Sunday, 1 May 2016

Travellers need a holiday too (Cinque Terre)

Saturday 23rd April - Tuesday 26th April, 2016

A bit of a catch-up - wifi has been iffy ever since we left San Baronto a week ago. So now I have a stack of notes on the iPhone, loads of photos to sort on the laptop. I suppose eventually virtual reality and actuality will almost sync and some semblance of order reappear in Blogger.

We have been waiting for a spell of clear weather to visit Cinque Terre, so decided to make the next two days when rain is forecast 'travelling days'. We set off from Perugia as a Saturday market arranged itself around us in the Camperstop. The official market occupied the adjacent public car park. A fringe market consisting mainly of dodgy goods sold from the back of Bulgarian and Ukrainian panel vans materialised around us in the Camperstop as we packed up to leave. I managed a neat reverse into the service point, narrowly avoiding the randomly parked pop-up retail and emptied the Thetford next to three Romanian men passing the bottle round as they failed to sell garish stilettos and diaphanous nylon nightwear from the back of a rusty Mercedes Sprinter. The forecast drizzle started early.

Urban camperstops - home to a varied clientelle,

We drove for three hours or so, found an ASCI campsite on the coast south of Viareggio, and settled down for the night. The place was not terrible, but tawdry and predictably uniform and grim. I have written before about loving the sea but hating the seaside. At the time I was talking about Wales, but the sentiment can be applied to whole swathes of the Italian coast. There are differences. As yet roadside prostitution has not made it big style on the outskirts of Barmouth. Also, whereas the serried rows of statics give the British coastline a distinctly barrack-room, militarised air, in Italy, the ramshackle collection of tarpaulin- draped small caravans create the ambiance of a refugee camp long forgotten by Oxfam or UNCR. As Gill remarked, "it's only one night, we can put up with anything." I thought of the recent UNCR article which estimated refugees worldwide at numbers more than 50 million. I regretted making the trite comparison, and felt incredibly lucky to be able to travel in relative comfort and freedom across a peaceful continent.

The Lidl car park - why the dolphin, why the acquatic clown, why the scantily dressed girl with arms longer than her legs?
It thundered in the night but had faired by morning. It was a little more than fifty miles to our destination of Deiva Marina, but it took us almost three hours, after a lunch stop and a couple of attempts to track down somewhere to re-fill the GPL. The situation in Italy regarding refilling gas bottles is, like many things in the country, somewhat mystifying. Sometimes you turn up and a smiling attendant obliges, other times with much wagging of fingers and pointing at incomprehensible notices threatening 10,000 Euro fines you are roundly refused. Never one to simply shrug shoulders and say "C'est la vie" I have been using Google translate to scour Italian Service Station operators - Esso, Agip, Eni - to see if I can understand the situation. In truth, visitors to Italy find the culture oddly baffling not because it is in more haphazard than other countries, but simply because they are unaware of customs and practice that natives take for granted. So, as far as I can tell the energy supply company Eni sells its own brand refillable gas bottles manufactured to the same European safety standards as our UK Safefill cylinder. Their website makes a point of stressing that these 'bombola' can be re-filled at all their stations selling LPG. We presented ourselves at one near La Spezia only to discover it unattended on a Sunday, and the GPL pump not included in the self service card machine. The quest goes on!

It was around two in the afternoon when we arrived at Camping La Sfinge, near Deiva Marina. To our surprise there were only a couple of pitches available, then we realised tomorrow was 'Liberation Day' and a public holiday. Our idea of the picturesque Cinque Terre villages being deserted havens of tranquility off-season evaporated as we realised we had achieved the Italian equivalent of arriving in Ambleside on Whit Monday hoping it would be quiet. In the end we rationalised it as follows: if you travel almost half the year then it's a way of life not a holiday, therefore even the most inveterate travellers deserve a holiday, so let's play at being tourists for the next couple of days.

The road from the autostrada to Dieva Marina was wider than it looked on the map - OK apart from a few hairpin bends.

Val 'Deiva

crossed the stepping stones - did not fall in, re-connecting with my inner ten year old


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