Searching For Stanley

If you haven’t yet come across Stanley Tucci, American-Italian actor, director, writer, presenter, amateur chef and Londoner, you’d best strap-in because you’re about to become acquainted.

His recent BBC TV series, Searching for Italy, is a sumptuous foody tour of Italy’s 20 regions, from Piedmont in the north, where the country’s thickest bit (geographically speaking) melds itself to France and Switzerland, borders with Germany, Liechenstein, Austria and Slovenia and then heads all the way down to the Puglian heel and across to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia. 

And we had a Knumptywagen lying idle. 

Our plan? We didn’t really have one. We thought we’d try to retrace at least some of Stanley’s visits to various Italian eateries, necessitating a repeat-wallow in his TV series on iPlayer, ostensibly to make notes of those locations but instead discovering that a fellow-blogger – one Melanie Renzulli (guising as italofile.com) – had already done all the leg-work. 

Your humble author had also recently enjoyed an exceptional evening in His company at Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall, no less, where Stanley delivered an amusingly entertaining chat with friend and fellow actor Hayley Atwell live on stage. Admittedly, it might have been a slightly oversized venue for such a performance, but an audience of 4,000 people didn’t diminish the sense of intimacy and insight into a life less ordinary and my thanks must be extended, as always, to generous and hospitable family members who made the outing possible (and to whom I dedicate this newly emergent return to Knumptydom.)

So now a tunnel crossing is booked; France will be gently traversed in the general direction of Nice where we hope to turn left; negotiate a sunny and reassuringly expensive Cote d’Azur and penetrate our objective through Menton on the coastal border. 

Once in Italy, our world will hopefully become our very own edible marine bivalve and we shall trundle semi-aimlessly along meandering coastlines; through sun-warmed olive groves and vineyards; visit artful cities and mediaeval walls; beaches; markets; galleries; rolling countryside and witness speleothems of backlit poplars spiking our distant horizons. 

There is, however, a developing navigational plot that an approach from Lyon towards Turin may be a better tactic, leading us through Bra (oh joy!); Alba; Alessandria and Piacenza towards Parma, Modena and Bologna to the Adriatic coast at Rimini, then backtracking through Florence to Pisa and up the Mediterranean seaboard via Genoa as we head for home again. And therein lies the true beauty of Knumptydom – we can decide where and how we go, as we go, and do as much or as little as we damn well please. 

Advance preparations for the trip? Well, your optimistic author signed up for a beginner’s course in conversational Italian – 10 live online lessons which simply reminded me that I had aptitude for neither educational retention nor any language-skills beyond my native own. My long-suffering tutor, Mariagrazia, (at languageforfun.org) bore my ineptitude with startling patience and forza d’animo (look it up, I’m afraid I had to) although I can now greet her proficiently when we meet. In English, mostly. 

We studied roadmaps and a charity-shop Italian Guide Book from 2019, with neither any great dedication or seriousness. We also signed up to what we hope will become our ‘go-to’ destination management services: Agricamper Italy and ACSI Europe, the former of which provides guidance to rural enterprises such as farms and vineyards, where we can park-up overnight in exchange for a purchase or two of whatever local produce they may be producing. The latter is an almost internationally recognised camping club card, affording us discounted rates at campsites across Europe, providing we visit in the ‘off’ season, which we thankfully are. 

Local mobile motorhome electrician Gary (chaservelectrics.co.uk) was summoned to the premises to install a new reversing (and secretly-Stanley-seeking) camera which he did with alacrity, skill, fortitude, professionalism and good humour (that’s him you see seeking Stanley both atop and beneath the Knumptywagen!) 

So here we go. Bikes are strapped, gas canisters are full, fridge is on and our much-used Checklist has more ticks than a rabid dog. Please feel free to follow our journey and yeah, well, wish us buon viaggio

Author’s Note: Apart from the above vague attempt to include a handful of ‘useful links’ (which deliberately aren’t live – don’t want you wandering off down other people’s rabbit holes while you’re supposed to be paying attention), do please enjoy that I’ve held off attempting to ‘monetise’ this site. It may be an age-related thing but I really can’t hack all those bloody ads popping up (especially the ones designed to look like the article, so you continually fall prey to click-bait!) I mean, don’t get me started but for the sake of a few cents, is it really worth the distraction? (Rant ends.)

15 comments

  1. I’m so excited for you on your upcoming Tucci revival !! Keep writing! It’s ALWAYS a joy to read about you and your navigator’s travels 😄 Bring back some fun recipes, exceptional balsamic from Moderna and sublime olive oil 👍🏼😜

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  2. Delighted to read the that the Knumpty travellers are on the move agains and hope all is going well as you motor through France, later to make a decision on reaching Lyon whether to go to the Côte d’Azur or cut across to Italy through the Alps. Look forward to reading the next instalment

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    • Thanks Iain – we opted for the Alps and have just emerged from the Frejus tunnel into alpine Italy – where there is still a frosting of snow – thankfully well above us!

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  3. Love this “excuse” for the start of another wonderful adventure for the Knumpty travellers. Looking forward to reading all about it and the possibility of you finding Stanley – he’s one of my favourites.
    Happy Travels.
    (Appreciate your aversion to pop ups and click bait links)

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  4. Enjoy your swing through France and Italy, and continue to entertain us. One of our daughters and son-in-law have an (older) Knumptywagon. Look forward to more despatches from the Continent.

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  5. Great looking forward to some Italian phrases intermingled with your native brogue.
    Gonna share you with the “outlaws” I think they will enjoy.. 😘😘

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  6. A great prospect Andy and look forward to the updates. Totally impressed with “speleothems”which bodes well for the undoubted erudition of future contributions! Somehow knew you would be travelling through Bra and a letter I uncovered recently which you sent me in 1976 when I was in the States (yes we are that old!) explains all. Looking forward to following your adventures and all the best to Knumptywagon and crew!

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