There is no place like Italy.
And a life time would not be enough to see it all. There is always another church, another palazzo, another piazza, another must-see place, museum or statue. Having been countless times to Tuscany, (Florence and Pisa I visited the first time on my own when I was 19 and hitch hiking) but never ever time seemed sufficient to go any lower then Siena. The idea remained an idea to go from top to south.
Now: Hasna has an uncle, Abdelkader married to Italian Alessandra in the Calabrian mountains around Cosenza. Quickly it became obvious we'd have to do an extended Italy journey now while on our way back down south (BDS) to Morocco for summer.
We leave Vienna on 25th of April late in the evening, with certainly not much of an idea of how the twins Daniel and David, barley 3 month old, would take it. We leave and there's lots of tears, well Hasna has spent some 10 month in Vienna. One minute in the van Alessandra calls asking how log we would take to come down to Italy. There is no time for tears.
So, we are on the road, driving the smalles roads possible, avoiding the highways whenever possible, seeking those narrow valleys (Gesaeuse) and passes leading to secluded villages (Matrei/Osttirol) you otherwise never would get to. Up mountain our new ultimate African van, a 26 years old MB 307, manages a mere 15km/h. This is going to be a long tranquil journey with daily drives hardly exceeding 200kms. The boys need their regular breaks as well. All in all just about what you call a trek.
And these first nights are cold, this is still April. But the boys are comme les petits poussins, like chicks seeking the warmth. When I wake up because of the cold I pull one of them nearer to me, turning up the heat under my blanket and sleep.
Dolomites around Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Always wanted to come to see the Dolomites, it is such a different Italy than when rushing through on the autostrada.
2nd night in the Dolomites: Passo Pordoi at 2,239m , we are pushing the limits. 7.30 p.m. it starts raining, lightening behind my back over one of the peaks, thunder 11 seconds later. Snow in the morning. Again it was Daniel who kept me warm at night.
There has not been rain of any significance in Vienna this year and we started attributing this to climate change. So I am quite delighted with this my first rain this year.
We have seen enough of the Dolomites, descend to Belluno. An empty town, no cars, no people, no rubbish, cleaned for 1st of May?, we leave after ice cream and coffee and beer. Again heavy rain and hale starts soon thereafter. Agriculture needs it dearly. At night of the 30th of April we reach Verona.
2 experiences: What is it pushing a double pram an entire day, - and what is good Italian food, spaghetti frutti di mare and pizza quatro stagione, on a secluded piazza when the sun shines. Verona on Wikipedia.
Via the very small roads we reach cosy/cool/clean Parma which is interesting and boring at once, but it rains a lot and I am ill/cannot be bothered much.
There is bicycles/no mopeds, most of the centre is pedestrianised, a hang-out for clandestine immigrants. Before we enter we pass Barilla factory. I am their number one customer outside Italy. Parma however is too small for me. And I am ill. The boys though better then ever. Parma on Wikipedia.
It pours, really before Italy I have forgotten what rain was like. We do our laundry, I repair the pram, a wheel has kept falling off. Bologna is more the old Italy, unorganised, noisy, mopeds, bars, a cool, lefty, bearded students population, beer in the morning and more bars, and an architecture you can fall in love with, one I have not seen before. Arcades and more arcades.
Bologna is where I may like to live, I think. Or send my boys to university. Wikipedia.
We like Mouhamadou Lamine Seck's paintings and a chat that reminds us of Africa.
Alpi apuane, Lago Vaglio, Monte Pisamino.
We walk around the lake the evening carrying the boys. Night falls and we have difficulties finding our way. Still the next morning Hasna is exited. I think, we could have swum as well. The boys are alright.
We hit the Ligurian coast north of Viareggio, join the tourist masses in Pisa on the afternoon of the 7th of May. For some tourists from overseas the twins seem to be the bigger attraction. Wikipedia.
We reach Florence and Piazza Michelangelo that evening just in time for a gloomily humid sunset.
More coming up soon ...