220 – 221: Mosaics and Mountain Mishaps!

220 – Thursday 26th November 2015:  Brad in the Doghouse – and Chaos in Calascibetta !

We rose late-ish – me (J) first somehow – having sidestepped the idea of running as K was still conversing with the duvet…..  I started to prepare my breakfast which requires great skill – using a scissors to cut open the cereal packet without having to eat it off the floor!   Success reigned – but then K announced that she was going to run – on the running track just behind where we had parked !  Completely flummoxed, I felt obliged to join in and temporarily abandon my cereal…  cereal success having reigned earlier, the skies now rained – and the joint assault on Olympic track records was shelved – Ussain Bolt can rest easy for now !

Having been spoiled in recent times with sunshine and good temperatures, we decided that we do not fancy rain and UK-ish temperatures – how times change indeed…  Decision made to motor down the A-something-or-other – to an Outlet Shopping Centre to while away a few hours.  K managed to avoid buying a Gucci handbag for Euro 2,000 even though it had been reduced from Euro 4,000 !  That would have been our budget for 2016 down the toilet ! But, she is brave when the chips are down…  Lunch at the Centre was coffee, a caneloni bun for K and Tiramisu for moi – you just cannot beat this healthy living – who needs Soya ?

Brad was then programmed to guide us to an overnight parking site in a town called Calascibetta – we gave him the correct coordinates, and off we sailed. Now, we have been into some mountain towns without too much trouble but perhaps we might have seen the danger signals earlier…  For the benefit of our reader, Chardonnay our van is 28’ long, 9’ wide and weighs in at just under 4 tonnes – with frontwheel drive…

We found ourselves in a one-way series of streets which seemed to get narrower – twice we were completely blocked and had to bang on doors to get people to move their cars to let us inch past…  One very nice lady driver asked me “What are you doing here ?”  (in that large van).  I blamed our SatNav, lamely… she said “you shouldn’t come here in that van – especially in the rain” – prophetic words, as it happened…  No escape, we proceeded vey slowly, with a long line of cars building behind us. As we approached a lefthand turning narrow hairpin bend – with a steep uphill climb, we both said something like “Goodness gracious me – this could be a problem”.  It was.  K turned at the appropriate angle and prepared to accelerate gently around the bend. There was no way we could go around in one turn and stopped to get a better angle – on restarting the manoeuvre, the front wheels would only spin on the wet surface time after time !  By now, we were completely at an angle – blocking the entire street and the long line of vehicles behind – with no obvious solution.  Many drivers came up to look, shook their heads and sympathised in Italian.  Nobody appeared to question our sanity in just being there with our monster truck – stuck in a town where the biggest car is a Fiat Panda !  K phoned our emergency vehicle rescue service in UK who gave her another number for overseas rescues.  At that time, we gave little thought to the difficulty any rescue vehicle would have in even reaching us without having to demolish some very nice houses !  We tried using the floor mat to give some grip to the wheels – to no avail. While K was on the phone and with the guidance of two other drivers, I tried a different turn – away from the obviously correct direction – to our huge relief, the van moved to the right without sliding !   It now became an issue of just trying to angle our vehicle sufficiently to free the logjam we had created – after many turns, it worked and the traffic cleared.   Again with huge help from many drivers, we got the van straight again and climbed the slope around the bend.  One lady had waited in her small Fiat and told K she would guide us through the other bends down into the town – what an incredibly kind gesture !  One after the other, we slowly wound our way down – sometimes having to take multiple turns to get around corners. On one such turn, I caught the end of a light van and slightly damaged our back bumper….

Once into the downtown area and wider streets, K thanked our Good Samaritan profusely.  Serious note to selves – Chardonnay will visit no more mountain towns – we will visit by bus, bicycle or good old Shanks Mare !   Mega relief in our van.  Brad had actually tried to take us into some parking area in the town – he does not know our size…. Decision made to purchase a “caravan” SatNav system – Brad may need to take a sabbatical – or be relegated to the substitutes bench.

We found a parking area some miles further on away from Calascibetta – it was closed, unfortunately.  A perfectly acceptable lay-by near to hand became our oasis for the evening…

221 – Friday 27th November 2015: Mosaics but no more mountains!

The team slept – K dreamed of hairpin bends in mountain towns – I dreamed Ireland beat New Zealand 57-0 in the rugby World Cup Final – and I scored three tries ! Liar !  It was only 27-0 !  Brad dreamed of finding another job – being a tour guide in Calascibetta….his CV is somewhat lacking though but his reference from us will sway the Town Council…

Next to our overnight pitch there was an old-fashioned long water trough where the contents were constantly being replenished. The trough contained two goldfish ! I did not have too much wine last night, honestly – I was too busy showcasing my rugby skills…  It became obvious also that our lay-by was a local meeting place – for folk going to work and stopping to talk about all manner of gossip – including some mention of two looney strangers trying to drag an odd vehicle through the streets of Calascibellissimo as it’s now called – by us !  We stayed close to the duvet which did not seem too difficult in the circumstances…

For some time, we had noticed that one of our rear tyres was soft-ish and it needed air – up to 5 Bar – which in old money is probably 5,000 PSI !  K suggested that my almost endless supply of verbal hot air might be sufficient for the task !  My wife is all heart….  Try as I might, I just couldn’t get my lips properly around the tyre valve – even without my false teeth !  Nothing for it but to find a ‘pneumatici riparazioni’  somewhere. The somewhere was Piazza Armorina just off the SSP something-or-other road…

Freshly pumped up – and with my hot air intact – Latin “fartus intacticus majorem”, the Roman Villa Casale was our destination for the afternoon. It is an immensely impressive villa that contains the best collection of Roman mosaics possibly in the world – no exaggeration – K’s photos will show why. Shame they charge for parking and the entrance fee.

