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  • Day1228

    Riolo Terme

    November 6, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Today we've driven between countless orchards growing apples, cherries and kiwis and made it past Bologna. We are parked up by the river belonging to Parco Fluviale in the well presented town of Riolo Terme, which has very kindly provided us with a free Area di Sosta.

    Come late afternoon we pass the three geese that seem to own the car park, and cross over the simple but attractive arched wooden pedestrian bridge. Climbing several flights of stone steps we pass through the town walls and emerge into the centre, by a well preserved brick castle.

    Our mission is to try and get more sertraline for Vicky from the pharmacy. To our great frustration, this medication seems to be losing its effectiveness and she is finding herself exhausted more often than not. After a telephone appointment with her doctor we've decided to give it a bit more time and carry on to Greece, before returning to the UK in February in hope of a longer term solution. Vicky used her rusty Italian and we came away with tablets to last another couple of weeks. To celebrate, we bought piadinas from a catering van that seemed popular with the locals. We'd seen countless boards advertising these thin flatbreads, so were glad of the chance to try them. Will had the special of sausage, cheese and spicy sauce, while Vicky's sweet tooth led her to choose the nutella filling!
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  • Day11

    Ferrari Factory

    November 11, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    What better place for a couple of car crazed lads to spend an hour? No pics allowed inside on tour but these confirm where we were today! A couple hours drive from Milan, the factory is in Maranello where it seems there is little other than Ferrari on locals' minds! Started with a look inside Pista di Fiorano, their own race track.Read more

  • Day22


    May 4, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Today is our last cruise day. In order to get to Ravenna, we have to take a 30-minute shuttle ride from the port ($19 US round trip). This is the home of Byzantine mosaics and was the capital of this region 7 times in its history.

    Walked into a church by accident in our tour of the mosaics and ended up watching this couple get married. I also got to visit with the organist. Very special.

    Lunch at Cupido, fresh pasta and a Regional sampler and wine. Life is good!
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  • Day195


    January 7, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    Today was a good day. The journey allowed us to see
    Coypu swimming along a drainage ditch as well as pheasants in the fields and kestrels and buzzards perched on posts or in flight. Now that Epiphany was over, the petrol stations were open and we were able to fill up with gas, putting our minds at rest about keeping warm. Italy seems not to allow self service at LPG pumps and we pay on the forecourt instead of in the shop.

    We found a water tap that wasn't frozen or turned off amd were happy to pay €2 to fill up and empty. To cap it off, there was a launderette at Portomaggiore, just 10 minutes from where we stayed, so we got a fortnight's washing clean and dry in a few hours, instead of having to hand wash and air dry it over a several days.

    On the road we are constantly thinking of where we'll find the next facilities and it is always a relief to know we have a while before the next services are needed.

    The stopover was next to a park and a graveyard. We've noticed many cemeteries so far in Italy have had tall walls with compartments. We assume the deceased are placed in these compartments, as opposed to being buried underground. We don't know whether this is a regional practice that has something to do with the flat and frequently waterlogged land or whether it is done like this all over Italy.

    The best thing about the park was its dog garden that was just 10m from the van. Vicky got to watch all sorts of dogs being walked and playing in the fenced off area and Poppy found a lot of interest in all the different smells!
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  • Day204

    San Leo

    January 16, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 2 °C

    We said goodbye to a snowy San Marino and drove southwest to the hill town of San Leo. The imposing fortress perched atop a rocky outcrop above the old town was what Dante chose to model Purgatory on in his Divine Comedy.

    With snow all around us and our journey taking us higher into the hills, we were prepared to turn back if necessary but luckily there was a snowy but flat car park about half a kilometre out of town that we were able to leave the van in and set out on foot. Camper vans weren't allowed inside the town walls and we were very glad they weren't because we wouldn't have made it up the steep snow covered cobbles!

    The view of the fortress looming hundreds of feet above us as we walked towards San Leo made it easy to see why Dante was inspired. A narrow road curved round the cliffside and allowed us entry to the town through a stone archway. The small streets felt cosy despite the snow and it wasn't long before we left them to climb the steps to the fortress. We passed a sign telling us it was closed due to snow but we continued up to the zig zag path to reach its outer walls anyway. The view from the top of the cliff was worth it. We couldn't see in every direction but all we could see was covered in white. Fields, small hills and cosy settlements stretched out under us to the far away horizon.

    Retracing our footprints down the path, under trees laden heavy with snow, we took a while to explore the quaint town with its sandstone church, a couple of restaurants and a few small shops. We found another viewpoint that whilst lower down, offered us a wide panorama of the surrounding valleys.

