Day 97 & 98 - On the road

18 & 19 March 2022

I have let the readers down. I promised daily updates and did not deliver. Barry pointed it out this morning. Apologies.

18 March 2022

Back on the road. We grab the hire car and head into the mountains. We plan to hit the coast just south of Pescara and work our way down to Catanzaro. The Adriatic Coast.

Into the mountains first. I have spoken about the mountains of Abruzzo before. They continue to impress. Majestic ranges are still shrouded in snow. The Apennine mountains are special.

We stay in a tiny village called Rosciana. It snowed here last week. It is cold and grey and a perfect place to stay in the mountains. The place is ancient. Fresco’s on the ceilings. Certainly real. Unlike previous.

“In the great cities we see so little of the world, we drift into our minority. In the little towns and villages, there are no minorities; people are not numerous enough. You must see the world there, perforce.” - W.B. Yeats

This place is cold. We put the heater on. Settle in. No dinner. The shower is warm, not hot. I don’t sleep well. I have not slept well for a few days. I sleep better when I do some kind of work. Physical or mental.

Breakfast is great. Apparently, it is Fathers Day in Italy today. We get to meet our hosts. When you attach people to a place there is an emotional connection. You forget the issues. Once we met our hosts, understood the history, we warm to it.

19 March 2022

We drive down from the mountains to the coast. We avoid tolls in the hope of more scenic driving. The road is not great and the first part of the trip is not scenic. There is garbage everywhere.

It took us a while to work out that we were passing prostitutes. It seemed odd to see a woman sitting on the side of the road. Then the second. Then the third. We had worked it out pretty quickly. Once we passed a woman wearing no pants, just a g-string, suspicions were confirmed.

It is like snow. If you don’t see it often, when you do, you are amazed. If you are not accustomed to street workers, when you see one, with no pants, on a quiet back road in farmland, you are a little shocked.

“Most of those who look down on people who sell their bodies look up to some of those who sell their souls.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Shell finds a place for lunch. It is in the middle of nowhere yet highly rated. Antichi Sapori Montegrosso is in a tiny village. Past olive groves and vineyards. It seems to be the only building in the village.

We walk in, it is busy. Ask for a table for two. Booked out. We begin to leave. Wait one moment. They move some tables and set a table for us. Grazie. It is hard to tell how many covers they have, maybe sixty. It is packed.

We decide on the tasting menu. We order a bottle of Primitivo and settle in. What follows is course after course of incredible food. The first is a series of tastings. Tiny, delicious morsels. The antipasti are next, all locally sourced and excellent. Next course, primi, pasta. Again, thick, square spaghetti with pomodoro and local ham.

At this point, I am starting to get full. The antipasti were on about five plates. Pasta is filling. Shell hints that we might be in some kind of eating test. Challenge accepted. Out comes secondi. A pork neck steak so tender it does not need a knife and a salad of fennel and heirloom carrots. It is all delicious. Suddenly, another plate. Kitchen made sausages and a scotch fillet steak.

As someone who is permanently hungry and has never known the feeling of satiation, I am a little disconcerted about my capacity to eat anymore. Is this what ‘full’ feels like? I regain my composure and prepare for dessert. The Primitivo is empty. We order a glass. They leave the bottle. I sense some kind of conspiracy.

We are waiting for dessert and they deliver sugar coated almonds and orange peel and shot glasses. I am getting concerned. Next comes small jugs of limoncello and some other dark liquor. You read correctly, jugs of liquor.

Desert arrives, in waves. Zepolle, a special Fathers Day pastry. Rum baba. Whipped ricotta encased in chocolate. Laid out on the table it seems insurmountable. Then comes a chocolate pudding and glasses of muscat.

I will not lie, it was not an easy task to finish everything. It was difficult, but I was brave. I stood in that dessert storm and showed no weakness. As we walked to the car I had mixed emotions, both triumph, and shame. Mostly shame.

“Oh, pity the poor glutton

Whose troubles all begin

In struggling on and on to turn

What's out into what's in.”

― Walter de la Mare

We head off. Our accommodation is on a hillside overlooking the ocean, Selva di Fasano. Famous for its trulli buildings. We drive on the back roads. This road is much more scenic. Less garbage, the prostitutes have pants.

I notice we are low on fuel. I see a service station ahead. It has been a great afternoon. Lunch was incredible, there is music playing, Shell is reading the news to me. Hypersonic missiles. I swing in and hit the gutter. Hard.

I jump out and check the damage. The tyre has popped. I am so embarrassed I just start putting the spare on. I can’t meet Shell’s gaze. How could I have hit the gutter?

“I am I, and I wish I weren't.” ― Aldous Huxley

The spare is one of those tiny tyres. It does not take much effort. Changed, I start to fill the tank. Nothing happens. The place is closed. My triumph at lunch is a distant memory. My overeating shame is completely eclipsed by my driving shame.

I jump in. I feel like Germany, I just don’t want to talk about it. Let’s pretend it didn't happen. There is little hope for a replacement tyre. It is after 5.00 pm on Saturday. Fathers Day no less. Shell informs me she has two options.

We head off. Shell decides that the 80 km/h speed limit on the spare is too fast. She determines 70 km/h is the best option. I keep drifting over, and Shell keeps telling me to slow down. Finally, she has had enough of my 80 km/h shenanigans. She gives me a stern talking to, reminding me that there is no plan C. I am not sure what happened to plan B, wonder about plan D, and sit on 70 km/h.

The first place is closed. We move on. The reality is that nothing will be opened tomorrow, meaning Monday will be the most likely time we get a replacement. I don’t care for driving around with the little spare for a day or two. Especially with plan C looming.

“All human plans [are] subject to ruthless revision by Nature, or Fate, or whatever one preferred to call the powers behind the Universe.” ― Arthur C. Clarke

We get to Shell’s second option and by some miracle it is open. It is 6.00 pm. They check the spare and point out the large puncture. I nod, overwhelmed with shame. Shell, from the front seat, points her finger at me and cries ‘it was him’, while laughing. I nod, hoping the language barrier might save some of my dignity.

Tyre changed and only a little lighter in the pocket we head off. I take the Fiat all the way to 80 km/h. There is nothing Shell can say. The freedom is exhilarating even though the speed limit is 110.

We wind our way through Puglia. Trulli’s everywhere. We make our way up the mountain and arrive at our destination after dark. The place is set in a stunning garden. Ancient olive trees. We are shown to our room. It is a trulli. It has a bath. All is well.

No need for dinner. We read, don’t talk about the tyre incident. An eventful day. We decide to stay two nights.

“The feeling is less like an ending than just another starting point.” ― Chuck Palahniuk


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