Saturday, July 7, 2007


After cleaning up the cottage and packing up we made a fairly late start to drive to Padua (called Padova locally). I wasn't able to get in touch with the owner/manager of the cottage and no-one turned up to take our money so I left a note with the keys in the letter box with my mobile phone number.

Once again the Appenines provided great scenery on the road from Assissi to Bologna where we made a stop. Most of the way we were on the Autostrada. These connect the major cities of Italy and are tolled. The speed limit signs are there to be broken I reckon. I was doing up to 169k kmh and still I was being overtaken. I did overtake a Porsche though. They also have very slow vehicles on the Autostrada so it is quite an intense experience. It is a quite a mountainous area we were driving through so there were lots of long tunnels - different from Aussie toll roads like the Sydney-Newcastle freeway where they blast great gashes through the mountains instead. However the pit stops are very similar as you can see in the photo.

When Charles and I did our tour of Italy by train when Dannii was a toddler, I remember we took a stop in Bologna and I was quite impressed with the old university area. Unfortunately I wasn't well prepared with maps or anything and we didin't find an open tourist information centre. Using a map we got from a shopkeeper the boys walked to the area where the university was marked on the map but I don't think it was the original buildings from medieval times which I had seen before. One thing I've noticed in Italy this time is an obsession with Nutella that I didn't notice before. There was even a Nutella restaurant serving Nutella with crepes, sandwiches, pizzas etc.

Another good hotel! We have been lucky so far with accommodations, except for the one night in London. It is called Al Fagiano and the concierge we found on the desk who is called Alfred was the most amazingly efficient and helpful I have come across ever in Italy. He is really a character. The hotel had been refurbished less than a year ago and I really liked the decor. The room we had was quite large and the bathroom roomy as well. It has a queen bed and two singles, like most of the rooms we have been getting. When one books a quadruple room it doesn't mean there are actually 4 beds. In each case when I was booking I always made a point of letting them know we were not a standard family group and there were no couples amongst us. Chris always had his own bed. Ricky slept with me once but after that one experience convinced Darcy to share the queen bed with him whenever that was necessary.

I shooed the boys out after we settled in as I badly needed to sleep. They went pub hunting. After a nap I went and sat by myself in a piazza where there was live music and observed the mostly young crowd enjoying themselves. They all seem so sociable - it is part of the Italian tradition I suppose and I never saw any drunken rowdiness in spite of the fact that they don't seem to bother about age restrictions serving alcohol. Ricky and Darcy certainly were never asked how old they were. I joined up with them later in the evening to make sure they all got back to the hotel okay. They were a merry lot!

I like the feel of Padua. It certainly has quite a lot to offer the tourist but it is not swamped by them and the majority of the people out and about in cafes, restaurant and bars in the evening are locals. By now I was feeling much more comfortable with the language and although still very much a beginner I felt I could communicate and that always adds a different dimension to being in another country, especially Italy where away from the most heavy tourist areas many people serving in shops, cafes, driving buses etc don't speak English. The boys were feeling a bit cut-off I think because of that. I wish I had been more successful in getting my sons to learn another language at school but the system conspired against me as they never had proper language teachers in primary school and at high school it was not made compulsory.

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