Ciao Italia

Again having internet problems in Italy, I think what happens is that the cafes and bars use larger providers but maybe private homes use smaller provdiers that won’t recognise (or be recognized) by all devices … it’s just a theory.

Anyhoo, Ciao Italia!

Sunday started early with me navigating my mother who zipped along on the A roads from Cardiff to Bristol airport.  My mum is at the age when passing acquaintances have started referring to her not by name, but as Grandma or Mama.  They think of her as an old dear, a little scatter-brained, but such a sweetheart, and with a naughty sense of humour.  And they’d be right, she’s delightful… but make no mistake the woman is hiding a past as a former racing champion.  Not for her the snail pace, peering over the steering wheel, style of senior citizen driving.  She is superbly confident on the road (even after not having driven in the UK for 10 years), and hates to be overtaken.  You can feel the steam coming off her when she gets stuck behind someone slow… it happens this way a lot, you take a lovely, peaceful, gentle person an then give them a weapon of real substance – not a knife or a gun, but a 1000lb beast made of metal and gears, faster than a cheetah – and the savagery seeps out with  undisguised glee.  I am convinced that somewhere my mum is hiding an album full of photos of her clad in leather cap, goggles, silk scarf flying in the breeze,  gloved hands on the wheel of a vintage style racing car, reckless grin stretching from ear to ear…possibly flinging a champagne bottle behind her into the wind.

We made it in one piece, and without getting lost.  Mum, despite excellent driving skills, is not remotely interested in directions.  I, on the other hand, love navigating.  I love maps, compasses, sextants (not the foggiest clue how they work, but they are to do with navigation and they look cool), even a pendulum on a string.  The one thing I’m not so keen on…GPS/ Sat Nav.  As with most things in life, it’s no fun only being allowed to see a tiny bit of the picture and having someone else tell you where to go step by step.  You need to see the bigger picture just to figure out where you fit in it.

After an airport hike to the gate (note to Bristol Airport, more benches and toilets, and snack stands on the walk to Gate 16 please), I was settle into my seat, wondering if I might catch a couple of hours sleep and thinking practical, seasoned traveller thoughts.  Half way through the flight, I turned back into a ten year od on holiday with my mum:  “Mum? Mum!” Nose pressed up against the window leaving a greasy smudge, “There’s a lake there, is that Italy do you think?  Is it Lake Como?” The only Italian lake I know of, courtesy of Mr Clooney. “Mum, look, there’s snow on the mountains!  Snow in Summer!  Are those the Alps then Mum?  Are we going over Switzerland?  Was that Lake Geneva?”  The only lake I know of in Switzerland.  “Mum, look at all the houses, they’ve all got red rooves.  There’s loads of swimming pools, Mum.  It’s like LA, if LA was dead pretty.”

Mercifully, once on the ground I was an adult again: finding my way around the airport; buying train tickets; rolling my eyes at Mum purchasing a phrase book ..which of course I monopolized for the rest of trip, so handy!  We took the slightly more expensive, slightly quicker Leonardo Express train (14 Euros and 30 minutes in case you’re wondering, compared to 8 euros and 45 minutes) to the Roma Termini station… not because it was so much more convenient, but because I am a big fan of Leonardo da Vinci, and therefore a bit pathetic like that.

From Roma Termini we took another train to Foligno in Umbria, and here was everything I’d been expecting: companionably sharing a caprese panini and a bottle of white wine watching the Italian countryside unfold, hilltop villages of golden stone, crowning the unruly green bumps and lumps in a tablecloth made of mountains and forests.

The warm welcome of family ( three big hugs, two half hugs and an affectionate head-butt) and evening sunshine took place in a large house called Cequara Rosara on the outskirts of a village called Volpatino.  A yellow, three story, building sitting atop of sloping fields that are home to donkeys, geese, hens, an archery range, table tennis, romantic clusters of tables and chairs, and – most important to our family who apparently were born with gills – a generous sized swimming pool.  (The building is split into several apartments to accommodate a variety of different sized groups, if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Umbria check them out on VRBO, it was amazing.)

It’s a grand feeling when you know you’re in the right place, and on this first day I have already decided I adore Italy.



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