Monday 21st July.
We are parked up tonight in a farmyard in the hamlet of Tre Venti in Lombardy. It is part of the Agriturismo scheme in Italy whereby small farms and, vineyards offer B&B or motorhome parking. The arrangement here, as far as we can tell, is that we can stay for free with electricity and water if we have a meal but the elderly lady we saw when we arrived just pointed at a parking place, the tap and the power supply and didn't say anything about a meal. I can't see a restaurant and I can't smell any food cooking. This is just as well as we bought some fresh ravioli in the bakers today.
We set off this morning intending to stay the night in the city of Pavia but we didn't feel comfortable staying overnight in the car park so popped in to town for a look around, had a pizza for lunch and set off for an Agriturismo farm about half an hour further south. We arrived and the road narrowed with a sign asking us to walk the final 200metres. We parked up just as we saw a flash of lightning, heard a clap of thunder and then the heavens opened. So we sat in the van for ten minutes and eventually I found an umbrella and descended the 200 metres in shorts and flip flops. Found a house at the bottom of the lane with nobody about and then a guy turned up in a car. He was from Morroco, spoke no English but walked back up the hill with me, showed me an electric point hanging off a tree but sorrowfully admitted he had no aqua for us. We thanked him and got the books and phones out again looking for a Sosta or campsite where we would have better facilities. The problem with the Agrturismo scheme, I think, is that it is not very well developed and hardly marketed at all. The first place we called at, according to the online guide, had all the facilities we wanted but that proved not to be the case. Few of them actually give an address other than the nearest town or hamlet and none give GPS co-ordinates so it's a right palava finding them. It's a shame and I'm sure the individual farms or vineyards would have a lot more custom if the organisers or marketers of the scheme got their act together.
This is real vineyard country here in Lombardy and some of the big mansions overlooking the fields rival the Chateaux we have seen in France. At the same time a lot of the vineyards seem to be on a small scale and the area as a whole is not as opulent as, say, parts of Burgundy. Nevertheless it was a pleasant drive between the rain showers and I'm sure it would look even more beautiful with the sun shining. I say a pleasant drive, apart from the 5 kilometres when the Sat Nav took us down a pot holed dirt track about a foot wider than the van with overhanging trees on one side and vineyards sloping away down the hill on the other. We had a few nervous moments to say the least.
Tuesday 22nd July.
We are parked up tonight in the campsite from hell in Aranzano, just outside Genova. We are packed in like sardines for €30 a night, €0.50 for a shower and €7.80 for the washing machine. Phil told the woman on reception we just wanted to do a wash, not rent the machine for a week! Our pitch is next to a busy road with a railway line next to it but we had to take it as we really needed to do some washing. We would have driven further along the coast to look for something better but we had driven for over seven hours today over the Appenine Mountains and after then driving through Genova in rush hour we were completely banjaxed. So here we are, beaten but unbowed. The washing is done although we can't hang it out to dry on our pitch, it has to be hung out at the "designated washing drying area". If Basil Fawlty had a camping site rather than a hotel I imagine this is what it would be like.
Although the drive today was exhausting we saw some wonderful scenery again. The road between Voghera and Bobbio was exceptional, rising to over 1100 metres and we stopped at the peak for lunch, under a massive statue of St Columba from Ireland (???) enjoying the clean mountain air. So, the plan for tomorrow is to follow the Italian coast, bound for France, and hopefully find somewhere free to park up about halfway. We could drive to France in a day but after today's marathon I'd rather just drive for a few hours and then do the same the next day, I've got enough diesel to get to France (I swore I wouldn't be paying €1.95 a litre here in Italy). It hasn't been too easy finding places to stop in Italy at no or low cost but we know when we get to France it's motorhome friendly and we can drive along without stressing about where we will stop each day. I've even found a place to stop in St Tropez! I reckon I'll look good there on the beach in my speedos.
No pics today due to problems transferring from phone camera to iPad, sorry.