When we started thinking and talking about travelling, one of the things that really interested us was meeting people from other countries and cultures and forming friendships as we went. It was something that really appealed, but it wasn’t really something I was expecting that we would successfully do: We admittedly aren’t extremely social, and we couldn’t really imagine doing things like visiting pubs and cafes and striking up conversations.
The reality of it has been quite different though: Somehow we seem to have made more connections with people than when we were back in Australia! A combination of being more outdoorsey, and having more time to devote to social networking has introduced us to lots of fantastic new people, and some very strong new friendships.
I met Andrea through my iPhone app Loopy — he got in touch after giving it a go, and we got talking. He lives in Padua with his partner Silvia, and next on our itinerary was to go and visit them.
So, we left Poggibonsi and headed north up through Tuscany. This was one of our most beautiful drives so far, through stunning emerald-coloured countryside, all vines and olive trees, cute little terracotta-roofed villas and startlingly blue lakes. We passed straight through Florence (to our surprise — I hadn’t inspected our route in advance), passing right by the place we stayed last time we were in Tuscany. Of course, as is our way, we passed through right on peak-hour, so it was a slow plod through the city. We pushed on the other side, and wound our way up into the mountains.
We discovered the most beautiful wildcamp location (last photo above), but we hadn’t really fulfilled our 3 hour driving quota for the day, and pressed on; we started keeping an eye out for a place to stop about half an hour later, and utterly failed for the following several hours. We felt a little despair when we turned onto an autostrada that reminded us both of the concrete forest that was Seoul, and eventually pulled over by the road and very successfully found ourselves a decent spot off the road 10 minutes away using Google Earth. What a great tool for wildcamping!
The next day we made it to Padova and moved into our new site for the week, in Monselice by the canal. The town was very pretty, and we were pleasantly surprised by our new surroundings, expecting a bit of a “suburban wasteland”, as we two snooty hills-dwellers put it.
After talking to various people, I’d formed an image in my head of Northern Italy as something of an endless suburb, but it was much greener and more relaxed than I’d pictured, to my relief. What’s more, we were thrilled to get our first glimpses of scarlet fields full of poppies!
We got in touch with Andrea and Silvia, and they came to pick us up and take us out to a restaurant with their friends. If it wasn’t clear already, when we met them it became clear pretty quickly that we were going to get along with them very well — these were definitely ‘our people’.
Having not worn or owned any makeup since the beginning of our travels, Katherine took the opportunity to get her girl on. Although not usually big on the hair and make-up thing, she rather enjoyed not looking like the un-groomed, polar-fleece wearing vagabond that she usually does – her words, not mine (I would, in fact, say she’s a damn fine looking vagabond, but she wouldn’t believe me).
The restaurant we headed to was one that had been recommended to Andrea and Silvia, and we were to be introduced to ‘bigoli’, one of the local specialties, a thick egg-based pasta. It’s called ‘bigui’ in the Venetian dialect, which had become a bit of an in-joke after Andrea and some friends had mentioned on Twitter that they were going to introduce us to it, and I misinterpreted it as a software development tool of some kind (‘ui’ as in User Interface).
We filed in and were soon joined by the others, two other couples and a third couple with their adorable little daughter. I was struck by how many of us were musicians and programmers! Always a good sign; there’s something about people who’ve been involved in music. We greatly enjoyed their company, and they were kind enough to do lots of translating for us when the bulk of the conversation turned Italian (we still regretted not putting more effort into learning more, though! We shall for next time).
There was much laughter and good company, and some great pasta with quite spectacular sauce, that we’re forever going to be trying to replicate (we think it was the best pasta we’ve ever tasted).