Mamma Mia!

19 October

What a start to Italy. The following shoulda be reada ina Italiano accento!! 

Last night as we were about to head to bed, we heard loud screaming and shouting from some where nearby we thought.  Next minute the Polizia arrive in the carpark and people are loudly shouting accompanied by much hand waving, well, they are Italian after all…more Polizia arrive, more shouting and gesticulating.  We have no idea what is going on but it does seem to concern the two Italian vans parked two away from us.  Our French neighbour from the other side of us tried to explain what he could make out as to what had happened but all I could decipher was that someone hit someone, it was a stranger and it seemed as though someone had tried to get into one of the vans!  I am surmising a lot here….it could well have been a lovers tiff for all I know.  Anyway, the ambulance arrived as well, and of course the Polizia are all armed with handguns, all pretty tense stuff.  Meanwhile, we lock ourselves safely in our van and head to bed.  But then it seemed as though that wasn’t enough excitement for the night as the people in the van immediately next to us (more Italians) decided to have a domestic, so much shouting going on.  There was a very large German mobile home (i.e.a bus) parked in between our Italian neighbours and the Italians that had the Polizia incident, they must have decided that they had had enough so at just after midnight, they packed their bus up and left!  It is times like these that I wish my hearing was not so good!  The member of the party that has a hearing loss, slept on peacefully!

Woken in the early hours with a market being set up in the next car park from us!  Roy went in to town to get some info from Tourism Information whilst Bernice stayed to watch events unfold. There were around 20 car parks marked out in the parking area in front of us and these started to fill up fairly quickly, it soon became apparent that the Italians take absolutely no notice of allocated parking spaces and very soon there were 55 cars parked in the 20 spaces! Then they started parking everywhere, including directly in front of our van, when one woman parked in front of us, I gave her a toot of the horn (as every good Italian seems to use this device on their cars) and gestured that she was blocking our exit, she stood in front of the van whilst gesticulating madly and shouting to say she had left plenty of room for us to get out and walked off! Roy returned shortly thereafter, we managed to weave and force our way out.  I could not get out of there quickly enough!

Next it was on to McDonalds to get some free wifi.  Next problem; apparently yes, they do offer free wifi BUT you have to register, and to do this you have to give all your details, including place of birth, and your Italian cell phone number.  To obtain a sim card in Italy, apparently you have to be a resident or citizen.  Something to do with privacy and mafia – or so the man behind the counter told us!  Great.  No free wifi at McDonalds in Italy.

On the road again, we debated long and hard about our next destination, in between looking at books, maps, brochures and GPS we settled on Navaro which looked like it had all the facilities we need and also close to Malpensa airport where Alex is flying into. Along the way we stopped and admired scenery, got as far as Ivrea where we thought we would get some info about the next district.  But of course we arrive in the three hour break they have from 12-3, when everything shuts down.  (It is strange but the break is not even taken at the same time.  Basically everyone stops for a two hour break in the middle of the day.  Some start the break at 12:00 others at 12:30 and still others at 1:00.  So this means that you are never sure which is which and whether the place you are looking for is open or not.  The end result is that you cannot really plan to do anything involving shopping or information between 12:00 and 3:00.)  So back to the van to wait out the time.  Into the Info centre, get what we need and also the address of an Internet cafe a 10 minute walk away.  Off to the cafe, sorry, no wifi but we can hook up the PC with a cable to the Internet.  Roy does this, of course Bernice cannot hook up the iPad, so she waits for Roy to do his thing, meanwhile playing around on the iPad, find a free wifi spot, hook into that and get on!!  Connection isn’t great but we do the necessary before heading off again. 

By this time the day is getting on a bit, we get to Navaro at around 6.30pm but cannot find a campsite anywhere, so load up the GPS for the next town Galliate, which according to one of the brochures we are given, and a camping book we have bought (all in Italian), has a campsite.  After driving around in the dark, for what seems like forever, asking for directions, many many times, we ended up parked in an Industrial  area in a carparking space, along with some truckies.  We are not sure what has gone wrong, but we know it is not us as one of the truckies whom we ask for assistance cannot find the camping ground using their GPS either.  Hopefully a better nights sleep and tomorrow we will get settled somewhere early in the day, otherwise Italy will be off my Christmas card list!

