Our final day in Italy was quite a leisurely affair. After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and headed for Ravenna, which was on the way to Venice and our flight home. We chose the SS16 as the most direct and shortest route, which took us through a number of small towns and villages along the way. It gave us time to reflect on our holiday. Venice was undoubtedly the highlight, despite the very high prices and the perceived rudeness of some of the people we encountered. But we did get used to this. It’s one of the things you have to just accept if you are visiting Italy. I personally started to think of it as part of the cultural experience and so felt much better about it. Our trips to the islands around Venice were a particular pleasure and we got to see Venice from around its edges as we circled the lagoon. Our searches for ‘free’ toilets became a daily challenge: San Marino came top for sheer number of toilets (some free) but Montepulciano’s free loo just off the main piazza was very welcome, despite having no paper of any kind in there. Strange how our travel blogs always have a toilet theme somewhere!
Here’s the loo in Ravenna, in the little cafe in the main square:
We tried to imagine how an elderly lady would manage using this. But many of the elderly here cycle about the place with ease so maybe they are made of sterner stuff than us Brits!
Siena was certainly a great place to be; so much so that we didn’t want to leave. Sitting in the sun in the main square and seeing the unexpected parade was a really nice moment.
The trip around the Chianti region was fun: lovely landscape and a peek inside the life of a winery.
As the road to Ravenna continued on we passed a number of young women – prostitutes – plying their trade at the side of the road. We had seen this before and also in Spain. One can only imagine the life of one of these young (and some not so young) people and the daily protocol of life on the street (and in cars and trucks). I don’t think it was a coincidence that the road was full of long distance trucks; a constant stream of trade. My immediate thought was that these young girls are someone’s daughter and what would their parents think – no doubt a pretty naive thought on my part.
Ravenna was a pleasant place and we stopped for a drink in the square as soon as we arrived.
The sun was hot and we felt really relaxed and contented as our holiday neared its end; we had done all we set out to do and we sat people watching for some time.
People watching in Italy is a rewarding pastime. The street sellers (usually of north african origin) cheekily try to persuade you that you need the cigarette lighter or the pack of tissues they are carrying around the streets. If it’s raining they will surely have an umbrella to sell. They were all, without exception, well dressed and polite. If you stop at traffic lights, expect one of these people to knock on your window or offer to clean your windscreen for a price. This is another thing you just have to ignore or get used to in Italy. Meeting Flaminia (our host in Florence) was another highlight. She was a lovely woman and brightened the start of each day we were there. I’ve thought many times about the old beggar lady with the Blackberry and think I may have been a little flippant in my remarks. But that’s the way I felt at the time and so recorded it honestly. That’s what this blog is for. On reflection I have to say that any elderly lady who sits at the side of the road begging, with or without a Blackberry, must be in need of something. And so I can only wish her well. While we are on the subject of women in need I have to say that the boat-bus attendant in Venice (who stuck her bottom out at Rachel) was certainly in need of a good talking to and I hope she gets it soon!
And so we left Ravenna for Venice and the closer we got to Venice the worse the weather got. There was a terrific thunder and lightening storm and we hoped the airport would remain open. The usual relief washed over us as we dropped the car off – we had driven around Italy unscathed despite the crazy driving habits of Italians.
Back in England we noticed immediately just how well kept our roads and motorways are, compared to those in Italy. We stopped at a motorway service station to buy a drink and the lady behind the counter smiled, called me ‘love’ and wished me a fond farewell. And the countryside is so much greener and cleaner. It’s amazing just how much we can take for granted.
It’s been a great road trip but it’s good to be home. Until the next road trip (who knows where?) – Ciao (as they say in Italy)!