I’m completely dumbfounded about how to even launch this piece – so much has befallen us in the last 24 hours that I’m not sure where to begin.
Be reassured, Dear Reader, nothing untoward has occurred, but yesterday evening, I began a mundane (and subsequently aborted) piece which basically recounted our evening in Alba; our trip to our first ‘farm-stay’ in the most unimaginably beautiful and serene location perched on a ‘colle’ in amidst impossibly sloping vineyards; our in-van dining experience; a (free) bottle of wine from our host vineyard – and yes, sadly, almost incessant pissing rain.
Rain which – despite our idyllic, bucolic surroundings – was overfilling many of Emilia Romana’s rivers to generate international news stories of extensive flooding, evacuations and even deaths in the region through which we were passing.
Not that we had any specific plans, but our vague direction of travel towards the eastern Adriatic coast of Italy was now confounded by a pre-selected campsite at Bologna being underwater, as well as the increasingly frenetic news reports of major flooding everywhere east of our current position.
On the bright side, that’s almost the entire raison d’etre of a Knumptywagen, so in it we sat over coffee, Earl Grey, maps and bowls of granola to reroute our vague travel plans. Parma was close. We should do Parma and at the very least find some prosciutto.
So in we trolled, parked up and wandered into the centre, (sporting a very gay umbrella which hadn’t seen active service since middle-daughter’s wedding) to visit the sights and seek out a restaurant recommended by a near-relative who’d lived in Parma and knew where to send us.
In our headlong enthusiasm for all-things-Stanley, we’d naively overlooked the indifference which can sometimes be shown by Italian waiting-staff. Having been seated at a thankfully covered pavement table in a charming Parma side-street, and having ordered our bottle of still water, we were absolutely and universally ignored by ‘our’ waiter. We perused an impenetrable luncheon menu (which even confounded Google Translate) and – after a increasingly frustrating 15 minutes where eye-contact was definitely not being served – we gathered our belongings and walked out again – to thankfully find an unassuming takeaway sandwich shop where we couldn’t have been treated better. Grazie mille.
A campsite allegedly close to Modena had proffered availability for the night but as we approached, our hearts sank to find its location was sandwiched in a patch of indifferent scrubland between a truck-park and two autostradas. We were, however, aghast yet perversely entertained to note a plethora of British numberplates, many belonging to caravans which looked as if they’d pitched for a fortnight, God help them. From over a green-fabric perimeter fence, continuous hooting from Italian truckers seemingly stuck behind yet more hapless Brits in the wrong toll-booth lanes was clearly going to be our soundtrack for the night.
Just beyond the muddied gates of International Camping Modena, there was an inauspicious ‘Ristorante Turismo’ – probably best described as a ‘roadhouse’ in the American genre, which looked closed, miserable and massively avoidable when we recced it in the late afternoon. “Open at 7pm” proclaimed the yellowing sign in a murky door, and so we resolved (Lord alone knows why) to check it out thereafter – both of us fully disbelieving that it would be open at all.
Well. Neither of us could recall having eaten out so well in a long time. Steaks were cooked to perfection; delightful green salads as accompaniments; olive-oil, balsamic vinegar and chilli-oil on each table. A carafe of wine. Tiramisu to die for. Sensible prices. The place was rammed. Truckers rubbed shoulders with families, singles, Germans, Dutch (in wooden clogs, really), Italians, Us – the evening confounded all our expectations and Stanley would do well to add it into Series Three, please-take-note.
And with our newly-derived Flood Avoidance Plan now firmly engineered, we’ll wake up sharpish tomorrow; retrace our route to Parma (sadly sans any souvenir Modena Balsamic vinegar), turn left and head for the comparative safety of the Mediterranean coast at La Spezia – and a possible sojourn by the sea.
Gotta love a Knumptywagen!
Reluctantly dependent was the phrase joe so aptly coined after visiting Italy and eating out in many a mediocre establishment.
Turns out, also in Spain.