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last day in Italy

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Brindisi, Italy

plus a last minute mad dash to the post office to buy stamps
(and doubleparking both vans to do so)
winding through narrow rutted lanes
trying to find an open pizzeria before 7pm (impossible)
seeing two herds of goats
driving past another burnoff
ducking as a plane landed almost on top of us
playing Carcassonne and cards
preparing Greece journals

We’ve been to Italy, but we missed Venice, Milan and FLorence, we couldn’t get a park in Sorrento and only did one street in Naples….you could say we missed most of Italy!
But, contrary to what the frogs would have had us believe, we found great food.

long pasta, short pasta,
fat pasta, thin pasta
long tubes, short tubes,
big rings, little rings
star shapes, gnocchi shapes,
spirals, wheels and bow shapes

OK, so the Froggy accusation was that they have nothing beyond pasta.
But we discovered they have cheese.

white cheese
yellow cheese
grated cheese
fried cheese
hung cheese
holey cheese
and don’t forget

Autumn Arrives

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Brindisi, Italy

For the second day in a row the warm wind was howling, stirring up the ocean to waves too fierce for the little kids to venture into. At sunset the night before last, the sky had turned ominously dark and a few heavenly spits had landed on our bare arms. Wondering whether all the locals, who continued sitting and chatting apparently unconcerned at the meteorological change, knew something we didn’t, we packed up our outside room. No sooner were we inside than the first lightning sheeted the sky and the spits became bucketloads. Shrieking Italianos scurried around camp frantically packing away table and chairs, wineglasses and washing lines, guinea pig, beach towels, awnings.
The deluge was shortlived, but the wind, which strengthened by the hour, still has not abated days later. Autumn had arrived. As if to confirm its presence, it brought with it a second longer downpour in the wee hours of the morning.
Dawn revealed drifts of leaves banked up against motorhome wheels and waves thundering on the beach. Twenty degrees cooler than a couple of weeks ago, it felt nippy, but being cognitively aware that is still as warm as a kiwi summer (25 degrees), the big kids donned togs, eager to take on the surf. They only got out waist deep when waves higher than any of them crashed down, dumping their fury. Standing against the elements, jumping victoriously with the swell, occasionally going under, the biggies frolicked all afternoon.
Meanwhile, the littlies’ disappointment at finding the beach out of bounds was tempered by the fact that, being the weekend, the previously almost-empty camp had filled up, and ignoring the language barrier, they had made new friends.


All day long giggles erupted around the camp and a train of steadily diminishing (sizewise) children caboosed by ER3 puffed between motorhomes and oleander bushes. Frequently they all congregated in a circle, earnestly talking to each other, each in their own tongue – Italian, German, English, Spanish. They discussed the dead bird discovered, made up rules for a ball game, all laughed raucously when one of the daddies almost fell off a ladder retrieving said ball from on top of the shadecloth. They developed an intricate hide-n-seek spy game with bases and teams and lots of goodwill.
But late Sunday evening the camp emptied out again and when the sea was still billowing this (Monday) morning, we decided to head further south towards our ferry crossing to Greece.

After a five day hiatus, it was comfortably familiar to hit the road again. We smiled, remembering Grandpa’s most recent email – when he had taken his car for a drive at home he needed his hearing aids to detect whether the engine was running. With us he’d taken them OUT before every journey; the significant rattlings and bangings and shakings requiring no further amplification and drowning out any conversation hopes.
Yes, these vans do make a racket, but they get us from A to B.
They give us access to olive trees, down here underplanted with new bright green seedlings and black snaking irrigation hoses.
They take us past flat-roofed houses, all painted a light colour with a darker shade widely framing windows and the side and top edges of walls.
They wait outside supermarkets while we stock up.
They whizz us past the ocean, the palette of blues and greens far exceeding any paint shop selection. 
They shudder along the short motorway onramps; so short you need to both be ready to stop completely if any traffic is approaching AND ready to accelerate to 110km in four seconds (ha ha, as if we could, even if we were already going at 80) if the coast is clear.
They transport us through a landscape we thought belonged to the desert; brown dirt underfoot, cloudless blue sky overhead and hundreds upon hundreds of flowering cacti in between (beware of the prickly pear – covered with invisible spikes, it is full of seeds too hard to eat and hardly any flesh worth eating – a memorable experience, but not for the right reasons).


They pull over to the side of the road so we can eat grapes. It just occurred to us that we’ve been eating at least a kilo a day whilst in Italy. And an eight or so kilo watermelon most days.
They camouflagedly smoke their way through smoking fields, burnoff in Italy just like the burnoffs we’ve seen elsewhere, with the exception that here it’s blowing a gale making the conditions seem surely less-than-ideal.
They escort us past houses obviously abandoned. Was there an earthquake and nobody has bothered rebuilding? Does waterfront property just not hold the same attraction here as in New Zealand? Or is the global recession hitting hard?
They even reach – and exceed – 100km/hr on the autostrade, and we realise we really are comfortable driving these monsters now. Even when we get stuck in a labyrinth of narrow lanes with cars parked on either side leaving so little room The Bear Cave has to make two attempts to squeeze between, we hardly slow down. “Hardly,” I said. We weren’t going 100 down those streets. But neither were we holding our breath like in the early days.
The only breath now is outside – as if a giant is coughing, warm-to-hot puffs blow around us. In our experience (apart from the Mistral at Narbonne Plage), wind is cold and so we subconsciously expect to start shivering. But this is a warm wind, more akin to a steam engine belching at us.
We just hope it dies down somewhat before we sail!

eleven down, four to go

Sunday, September 6th, 2009
Capitolo, Italy 11 months since we left home 111 days we’ve been on the road in the vans (and an extra week squished into one of them while we waited for the second one to be ready) 131 places we’ve slept in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Rach’s Bikini Shot

Saturday, September 5th, 2009
Capitolo, Italy A friend’s request for what is stated in the title inspired today’s post. Read on only if you dare! Bikinis there are aplenty on Italian beaches. The little girls just wear bikini bottoms, but once they grow up, they ... [Continue reading this entry]

life’s a beach they say

Friday, September 4th, 2009
Capitolo, Italy there’s not much to say get up, have breakfast, do family devotions, complete chores (which doesn’t take long in such a small space, even including the hand washing), head for the beach return for lunch and naps and writing and ... [Continue reading this entry]

sleeping spots

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Capitolo, Italy Tomorrow I'll be cooking pancakes (very sad ones as we have run out of eggs and are not desperate enough to brave the roads to go and buy some more!)....and between flipping I'll catch up on our Van With ... [Continue reading this entry]

he lingers

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
Capitolo, Italy We cut the breakfast rockmelon into eleven slices. Rob ate two, as Grandpa was out of reach, somewhere over the Indian Ocean. He joined us for lunch though – we discovered two emails from Dubai in the inbox just as ... [Continue reading this entry]

friendly, helpful and informative

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Capitolo, Italy One of our dear friends suggested that a line should be drawn across Italy at Rome and the southern half left to float away. If that had happened we would not have had any friendly encounters with Italians. All ... [Continue reading this entry]

the last supper

Monday, August 31st, 2009
Bari, Italy If I don’t write about it, it won’t happen, right? So I’ll just say we went out for dinner tonight, Grandpa’s shout. I won’t mention that it was his last meal with us. If we don’t think about ... [Continue reading this entry]

uno trullo, many trulli

Sunday, August 30th, 2009
Bari, Italy (via Alberobello) When you live in a field that constantly spews rocks, you use them to build your fences, your house, even your roof. I have enjoyed looking at how people use locally available materials to create their ... [Continue reading this entry]