    San Leo concluded our time in the Region of Emilia Romagna and after a sandwich for Will and hot soup for Vicky back at the van we set off to discover Le Marche, the next Region on our journey south.
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  • Day201

    Ravenna; mosaics, mosaics everywhere!

    January 13, 2017 in Italy ⋅ 🌧 1 °C

    Ravenna had a large car park with a stopover close to its old town. With 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites, it had been highlighted as the place to see ancient Roman and Byzantine mosaics so we grabbed a quick lunch in the van and set off to explore.

    We bought a combined card that allowed us entry to multiple sites, the first of which was the Basilica di San Vitale, a large church that was covered floor to ceiling with stunning mosaics and paintings. The ones on the walls and domed rooves depicting scenes and comprising of lustrous golds, blues and yellows that shone out in the light. The individual works of art were amazing, but all together, within a building whose construction was itself a work of art, the combined effect was breathtaking. We both thought this alone was worth the €19 we paid for the cards!

    Accross the gardens from the basilica stood three stone tombs within Galla Placidia mausoleum. Each was placed within an arched alcove, whose upper walls and semi cylindrical dome was again decorated with shining mosaic tiles.

    A bit stunned, we trekked accross Ravenna's cobbled streets to find the Arian Baptistry, a small building whose hemispherical ceiling had an incredible painting of Jesus' baptism with the twelve apostles. We were quite glad this was the only remarkable feature, because our senses were still overwhelmed by how much they'd taken in at the previous two sites. The art was beautiful in itself, but when you consider that it was created in the 6th century, making it about1500 years old, it was mind boggling!

    On our way back to the van we took a route via Dante's tomb, which was enclosed within a small 18th century building, created for the poet, who finished his Divine Comedy here, after he was exiled from Florence.

    Back at the van it began to rain, then sleet and then finally it began to snow! It laid a light covering on the ground but snow obviously wasn't a frequent occurrence in this region. We'd seen no grit bins or lorries and when the temperature dropped and black ice appeared, driving conditions became pretty hairy! Many drivers didn't seem to slow down and we spent the night listening to them skidding round the roundabout. There must have been a dozen who crashed into the high kerb at the side!

    Unlike last night's cars, the ice didn't seem to be going anywhere fast when we woke the next morning, so we decided to ignore the stopover's time limit of 24 hours and stay another night. We certainly had plenty of things to keep us occupied!

    The days activities included a visit to the beautifully decorated Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, whose main feature was its sparkling Byzantine mosaics, running the length of the 50m nave on both sides. The scenes on the right showed gift bearing male martyrs lined up to present Jesus with their offerings and on the left, women queued to present Mary with theirs. They looked in immaculate condition and were a feast for the eyes.

    Returning home for lunch, Will got something called a Piadina from the nearby takeaway food hut. It was a huge folded flatbread, that was warmed in a pizza oven and could be filled with most sandwich fillings. Once we had it in front of us we realised we had bought a pack of them at a supermarket a few weeks back, thinking they were fajitas. We'd been most disappointed when we tried to roll them and they'd crumbled!

    Reinvigorated after lunch we set out for the final time. In the 1990s the remains of a palace with 14 rooms had been discovered 3m below a church. Each had a mosaic floor from Byzantine times, the majority of which remained intact. It was named Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra (House of the stone carpets). Much of the floor displayed geometric patterns that Will loved mentally breaking down into their constituent parts. Some of it showed flowers but the memorable thing for Vicky is the image of the Dance of the 4 Seasons, depicted by 4 Spirits dancing in a circle to the music of pan pipes.

    Darkness had crept up on us while we'd been underground and the previously quiet town streets were bustling with people. We wound our way past them to the church of San Franceso that contained a waterlogged crypt. We descended the steps at the head of the nave and put a euro in a machine. The previously dark space before us was now floodlit and we could see the white stone columns rising from the submerged mosaic floor to support the low ceiling. As if it needed an additional feature, there were goldfish swimming around in the 5ft deep pool of water!

    Neither of us is religious and neither of us enjoy many museums, but there had been something captivating about seeing 1500 year old history in situe in the form of Ravenna's mosaics.
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  • Day72

    "Und, wofür stehst du so?" "Für Amore!"