20 October

Up early after a surprisingly good nights sleep, and underway before 7am.  We have decided to go to a camp site in Castellato Sopra Ticino which is only about 40 minutes away and still reasonably close to Malpensa Airport.  This campsite we have found in a couple of books (and it is open all year round, as some places close the end of September for the winter) so we enter the address in the GPS. We arrive at just on 8am, just as the owner is about to leave to take her daughter to school.  Amazingly the owner even speaks English which really helps us.  She warmly welcomes us, and gets someone to show us where to park, we can complete our documentation in detail later.  As an aside we have not had to surrender our passport at any of the camping grounds we have entered, we have managed to use Roy’s New Zealand driving licence as proof of identity at all of the grounds so far.  What a relief to finally arrive somewhere welcoming.

It is a beautiful camp site right on the edge of Lake Maggiore,  we arrive in the mist which soon burns off to reveal a wonderful day as well as a very picturesque view.

across from camp

We are quickly settled, found the washing machines and put on the first load, and get all the info we need from the owner.  After the washing is dealt to, we are told that it is market day across the lake in Sesto Callende and it is around a 2.5km walk there.  Off we trot, the distance is not the worry in this instance, it is the fact that there is no footpath or when there is a footpath, it is occupied by parked vehicles!  So we end up walking along the road, remember what I said previously about Italian drivers?  they take absolutely no heed of any road markings, and sometimes ignore traffic lights! I mean, so what if the light is red, there is no traffic coming so lets go!  This occurred earlier in the day at some roadworks where the road was down to one lane and controlled by lights, As soon as the drivers behind saw that there were no cars coming the other way they tooted at the car in the front of the queue to get going irrespective of the fact that the light was red!!!  (no we were not the lead vehicle).  We make it into town promising ourselves a taxi ride back. 

The bridge across the lake is an iron girder structure with the walking path  on the outside.  What cannot be seen in this photo is that the bridge also has the railway being carried below the the road, so the old South Island bridges are not as outdated as may be thought..

crossing the lake 

up lakeView from bridge along the lake

We hit the market just towards its conclusion.  It seemed to be more clothing and accessories rather than food,  with most of the vendors the itinerant types who travel form market to market. We still say that one of the best markets we have visited is the small but truly local market we went to in Viuz-en-Sallaz with Rach the other day. 

What was interesting though was the way that the vans are packed away.  Here are a series of photos showing the process of reducing a 2.5 metre awning on three sides a a van the size of a large VW combi.

fold 10 The awning before folding after all of the stalls and wares have been packed.  Note the tables folded and hooked on the rear exterior.

fold 9Engine started to provide hydraulic power.  The nearest end is folding around to the front. 

fold 8 As it comes round the guy is straightening the folds of the awning (heavy plastic).

fold 7Still coming around

fold 6 Near half is now folded in.

fold 5 Far half same procedure

fold 4 Both halves folded in now the lower part of the box starts to fold up to enclose the awning.

fold 3 Bottom folded up enclosing awning

fold 1 Now the whole thing folds over on to the top of the van and will finally lie flat on the top.  All completed in less than five minutes.

There were a number of 3 to 4 metre dinghies tied up to the edge of the lake in  the town.  The interesting fact was that they were protected from the elements and the birds by having specially built galvanised iron folding covers.  These were obviously custom made as can be seen from the individual style of these two.  The boats themselves were either wooden or fibreglass.


Some people got to rest and drink coffee beside the lake!!!


We ended up not achieving much in the town as there was no Internet anywhere, and of course everything shuts down between 12 and 3, so off to catch a cab to return.  We are told that the only place to catch a taxi is at the train station, so we set off to the station, which we did find, but no taxis. We ask a bus driver if we can catch a bus back, yes we can but not his bus and not from the station, we have to go somewhere else.  At this stage, we decide to hell with this, we will just walk back and brave the traffic!

Back safely at the camp, washing sorted, dinner underway and discussions held with owners regarding our next move. 

evening campEvening sets in

Finally a couple of signs seen in the town of Sesto Calende

dante 1

dante 2

A better impression of Italy after today, it can only get better still from here on in.


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