After a whole 7 weeks in Greece, Italy has been a bit of a culture shock for us and it’s taken a little while to get back into the swing of things in Western Europe. For a start, we saw more motorhomes in 7 minutes then in 70 days in Greece and the abundance of free Aires with all the services laid out for you seemed a little alien at first.
We knew that this stretch of east coast of Italy holds little of interest off season so we made straight for San Marino which as it turned out was enveloped in fog. Having already visited in 2008 we decided we’d stay in the comfort of our van rather than brave the positively artic temperatures and begrudgingly packed our shorts and t-shirts away and pulled out our micro fleeces, scarves and gloves which have been firmly boxed up since Nordkapp.
At this point we could go on to tell you about the Italian architecture or the culture but the thing that has been the biggest interest to us since arriving has been the shops! Not only is Italy at least 30-40% cheaper than Greece for food (even like-for-like in Lidl) but the range and choice available in iPer La Grande is mind blowing. We pushed a trolley overflowing with speciality Pastas, Coffee, Gnocchi, Breads not to mention three types of Fish, Bacon and Beer (although we’re well stocked on Mythos) for less than an equivalent sized shop in Lidl just two weeks earlier. Craving our mid-afternoon coffee fix we purchased a new Moka Pot so we can have espressos which are slightly less messy and bitty then the Greek coffee we have been used to. Diesel and LPG is cheaper here in Italy also which is just as well as our gas usage has increased threefold as our heating is running through the night.
One of the best things about our blog is when people get in contact for help when they are planning to embark on a similar trip and in Bologna we met up with Matt and Laura who are following a similar route to us but in reverse. Bologna transpired to be larger than we anticipated and after ruling out all of our pushpins for the central area we ended up at a Train Station aire on the outskirts of the city joined later by Matt and Laura. Their van was cavernous compared to ours and Laura had done a fantastic job of putting their stamp on it with homemade curtains and knitted throws – their van has a special story behind it so I’d recommend visiting their blog – Matt & Laura
After a nearby Pizza and an evening sitting up talking which served to remind us just how early we have been going to bed since the clocks changed, we bid them farewell and began our trip North. At this point we’re on our way across the South of France to meet up with Adam’s parents who are travelling down with us to see Sophie’s parents in Spain for a family Christmas reunion. I must apologise therefore if for the next month our blog covers more well-trodden paths but rest assured in January we shall be embarking on another adventure – so watch this space! We did however have time for another encounter with fellow traveler Ric from Vantastic Journey although our meeting was brief we hope to catch up with him in Spain at some point