San Basilio, near the River PoJanuary 6, 2017 in Italy
Today started off difficult but ended well. Our water levels were low but the tap was frozen up and our efforts to defrost it with hot water were to no avail. The taps at the next two stopovers were turned off. We had a few bags of rubbish but the nearby bins were full. One gas bottle had run out during the night and it was 8°C in the van when Vicky woke and opened the other one up. We tried to get more gas but all the petrol stations we passed that sold it seemed to be closed without self service for LPG. We were later to find out that they were closed for Epiphany bank holiday. At least we were able to use one of their bins so the rubbish was no longer a problem!
To add to things, the roads systems have been consistently difficult to navigate but were made worse by a low strong sun... Phew! Things did improve when we began to get to the countryside. The Po Delta area is within one of Italy's largest expanses of low lying flatland and at one point we were 1m below sea level. Huge fields and tree plantations stretched for miles and the roads got very narrow. While driving, we were lucky enough to catch sight of a kingfisher flying ahead of us along one of the straight water fillied ditches. We followed it for about 500m before it cut across the road in front of us, switching to another ditch at 90° from its original trajectory.
Little Egrets, Great White Egrets and herons startled at the van, flew up beside us and we started to relax and really enjoy the views. The car park we stayed in was that of an archeological site where Roman and early Christian remains had been found. There was a large corrugated iron dome protecting what was left of the ancient buildings and there was agricultural land for miles around. We even saw a hare nibbling at grass through the windscreen as the light started to fade.
The only public buildings in San Basilio were a church and a Trattoria. As we were staying for free we went and had a glass of red wine in the Trattoria. We were the only ones there apart from the manager and her little dog. They did food from 7pm so we returned then and ordered pizzas from their extensive list to eat in. The place started to fill up with locals and before long we heard a commotion of bells, a piano accordion and other instruments in the front bar. About 9 men had come, all dressed in old fashioned rags, some dressed as women and one as a witch with a broom. We'd read about a Christmas tradition to do with a witch and had seen a lot of model witches around the shops and markets. The night we'd chosen to eat out was Epiphany and Befana, the Epiphany witch and her helpers had come in covered in soot from all the chimneys they'd been down to deliver sweeties to good children and lumps of coal to the naughty ones. They played, sang, danced and swept out the problems of 2016 with a broom. They then presented a rather embarrased 14 year old lad with a stocking of sweets.
There is a 5 second clip we managed to film of Befana in the front bar at: https://youtu.be/myNbP-JTNFE
The Trattoria became busy and many people greeted others, wishing them well on Befana (Epiphany). Our wine was cold but our pizzas were yummy, they were far too big to have fitted in our little gas oven in the van and we think they were cooked in a wood fuelled pizza oven. We had homemade tiramisù and mandorlatta, an almond based regional speciality for desert. Our short walk back was wonderfully quiet and the sky clear enough to see lots of constellations.
The temperature plummeted to -8°C overnight but we'd seen a great sunset the night before over a refreshingly uncluttered horizon and a stunningly large sun rose to melt away the frost the next morning.Read more