Mountain towns behind, the van was pointed towards the south coast – and a Marina for the night.  Now we are here – it is a ghost town (summer villas all closed up) – not a soul in sight – and the wind howling outside – wonderful high seas with lots of white horses. Will we run tomorrow in 25 mph gusts ?

K … the mosaics were truly something else.  The detail on the images was stunning … check out the anatomical details too!  The ladies in bikinis are, in fact, sports women!












182 -183: Town-ing Down the Coast & Six Months!

182 – Monday 19th October 2015 – End of our first 6 months Euro Travelling !

By James

I seems like only yesterday that  we started on this epic journey and the time has just flown by – we have only scratched the surface – lots more to be seen. We commenced our trip staying with Jimmy and Ian Read in Rustington – and we will hopefully end our first year with them also. Three of our dear friends have passed away in the last year – Nicky, Mathew and Andrea – tragic losses to friends and families – the truism is “we never know what’s around the corner”.

This morning dawned (rain again) in our overnight at Mesola – brekkie and all services topped up – or in the case of our WC – “bottomed out”! Certain people were surprised at the outset at the fact that we intended to transport our poo around Euroland – Mr Tim Leslie take note !

Mid morning break at Commachio – well, lunch break really…. walked about – saw the Triple Bridge and the fishing homes on stilts – and two churches – Chiesi to us fluent (!) speakers of Italiano…



Yes.. that is my winter coat and J is sporting his scarf!


Restaurants extended over the water.

Restaurants extended over the water.

Took on some beer and other supplies at a EuroSpar –  amazing value – a big lump of loin pork for Euro 2.4!  Will serve us two days, and can use some of the 6kgs of apples we are still munching our way through.

Ravenna welcomed Chardonnay and crew in the PM – some more Chiesi – the most famous mosaics in the world, Basilica, Baptistry – and the tomb of Dante Alighieri!  Definitely worth seeing (sorry about all the pix); I know Ravenna is known for the seaside too, but we did not see it!



Dante Alighieri's tomb. He died here having been banished from Florence. They obviously regret this, as they supply a year's worth of oil for the lamp every Septemtber.

Dante Alighieri’s tomb. He died here having been banished from Florence. They obviously regret this, as they supply a year’s worth of oil for the lamp that burns inside every September.

The good ship sailed serenely down the coast and after examining a few sites, settled on a motorhome overnight parking at Lido di Salvio… Head Chef K about to present a succulent serving of monkfish, mashed potatoes, green beens and a red pepper sauce – has a Michelin star ever been awarded to a motorhome – Haute Cuisine indeed !

Buona Notte, Signore et Signori et bella bambini – Ciao !!!



183 – Tuesday 20th October 2015:  Three Towns and a Tooth!

By Katherine

We ran from our car park and tried to find the beach front walkway … surely the Eyeties promonade the prom?  Two abortive forays to discover locked up private beaches and a glimpse of the sea; we stayed on the road.

Drove to Cervia: fishing, tourism, water inlets and canals and famed for salt extraction. Limited time here as we had to pay for the car park and as we took up over 3 bays, and hour was EUR3 … the planned coffee did not happen.

Salt warehouses

Salt warehouses

Drove slightly inland to a hilltop (more of a mound) fort at Santarcangelo di Romagna, where we lunched in Chardonnay.  Walked around the old part of the town and could just make out the Adriatic on the horizon.

J is actually at the gas locker, not doing anything dodgy - honest!

Fort J is actually at the gas locker, not doing anything dodgy – honest!

Olive harvesting. The chap was up a ladder hidden in the tree and dropping all the olives onto a mat.

Olive harvesting. The chap was up a ladder hidden in the tree and dropping all the olives onto a mat.

Fairly typical of the landscape: cypresses and olive trees, gentle hills.

Fairly typical of the landscape: cypresses and olive trees, gentle hills.

We disturbed 4 white doves who waddled away from us and then eventually took flight:


Onto Rimini: the pitch we had identified is EUR10 to park and additional charges for water etc … we shall try to make do with what is in the tank, even though I showered this morning.  BUT the location is excellent, secure and  bang smack between the old town and the beach.  We had a wander around our third town of the day and wished we had set the exercise app to track our mileage … we seem to have walked a lot today!


Tempio Malatestiano: built as a Franciscan church but converted in 1550 to a monument Sigismondo Malatesta, descended from the ruling family. He was a BAD man, and managed to get through 4 wives. Pictures of debauchery and elephants are exposed, we could not find these! Pope Pius II condemned the building as ‘temple of worshippers’ and burned the Malatesta effigy for act of ‘murder, violation, adultery, sacrilege and perjury’. I had not thought the Popes were white than white!


We found a bear to though! An animal theme?


Tiberius Gate


Is James anal about sewage manhole covers ? Poo-berly correct, Mr T Crapper…

Over supper, J pulled a tooth out of his mouth … he knew it was a weak one and fortunately no pain.  But it does mean that we need to present ourselves and his EHIC as the hospital tomorrow for a state dental referral … fingers crossed for a quick process as K flies from Naples on Wednesday and it is still quite some miles away!!