    August 6, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Es gibt ein Lied von Wanda, das heißt „Bologna“. Die Band hab ich mal in Darmstadt gesehen, allerdings fand ich den Frontsänger während des Konzerts so schmierig (der hat sich die ganze Zeit so ekelig betatscht), dass ich danach die Musik nicht mehr gut fand 😅Als wir heute morgen in der Küche unseres Apartments standen fiel mir ein, dass die - trotz des ekeligen Frontsängers - ein ganz cooles Lied über Bologna hatten. Der Text ist ein bisschen strange, aber der Refrain ist witzig:
    „Wenn jemand fragt, wohin du geeeehst, SAG NACH BOLOGNA!
    Wenn jemand fragt, wofür du steeeehst, SAG FÜR AMORE! AMORE!“
    Das Lied blieb mir den ganzen Tag im Kopf und ich fand es mega witzig, Micha über den Tag verteilt zu fragen „wofür er stehe“. Das hat nachher hervorragend geklappt: „Für AMORE!“ 😁

    Bologna ist eine wunderschöne Stadt, mit ganz vielen kleinen Läden, die noch die aufwendigen alten Ladenschilder über den Eingangstüren haben. Mittags sind wir durch die Gassen geschlendert, wo die Bolognesen anscheinend in der Mittagspause essen gehen, und es war so herrlich viel Leben auf den Terrassen! Überall klimperte Besteck, und in jedem zweiten Laden hingen Parmaschinken und andere Köstlichkeiten von der Decke. Nachmittags haben wir uns auf eine der Terrassen einer Bar in einer gut besuchten Fußgängerzone gesetzt. Alle Leute saßen nebeneinander und mit dem Gesicht zur Straße - perfecto zum Leute gucken! Das hat mega Spaß gemacht. Die Italiener sind in Summe viel schicker gekleidet als die Deutschen und mindestens 70% tragen Sonnenbrille - auch, wenn die Sonne bereits untergegangen ist. Ich konnte da mithalten, denn ich hab mir hier heute 2 neue Sonnenbrillen gekauft 😎

    Die Zeit, die wir in dem Sonnenbrillenladen verbracht haben (ich konnte mich nicht entscheiden), hatten wir eigentlich in einer Walking Tour über Bolognia verbringen wollen. Vorab hatten wir sau schlechte Rezessionen über den Tourguide Scott gelesen, aber da es die einzige Tour war und wir was über Bologna lernen wollten, sind wir trotzdem hingegangen. Kurz vor der Tour hatte Micha Anflüge von einem schlechten Magen. Das konnten wir aber Gott sei Dank mit einem schnellen Grappa heilen. Wir Profis 😎

    Mal gucken, was haben wir gelernt?
    - Scott ist Amerikaner, kommt aus New York und lebt seit 27 Jahren in Bologna.
    - Er gibt diese Tour 2x pro Tag an 7 Tagen die Woche.
    - Zu Beginn jeder Tour errät er anhand des Nachnamen eines jeden Teilnehmers dessen Herkunftsland. Das kann ganz schön dauern bei über 20 Teilnehmern, er hat aber eine erstaunliche Trefferquote (3 Versuche pro Teilnehmer), und jeder Treffer wird lautstark und mit heroischen Gesten durch ihn (und nur durch ihn) selbst gefeiert.
    - Er hasst Florenz, was für eine scheiß Stadt, Venedig hingegen gehört zu seinen top 5 Städten.

    Nach 25 Minuten sitzen wir immer noch an dem Ort des Treffpunkts, und haben noch nichts von Bologna gelernt und gesehen. Wir finden Scott krass unsympathisch und dass er unsere Zeit stiehlt. Und deswegen stehen wir nach 25 Minuten wortlos auf und gehen! 😳 Ich halte mich generell für direkt, aber nicht frech, habe mich aber in den Minuten bevor wir gegangen sind gefragt, ob wortlos Aufstehen und Gehen frech ist. Wir haben für uns entscheiden, dass das nicht frech ist und waren ganz glücklich mit der zurückgewonnenen Kontrolle über unsere (Lebens-)Zeit und den schönen, selbstgestalteten Nachmittag.
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  • Day1226

    Mirandola, Modena

    November 4, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Martha is parked even closer to a cemetery tonight than she was last night. The car park outside Mirandola's large graveyard complex doubles as a designated van stopover. It has no bins, but provides the other emptying and filling facilites as well as free electricity, so we decide to stay 2 nights. The only other motorhome here seems to be a permanent resident.

    A significant proportion of the buildings we passed on the journey were empty and many were derelict. It's sad to see these homes going to waste. On the way we stopped for LPG and diesel. We'd forgotten the Italian fuel stations have staff on hand to fill your tanks for you. Once they'd finished smoking their cigarette and using their mobile at the side of the forecourt, the assistant came over and was helpful, although a little confused that we needed two types of fuel.

