With autumn well and truly under way, and with the prospect of several months of short, cold and potentially miserable winter days looming, we made a spur of the moment decision to visit the Italian city of Padua where, by spooky coincidence, one of Europe’s largest classic car shows just happened to be taking place.
Padua, as many will know, was the setting for several of Shakespeare’s plays, including The Taming of the Shrew in which the ‘hero’ makes a bit of a hash of persuading the ‘heroine’ of his good intentions. Fortunately Denise needs no persuasion when it comes to holiday trips and even the prospect of a day spent watching me drool over exotic Italians (cars, that is) didn’t put her off the idea of a short winter break.
Our original plan to say in the heart of the city went awry when our AirBnB hosts cancelled our booking a couple of days before our departure. Our second booking was more successful but resulted in our accomodation being several miles off the beaten track; fortunately the local bus services were frequent and reliable – not at all what we’re used to!
Padua is an ancient university town with plenty of impressive buildings (unsuprisingly many of which are churches) and plenty to see and do. As well as enjoying some lovely weather we managed to fit in a visit to the City’s botanic gardens, a viewing of some Giotto frescos and a trip out of town to Villa Pisano.The Auto d’Epoca show was enormous – at least as big as the Classic Car Show at the NEC and with some stunning vehicles both for sale and on show. Inevitably most of the cars were Italian, but we did manage to find a few Triumphs among the Ferraris, Maseratis and numerous Fiats, Lancias and Alfas of all shapes and sizes.
We spent a couple of nights at a nice little campsite at San Giusto, just a few kilometres from our destination at Vinci. Being early season the site was almost empty and we had a whole section, including a block with four large shower/loo cubicles, virtually to ourselves. The only other occupant was a friendly little cat which sat diligently outside the ‘van’ for hours on end in the hope and expectation, ultimately fulfilled, of being fed – our first Italian friend.
Casa Eden is exactly what we hoped it would be. The villa is a large, six or seven bedroomed house about three or four kilometres outside Vinci, sitting about 300 metres up among the olive groves with great views over the Arno valley. Plenty of room for eight of us, nine including Gretel, with space to rattle around in if needed. The weather continues to be fantastic – temperatures on the early 30s, clear blue skies and the occasional light evening breeze to make the daytime heat bearable. Last night we walked a few hundred metres to the local restaurant – great pizzas at crazy low prices and views to die for – and today we walked down to Vinci to spend a couple of hours in the Leonardo Museum for an insight into the Master’s genius.
Our route took us west from Die through the Hautes Alpes to Gap and then onwards, entering Italy just beyond Barcelonette and crossing over the Col del Larche, which at 1,991 metres is probably one of the highest routes in Europe. In the space of less than a hundred miles the scenery and architecture changes from typically French to typically Italian (surprise!) whilst at the same time the road surfaces deteriorate and the standard of driving goes for a ball of chalk.
We spent Wednesday night in the town of Borgo San Dalmazzo which generously provides a free space for campervans to overnight next to the municipal cemetery, which is an arrangement that seems to work quite well – at least the residents don’t complain. In the evening we walked into town and found a small bar where they kindly allowed us to watch England being outclassed by a very physical Croatia; our disappointment at the inevitable defeat must have been obvious as at the end of the evening the waitress made sympathetic but completely unintelligible comments (in Italian) and undercharged us for our beers.
The drive from Cuneo south and then along the coastline bordering the Bay of Genoa was a bit of a nightmare. Having initially attempted to stay off the autostradas we quickly realised that following the local roads was going to take an absolute age, so we joined the cast of Mad Max hurtling at what seemed like excessive speeds over countless bridges and through innumerable tunnels – a journey that I managed to make considerably worse by first getting a touch too close to a toll booth and then, when we stopped to survey the damage, by reversing into a fence and breaking a rear light cluster. By the way, sodomita is the Italian word for bugger!
I’m not entirely sure why it should have taken me two complete months since returning from our week ‘s skiing in the Dolomites to get around to pulling a blog together. Perhaps now’s the time to come out with that well-worn excuse trotted out by the recently retired …’ I don’t know how I ever found the time to go to work’. All true! Anyway, notwithstanding the blogging delay, I can report that a very good week’s skiing was had by all.
Having thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Val di Fassa last year we decided to repeat the experience – but this time with the added bonus of being accompanied by Peter and Suzie who, throwing caution to the winds, agreed to join us and trust in our choice of resort. Fortunately the ‘skiing gods’ must have been with us because we certainly struck lucky with the hotel and, as it turned out, the weather.
Looking at the rotten snow reports in the days leading up to the holiday I must confess to having panicked a little and at one point actually thought of cancelling our ski passes and packing the walking gear. In the end, however, I needn’t have worried; although the snow was decidedly ‘sparse’ the resorts did an excellent job of making the best of what they had available, and with the help of numerous snow cannon they produced pistes that were well up to our fairly limited standard of skiing.
The end result? No broken bones, a few centimetres extra on our waistlines and, most importantly, a thoroughly enjoyable holiday with good friends.
There was half an inch of snow on the ground when we left home and none at all to be seen when we arrived in Verona; however, by the time we’d made the two and a half hour coach journey up into the Dolomites and reached Canazei there was a reasonable covering – much to our relief! Apparently there was a good dump of snow yesterday and the forecast for the rest of the week is for light showers and cool temperatures, so with any luck we should have good skiing conditions for the rest of the holiday.
Not having been skiing for a couple of years we had the usual worries about getting back on the snow; fortunately the conditions on the mountain this morning were excellent and we managed to survive the first day without any significant tumbles. In the premise that discretion is definitely the better part of valour, and recognising the early signs of ‘jelly legs’, we decided to call it a day at around 2.00pm and were back in the chalet in time for tea and lemon drizzle cake at 3.00. Good decision!
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and an occasional account of goings-on in the Ewbank household