23rd Aug: Arrivals & navigation nightmares

August 23, 2008

P1010176.JPG130 Km driven, driver stress moderate

Zero photographs taken

Food poor

Picture: View from the villa door

Last year I reported daily on a two week trip around California/Nevarda with my son Huw and managed to post daily. This year’s holiday was a week in Italy, with Huw again and my wife Sheila. There were more problems with time and internet connections this year, so I am in effect publishing the blogs retrospectively, for which apologies. The main goal on this trip was Pompeii and Herculaneum which to my shame I had not visited before. Huw had been on a school trip earlier in the year and was determined to act as expert guide. An internet search found the Villa del Pinto near Sorrento which was free for four days at a reasonable rate and well placed for tourism. Expedia found flights via Paris and we were all set

Now I had spent the previous days in California, arrived home on Friday in the early evening knowing we had to leave the house at five AM to make the flight. For reasons unknown (still) Sheila set the alarm for 0230 but we made it. Paris CdeG is one of my least favorite airports and an appalling design for a two hour layover, but we made it to Naples and picked up the hire car. Now driving in Italy is never my favorite experience, there is an ambiguity between rules and practice which is hazardous at best. It took six minutes and three eight point turns to extract the car from the lot, and it was a small car. Shortly afterwards thanks to the navigational skill of my A grade in Geography son we are heading for Rome not Sorrento! Not too stressful, its the afternoon and the roads are peaceful so I leave the autostrada and navigate by instinct using the bulk of Vesuvius as a landmark. Twenty minutes later we are finally winging our way south on the A1.

After this the navigation picks up and we find our way to the general location of the villa. The preparation for this has been stereotypically italian. Having paid a deposit and spoken to the owner he simply points to the google map on the web site and says someone will be there. We arrive in the general location and there are no signs or indications and three small roads all of which could be location. We go up them all and no Villa del Punto, not only that but no reply on the previously used phone number for the owner. I am beginning to panic, maybe buying form the internet was a bad idea. Finally I find an old man on a motor scouter who does not speak English, does not know where the villa is, but makes me understand by sign language that the owner of the ladies underwear shop (one of only two shops in this village) may know. The Italians and the Welsh share are ability to communicate by extensive use of arm signals (we evolved for charades) but I leave the exact gestures to your imagination. I find the owner, who in turn takes me outside to a small drive way with a barred gate and gestures up the hill. How to get through the gate? Well one of the names on the list of owners has one surname in common so I press the bell and attempt to communicate in poor italian. Magically the gate opens, we drive up and a gesticulating elderly gentleman flags us into a landing. We were there!

I’ve always noticed this about Italy, the secret is to relax and things will work themselves out. If you want them to be organised in advance forget it, it won’t happen. The villa was excellent (strongly recommended), we had it for four days but now we have a problem namely food. No problem I think, lets drive into Sorrento park in the centre an find somewhere overlooking the sea. ninety minutes later having driven round and round narrow streets (twice illegally) we find somewhere to park (illegally), dash into the nearest location for mediocre service and food and return to an argument about the illegal parking which is finally resolved by dint of my claiming that the police had told us we could park there (which was almost true).

Finally back at the villa, I slept …

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