower for a view. Built in the 11th century, with almost 500 steps up, the 10m x 10m square brick building is still the tallest building in Bologna – amazing. Wandered through the old Jewish quarter, and university district before convincing Elly and Jordy the week-long ‘Festival of Biographical Films’ provided an invaluable chance to see a movie in English, rest our feet in air-conditioned comfort, and mingle with the local culturazzi. The film that was nearest in distance and starting time was ‘The Other Side’, made in Louisiana USA by an Italian director who introduced the showing, depicting the lives of several fringe-dwellers – ice addicts, gun-toting southerners, trailer-park alcoholics…It was an engrossing and gross experience, best summed up by the silence, then polite,hesitant clapping, at the end of the 98 minutes of provoking commentary on the ‘Land of the Free’. I don’t think it will show in your local cinema soon!
Certainly provided a talking point over our spaghetti Bolognese, before returning to our digs to see if the fan could cool the room enough to sleep easily and not dream too much.
The Fast Train – Bologna to Bari – Tuesday 9 June
Needed to be at the station for a 9.42am departure, and panicked a bit when it was 8.45am and we still hadn’t got out the door. We had big bags to lug about 1.5km. Dumped some surplus food and cooking items on the vacant front desk, and hope they went to a good home? And off.
No problem, we walked fast and the train was 5 minutes late anyway!
Very relaxing 5.5hr trip typing up the blog, while Jordy and Elly emailed, played cards and slept. Worst part was seeing all the beaches we skimmed past, though we consoled ourselves it looked a little cooler than Bologna…and we were off to Albania on the night ferry. We could swim there tomorrow!