    When in Switzerland we hadn't dared look at the price of doing laundry, so our basket was now overflowing. Google Maps told us there was a self service place within walking distance of our stopover, so as soon as the shops reopened after lunch, we filled our rucksacks and made our way in. Once the drum was loaded and happily spinning away we took the chance to explore the centre of Mirandola. Nearby we found a lovely little hardware shop; they didn't have the replacement headlight bulb we needed but the friendly proprietor took great lengths to direct us to somewhere that had. We came away with an address, a hand drawn map and a reminder of the heart warming lengths so many Italians will go to in order to help a stranger.

    The town obviously had a rich history with grand old dome roofed churches and a stately colonnaded library. However it seemed in a state of upheaval. An unusually high proportion of buildings were in the process of being renovated, with scaffolding supporting cracked, sometimes crumbling walls. There was money being invested, but how did the architecture end up in this state in the first place? When we found the answer, everything slotted into place. Mirandola was one of the towns badly affected by the 4 earthquakes that hit Northern Italy in 2012. Magnitudes measured between 5.2 and 6.1. They left 27 people dead and 45,000 homeless. Mirandola's 15th century cathedral collapsed. It is a sobering thought that more than 7 years later they are still picking up the pieces.

    Walking home with our clean laundry during the passeggiata, the night drew in quickly. The cemetery was closed for the day, but we could see that most of the graves, stacked four high, had a candle within a red or orange glass. Some were wax tea lights, others battery operated equivalents. Many illuminated framed photographs and flowers or plants left by friends or family. The resting places of loved ones seem very well cared for by those left behind in a lot of the European countries we've visited.

    The following day, we returned to central Mirandola, this time in search of lunch. We normally like to have a good nose around to see what each place has to offer, but the second restaurant we came to had a menu outside with the option of a vegan plate of roast vegetables and red hummus. The prices were reasonable so we got ourselves seated at what turned out to be a pasticceria (a cake and pastry shop). Both Vicky's meal and Will's lasagne were tasty, especially when washed down with a glass of red. They even sold mini vegan almond cupcakes that Vicky took home for a mid afternoon treat!

    With Martha's batteries topped up and ourselves well rested, we set off south the following morning.
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  • Day199

    A day out in Bologna

    January 11, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    Taking the old bus from the campsite, we enjoyed being driven in to central Bologna. The bus had blinds passengers could pull down to keep cool, but the majority were broken from overuse. The personal vehicles of non residents are banned inside the ring road so public transport was the perfect way for us to get in.

    As Italy's gastronomic capital and home of the world famous Bolognaise sauce, our main aim of visiting Bologna was to experience the food culture. Visually, the city couldn't be described as 'pretty' but it has some pretty impressive (and imposing) buildings. As soon as we stepped off the bus the people and activity around us started to make an impression. There was unfortunately several homeless people near the bus terminus and many shops had installed metal spikes in their doorways. People were busy and there was a strong sense of it being a 'living city'. Unlike some places that seem as if their buildings and atmosphere are there for show, Bologna was full of substance, real life and functionality. The smell of different foods being cooked wafted through the portico covered streets, the walls of which were plastered with graffiti.

    The indoor market 'Mercato delle Erbe' was the first stop on our tour. It reminded us of a smaller Grainger market in Newcastle. Its central stalls sold fruit and veg that looked so fresh, these were surrounded by open fronted shops selling fresh or cured meat, cheeses and handmade pastas. We indulged in a few bits and bobs, including some tortellini, a pasta reputedly created by a Bolognese innkeeper to try and capture the beauty og Venus's navel!

    We'd used Trip Advisor to seek out a couple of eateries with good reputations. The first looked nice, but a bit too formal and its dual language English / Italian menu made us think it might cater for the tastes of tourists rather than locals, so we decided on the second; Trattoria da Me.

    The break from midday to 3pm allows many Italians to take their time over lunch and although the Trattoria had free tables when we arrived, it soon filled up and had people waiting. The place was immaculately decorated with stylish lace and a gentle green, pink and blue colour scheme. The service was great and although we were offered an English menu, the waiters accepted that we wanted to converse in Italian and spoke clearly, even helpfully offering Vicky a better way of expressing what she wanted to say. Freshly baked bread was cut at the edge of the restaurant and brought to our table warm in a brown paper bag. Will had Tagliatelle al Ragu (you won't find spaghetti bolognaise in Bologna, but this is the dish it is based on). Vicky had Bollito, a traditional regional dish of boiled meat (cheek, tongue and brawn). They were great quality and although we weren't originally planning to have dolce (desert) we were too tempted when we saw them coming out of the kitchen. It was the best Tiramisù Will had ever had and a scrumptious Biancomangiare (Italian panna cotta) for Vicky. We were really happy with our experience and it will remain in our memories as one of the highlights of Italy.

