Saturday August 29th We arrived in Mirandola, in the province of Modena, late in the afternoon. On 29 May 2012, a powerful earthquake of 5.8 magnitude hit the Mirandola area. It killed at least 17 people and collapsed churches and factories. Also 200 were injured and it left 14,000 people homeless. There are still many buildings cordoned off, and many with scaffolding and repairs still happening.
Our Hotel was on the outskirts of town and we had a gorgeous view across farm fields and a small creek from our window. We drove into town for dinner and stumbled across a charity fundraiser in the town centre for the beautiful church which was almost destroyed in the earthquake. There are only a couple of the beautiful stone walls standing, one including a gorgeous coloured glass window, and they are supported by numerous scaffolding supports. For 10 Euro we got a tray with local Prosciutto, local cheese, a hot pastry type bread, cakes and the sweetest rockmelon I have ever tasted. It also came with a bottle of water and complimentary red wine! We sat with the locals and although we could not communicate – apart from smiles and gestures, as no one spoke English – we had a very nice time and were glad to be contributing to the rebuild of the beautiful old church.
They also had a live band playing so we wandered around and listened to that for a while and then succumbed to an Italian Gelato! Absolutely delicious – Robbie had Pistachio and I had Coconut. It was for sure the best and creamiest ice cream I have ever had.
Sunday August 30th
we headed off to Venice. No cars or roads in Venice – just canals and boats, so as soon as you drive over the bridge we were directed into a car park. This was a bit disconcerting as we had to leave it unlocked and with the keys in it, which didn’t sit well with either of us but that was the deal. Because all the cars are smallish, they have 2 parked longways in each carpark and its 30 euro a day. We caught the water bus through the Grand Canal which snakes it way through Venice, to our Hotel the Duodo Palace. The Grand Canal is just teeming with water taxis, water buses, (ferries) Gondola’s and private charter taxi boats. The water is very murky and like a washing machine from all the boat movements. There are numerous ferry stops along the way and ours was San Marco. With the help of our iPad and Google maps we found our Hotel amongst the maze of narrow streets, without too much drama. It was close to St Mark’s Square and the Piazza San Marco, a tall tower that looks to be leaning. There were 4 cruise ships in Port, so the streets were also teeming with people.
Venice is romantic, and unique, very old, it has a special feel about it and you really have to see it. Photos do not do it any justice. How these buildings survive amazes us, and a number of them appear to be crumbling and falling apart. We enjoy old buildings but are not really into Museums and history too much. We had a very enjoyable 2 days wandering around, getting lost amongst all the maze of narrow streets and beautiful old buildings and getting found again. We did a boat tour from the Hotel, just the two of us for an hour which was very pleasant through the canals, the old part of Venice and around the outside of the island.
We got off in St Mark’s Square where Robbie brought me half a dozen long stem roses – Bravo!!! He also was brave enough to have the pigeons feeding off him, not me though! We brought our first real oil painting direct from the artist, a gorgeous picture of the Piazza Sam Marco and a Venice Canal and also a genuine Venetian Mask for the wall when we buy another house!
Tuesday September 1st
we farewelled Venice after some fun travelling the wrong way on the water bus and found the carpark again and headed off for a country fix. We ended up at the Country House Santa Felicita La Paterna and this was just what we needed! Firstly the drive through the countryside was truly magnificent! The region of Umbria is the only Italian region not bordered by sea or another country. It is also known as the “Sea of Green”, and it truly is. Beautiful fields of crops including many Vineyards, Sunflowers, Corn, and Tobacco but to name a few. It is rolling hills and deep valleys with beautiful trees of many varieties.
The place we stayed at was so remote we had to get directions as our GPS couldn’t locate it. We drove to a tiny place called Titta, and then about 6 kilometres on a sealed road and then a few kilometres on a gravel road, and then – there is this XII Century stone Villa and farm house that sits atop a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys. It has been restored and furnished with gorgeous old antiques and the ambience is amazing. We were greeted as we got out of the car by the Eleanor and looked after so well. We had a swim in the pool and a wander around the grounds, we found an apple tree full of apples, and an old vineyard complete with grapes and a wild blackberry bush. The chef Mauricio introduced himself and he cooked us a stunning dinner, which of course we had to have a bottle of local wine with. It was so peaceful and quiet, we both wished we were staying for longer than one night. We would highly recommend this Farm Stay but stay more than one night!
Wednesday September 2nd After a leisurely breakfast and relaxing morning we set off back to Rome. This time we did not hit the “Avoid motorways” tab on the GPS and we drove all the way back on the motorways arriving back to Ostia Lido around 3:00pm where we found a Carrefour (French supermarket) and did a big shop to restock the boat. Peter and Heidi arrive back tomorrow night from their Germany trip and hopefully we will be able to collect our life-raft from its service, and a few other minor parts and be on our way to Corsica – an island of France, in the next few days.