We got back from our pre-season holiday a few days ago. What a varied and interesting insight into Northern Italy. The soft top Fiat we hired was well used in the daily sunshine, but our refusal to have sat nav was probably a mistake and the cause of marital disharmony due to the navigators’ inability to read the maps. Why are maps always wrong when I do the map reading? And the Italian road signs do not help at all. For a start all the places end in -agio, and the distance given on the signs gets longer the closer the destination becomes! But we made it around the top of the country and even got back to Venice Airport for the trip home. From cycling over the low Alps in Como, to climbing up the steep paths of the Cinque Terres, to the beauty of Lucca and Pisa and to staying on an Olive farm and Vinyard near Sienna, we crammed a lot into two weeks. I had my first ride on an electric bike to try to keep up with the wife on our visit to the cyclists’ church and museum near Como, and we even managed to go to a nature reserve and got lost when the team leader insisted on crossing a river to get to the non existent path on the other side. The wife even got her knickers wet in the freezing mountain water, whilst traversing the slippery boulders, and I was not popular. But compensation was made on the last stop, at a luxury hotel (the first five star hotel I have ever stayed in), with its rooftop spa and wonderful restaurant. I am not sure about having television on the ceiling, and in the loo in addition to the more conventional wall mounting, but life is all about new experiences.
So what were the main feelings about the country? Well firstly most of Italy is a bit like most other counties in Europe; too much traffic, everyone in a hurry, and often pretty boring countryside. But there are rare jewels which are really astounding; Venice, Pisa, Sienna, Lucca and the many hilltop villages in beautiful Tuscany. We were there over the Easter week, which was not ideal, and the amount of visitors to the main sites was overwhelming, with parking the car always a problem. Speeding limits seem to be largely ignored in the country, and Italians seem to want to drive inside your boot even more than the French do. We rubbished the road signs in the rolling hills which announced snow and rainstorms and thought them rather ridiculous in the 20 degree heat, but noticed how stupid we were when after the storms of our last night all the summits were covered with snow! For me the best of the trip was the wonderful wild flowers of the Alpine foothills and the mind blowing reality of Venice; the cleverness of man and the majesty of Mother Nature. A great visit.