Imagine a world where you can walk down the street without carefully watching your feet for fear of falling in a pothole. Or a place where the shops let you walk around on your own, with your own bag still in your hands and not ‘secured’ in a lobby locker. Or somewhere you can turn on the tap and drink right out of it. Or where power sockets don’t fall out in your hands and actually work. Or a place that lets you use the petrol pump yourself and doesn’t insist on cash payment. Or a land where 24 hour hot water doesn’t mean a pissy dribble at midday only. Or a place that has road signs for people who have never been there before. What about somewhere that has working internet with which you can search for local businesses? Where would such an utopia exist? Well, you lucky people, this place is called Europe and the rest of the ‘Western world’. Safe but oh so boring and predictable!
When we crossed into Italy, it dawned on Nickiy that this was the first country we’d entered in quite some time that we’d previously visited. The last country had been Nepal. That was a lot of new countries under the wheels. Our first destination was an obvious choice coming from the east. But all too often people head to Venice for romantic indulgence, or just to watch it flood. Instead we just wandered aimlessly, getting lost and jostled by the tourist crowds.
We were unsure of how far we would plunge into the rest of Italy. Previous trips had never taken us farther south than Tuscany. But having seen ancient ruins in China, we were keen to compare them to Pompeii.
And the results are in, and without wanting to sound like Sinéad O’Connor; nothing compares to Pompeii. It’s scale and vibrancy make it look like it was built last week. So many amazing frescoes, buildings and artifacts litter the cobbled streets. To complete the experience, we also went to visit Vesuvius on our way out of town. Ironically, it was closed.
We headed back up the country towards Tuscany once more, fighting off a glaring of cats who insisted on commandeering the tent. Eventually we cruised into our new home at dusk.
Mia had kindly organised a quaint Tuscan villa for her family holiday and luckily it had 3 spare rooms, and a pool. So of course we could pop in for a few days, or ten, on the way past. One of the best things about this luxury villa was that it came with a cook & driver. His English was terrible but with some sign-language and a lot of patience we did manage to get him to cook some amazing pizzas and occasionally drive to the shops for us. In the meantime we amused the local cats once more and ensured that everyone caught ringworm from them.
Our next date was in the quaint European state of Helvetica. Our journey out of Italy began in rain, passed through a storm blackout then over a snowy pass. It ended in an Overlook Hotel-style convent being looked after by three old nuns. Who says Italy doesn’t have everything?