The Engineer and I set off from a sunny Manarolo, past the winding hills and cliffs of Cinque Terre. This was absolutely stunning – we could see sparkling blue water as far as the eye could see, and then the tiny villages of Vernazze, Corniglia, and Monterosso far below – making them appear like teeny towns made up of jujubes and cupcakes.
I couldn’t really look though because I was driving and the road narrow and winding. The Engineer told me to honk when I approached a bend to warn oncoming cars. I took to tooting my horn almost all the time, warranting strange looks from passing vehicles.
Better to be safe than sorry right?
Then three hours to Barolo. Upon arrival, we sadly found out that the hot air balloon ride we had booked was cancelled due to weather – they were expecting a wind and rain front. I looked up at the clear blue sky and cursed it.
I decided to at least check out the tiny village and very cool looking castle. To add disappointment to an already disappointing day, the castle was closed due to refurbishment (I think – the narrow streets were filled with construction sites complete with hollering Italian men who watched me scramble up a pile of sand to reach the castle door). In fact, the whole town seemed to be closed for refurbishment. And what wasn’t closed for construction was simply closed. I looked at my watch. Of course, magic Italy time of THE AFTERNOON.
I got back into the car, with the sleeping Engineer, and made an executive decision. What does one do when Italian plans fall through, nothing is open and there is no way of finding our bed and breakfast? Go to France.
Another three-hour drive, this time one big guess and 40 Euros in toll roads, took us back down to the coast and the port from which to leave Italy (on the way it did start to rain, and the countryside wasn’t ideal for looking upon from a hot air balloon – so my disappointment was mollified).
Unfortunately we had no map.
I only knew that our car rental place was supposedly near the rail station. After a half hour of crawling traffic and weird roundabouts, we located the station.
But Avis was nowhere nearby. Thanks to some taxi drivers, we think we figured it out.
After nearly two hours of driving in circles (including a narrow road in which I scraped the passenger side of the car and cursed Italy), asking directions numerous times, we FINALLY located Avis. It only had its name on one side of the sign. So we had been passing it over and over again, but reading the wrong side of the sign. Only in Italy.
Luckily for me, there was already a scrape on the passenger side so she didn’t notice when she checked us in. Score one Sarah!
By this time, our hopes of jumping on a train to Nice were dashed and we were sentenced to a night in this weird beach town.
However, a calming walk and some gelato warmed my heart again and I came to terms with the fact that the day wasn’t really wasted. I saw lots of Italian countryside and got one more night of eating gelato.
Gelato, I have learned, makes everything better.