Wednesday was a very full day. After a good night's sleep at the Taylor's, and brotchens (rolls) for breakfast, we said goodbye and set off for Ortonovo, Italy. We had no problem filling up with diesel fuel at a station near the Taylor's house.
I then made a mistake and took the wrong turn onto the autobahn and promptly ran into a stau (traffic jam). This added about an hour to our day, basically stopped on the highest speed highway in the world. We got turned around near the Ramstein airbase and then headed the correct direction towards Italy. We set the GPS and had no problems with directions for most of the rest of the day.
We had a lunch of goulash soup at the last rest stop in Germany before entering Switzerland. The soup and brotchens were very good and brought back memories of our years living in Germany. One thing new was the ticket we had to buy to use the restroom, 70 euro cents but then 50 cents of the ticket could be used in the shop. Another thing new since we lived in Germany is the growth in the number of areas on the autobahn with speed limits. They now have many overhead electronic signs that they can use to set different speed limits based on traffic flow.
The entry into Switzerland required the purchase of a sticker to put on our windshield that allows us to use their highways. It is good for the year, so it is better than the French and Italian toll system.
Our travel through Switzerland was pretty uneventful. Many beautiful vistas and many tunnels, including the Goddard tunnel which is 17 KM, over 10 miles long. That country is so clean and well organized - a good rest before the chaos of driving in Italy.
The travel thru Italy was tiring and feeling like we were a slow moving pylon in the way of the Italian drivers. The speed limits seem to be a slight suggestion for them and maybe a minimum speed. But everything we have read says to not speed and get sent tickets based on pictures from the numerous cameras we passed. The GPS would beep and supposedly warn us of the camera positions, but many times we never saw a camera and the Italian drivers certainly did not slow down.
We had one instance of making a couple of Italian drivers mad at the French (our car has French license plates) at a toll both. I picked the toll lane with automatic money entry. But then we had a problem understanding how much it needed. We ended up throwing all of our euro coins into the hopper, but that was not enough. Finally, I put in a 5 euro note and it gave us over 4 euro coins in change so I guess we were close in our estimation of the cost and the amount of coins we threw into the hopper. No one honked or threw anything at us, but the expression on the drivers' faces in the cars in the lane behind us was not one of love.
Our last few miles to Nicola were stressful, trying to read the directions that Joe Kohler had provided compared with what we were seeing in the dark. We finally determined that we had entered the area on a different autostrada from the directions and needed to get back on the autostrada and exit where the directions started. Then we were okay except for the width of the roads and the agressivenness of the Italian drivers when it did not seem like two cars could actually fit at the same time on the road.
The road up the hill to Nicola was as Joe had described it - narrow. It appears like a path for walking or a very narrow one lane road. Luckily for us it was late, after 10 PM, so there were no cars coming down the hill as we were working our way around the tight turns on the way up. We found the parking area and a parking spot. Even though we had not yet found the house, we were relieved to be able to get out of the car.
We grabbed a few things and set off in the dark looking for any path to the house. We knew the house was on the plaza near the church which is always on the highest point in these hill towns, so we took every turn that went uphill. We came out next to the church and knew that we had found the house. We opened the door and turned on some lights and made a quick tour of the house. It's a very nice place to visit and a great place to be for almost three weeks.
Back down the hill we went to the car to get all our stuff. Chris had loaned us a folding two-wheeler which we used to save our backs and limit the number of trips. Laura had suggested her backpack as my suitcase and it was a good idea as I could wear the backpack while pulling, bouncing, the cart over the cobblestones as we made our way up the paths. We made three trips and had everything out of the car and into the house. We went to bed tired but happy to be 'home'. We are thankful we spent nearly four months at bike spinning classes, as much huffing and puffing was involved during the luggage moving exercise.
Now the real vacation can begin.