    Hoping to see the Neptune statue, we strolled towards Piazza del Nettuno but found it covered over for restoration. Close by was the gargantuan San Petronio church. Like many Bolognese buildings it was brick built and looked very functional from the outside. We passed the two armed police officers to enter and just stopped and gaped at the scale of the building. Its central space wasn't divided into storeys but reached straight up to an arched ceiling. There were a dozen or so rectangular alcoves running down each side that looked small in comparison, even though each was bigger than our old house. Running at an angle along the main floor was a Meridian line, an astronomical instument designed to measure the passage of the sun with a series of ascending and descending numbers and astrological images.

    By this time we'd digested our lunch sufficiently to visit the 'Due Torri' and climb the one tower that still stood intact. 498 steps later we reached the open air top, around which we could walk for views of the city below.

    We finally made our way back to the bus stop past tailors, art supply shops and grocers. We again appreciated being driven home as we watched the car driver behind talking on his phone. We've seen many Italian drivers with phones held to their ears. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for their propensity to gesticulate wildly with their 'free' hand!
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  • Day196

    Modena & Rubiera

    January 8, 2017 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 -1 °C

    Italy has most definitely earned its reputation for great food. After having visited San Daniele where reputedly the best prosciutto is made, then Treviso, the place tirimasù was invented, we were now getting to see the home of balsamic vinegar; Modena. We'd chosen to do a 'City Sunday' to avoid the crowds and make parking easier. The free car park was only a short walk through a large grassed area to the old town area where there was a beautiful Romanesque Cathedral we wanted to visit. Along the way we passed a market that was shutting up. We'd already got some Modena balsamic vinegar in the van so we'd taken the decision that if we saw it for sale in Modena we'd get some, but it was no biggie of we didn't. The majority of Italian markets we've encountered so far have been focussed on clothes and this one was no different, having only one food stall (with no vinegar!)

    Modena's old centre was small enough for us to explore in the afternoon and has a theme of pink and white marble running through it, from the pavements to the pillars, buildings and wall mosaics in the 12th century cathedral. Coming into the city, the surroundings felt strongly Italian. Despite the winter temperatures, buildings exuded the feeling of warmth with their rich yellow and orange walls and old wooden shutters, enhanced by curved window frames. The Sunday visit was just what we wanted as there were very few other people around and no sense of hurry to stop us soaking in a very relaxed atmosphere.

    Vicky does like a good tower and the cathedral's 86m high Torre Ghirlandina was our first pot of call. Vicky used her Italian to ask the receptionist for 2 tickets and after a short exchange the receptionist asked in Italian "Are you English?" "From Great Britain?" She seemed bemused, possibly wondering why we weren't speaking English to her, but to give her her due she didn't switch to English and Vicky was able to practice her interpretation skills.

    The tower had a few small rooms on the way up, the first of which had wall murals and a stary sky ceiling, from which hung a wood and metal bucket. The bucket was a replica of one stolen by the Modenese many centuries ago when they raided lands to the north. They took it as a war trophy and the original remains in the city museum to this day. The highest tower room was uncluttered and windows provided a decent view over the Italian city scape spreading out to the North, East, South and West. Unfortunately metal grills were fixed across the windows but they didn't obscure our sight too much.

    Standing beside the tower, Modena Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the inside certainly stood out from all the other cathedrals we'd visited. We're afraid photos weren't allowed but the large building was filled with many smaller sections, each of them richly and grandly decorated. Gold, rich orange, yellow and blue paints adorned the walls and ceilings in domed alcoves, albeit somewhat faded over the centuries. Modena's white and pink marble theme may have begun inside this place if worship, as smooth gargoyle ended banisters made of the same, led us up stairs. We wound our way round pillars to admire marble wall mosaics, huge candelabras and silver incense burners suspended above prayer areas. Dark wood and ancient murals added to the mix and left us spellbound.

    To finish off our city tour we enjoyed wandering the streets aimlessly for a while before setting off for the nearby stopover. We picked up a crate of oranges from a roadside stall along the way before arriving at a sports complex car park that was close to the Tetra Pak factory. We were happy to find the water flowing freely from the tap so topped up just in case the next source proved difficult to find. It was a peaceful night that dropped to -6°C and we enjoyed watching the small birds foraging in the leafless trees around the edge of the car park. We'd brought some seed with us from the UK, so left a little out for them before we went.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Emilia-Romagna, Emília-Romanya, Emilia-Romaña, Émilie-Romagne, 에밀리아로마냐 주

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