We have been very lazy on the blog post lately. I thought I’d just compile a few key things that we’ve been up to since the French Alps.
Our stay in Italy was a short one. We stayed in Turino for a couple of nights in the city and then just outside the city where we camped. First thing both of us had noticed was that the people love to stare, even if we had our bikes or not. Maybe it was my hair?? I found it nearly impossible to read them. They would look at us, without blinking as if we were having a staring competition, and then to break the ice, Eb or I would say Buongiorno or Ciao and they would either say it back to us with a smile or just ignore and talk Italian to whoever there with but still looking at us. It drove me mad!
Whilst staying on the campsite, I had organised another place for us to stay which was 85kms from us. I had organised it via Warm Showers. If you haven’t heard of Warm showers, it’s kind of like Couch Surfing, if you haven’t heard of Couch surfing, I’ll give you a quick run through. Couch Surfing is a website where people all over the world make profiles online and basically, you can offer your couch (spare bed, or even the floor) to travellers, to stay for a night or two and it’s for free! Usually the people who are hosting have travelled before, so it makes for great conversations and it’s a great way to meet people, plus it’s free! Warm Showers is exactly that, but strictly for cyclists, which is even better for us as the host has a general idea of the needs a cycle tourist has, e.g storage for the bikes, where the nearest bike shop is, grocery stores, cycle routes etc.
So I had some back and forth emailing with a girl called Monica who agreed to let us stay for 2 nights. She lived 85kms from where we were. I don’t know if you remember from our latest post, but we hadn’t hit those kind of kms in a long time, due to being in the French Alps. Monica had told us to arrive any time after 7pm. We weren’t too sure what time we should have left and we don’t rely on estimated times by google maps anymore. You would think that we would have left early in the morning to get a good head start to the day, nope, instead we decided to wait for the gelato factory across the street to open which was 11am. We’d made our move by 12pm and headed back through Turino city and towards Monica’s, hitting little towns in between. We rode on cycle paths when presented, but most of the time we were on the road. We had noticed quickly that the Italian drivers weren’t as friendly as the French are, though we did get some beeps and a thumbs up by one guy. They drove a lot closer to what we were used to. It was scary at first, but I think we adjusted to it ok. We actually smashed it that day on the bike. It was so flat everywhere we went, that we had to kill time at a park. We probably could have arrived at 5:30 – 6:00 but dragged it out till 7pm on the dot.
We were greeted by Monica and her friendly dog, Bea. It was a mansion of a place, situated on the top of a hill in pretty little town called Terruggia. She was staying by herself as family members were away. Monica is a cool chick, I’m not too sure how old she was because we forgot to ask her, but I’d guess mid 30’s, judging by how many years she had travelled. She didn’t look it though, you could have mistaken her for early 20’s. She lived in New Zealand for 5 years and the UK for 8 years. She works as a freelance web/graphic designer. It was funny because I had asked her if she had toured by bike (because we had organised this through Warm Showers) and she laughed and said no. She has a Couch Surfing account as well as a Warmshowers account so she could meet people. We shared dinner together and had great conversations going late into the night. One night she took us to a really nice outdoor bar which had an awesome look out with groovy music. Once again having great conversations but our night ended early due to the mosquitos being so savage. Honestly, the mosquitos are everywhere in northern Italy. There are rice plantations and it’s very humid there, so every night at about 7pm the mosquitos came out to play. It was a short but sweet stay with Monica.
Our next stop was a campsite not far from Malpensa airport. There are nowhere near enough campsites in Italy, as there were in France. It was really hot in Italy, similar to SE Asia heat, humid and sweaty. We made it to our campsite and set up camp. Luckily this site had a pool, though we still couldn’t escape the mozzies. I love camping as it is a cheap alternative to staying in hostels/hotels, plus it’s good to be In touch with nature… and cooking your own meals is cheaper than eating out. There’s a German supermarket chain in Europe called Lidl. It’s the bomb. The prices are so low which helps us save money (as well as having a bakery inside it too). If we’re ever missing, you could probably find us in a Lidl store. The down side to camping for me is the heat. It is near impossible to get sleep in the heat. For some reason Eb can cope better than me.
So far from the countries we have visited, I’d have to say that the Italians were the least friendly. Although it’s not fair for me to generalize when we only had a short time in Italy. We’d try to connect with people on the campsite but didn’t get much back from them. On one night, the campsite had a private event, but campers on site were invited. A birthday party was being held in the pool area. The pool area was cool, kind of like a day/night club. Anyways they hired a DJ, rappers, comedian and an outdoor bar. We weren’t too keen to go until a bartender had seen us and introduced himself to us Andy and invited us to the event which was a really nice gesture as we weren’t feeling much love from the locals. We went along and he hung out with us the whole night unless he was busy behind the bar. He was amazed at our travels, he would translate our story in Italian to other people at the bar and finally we started getting a bit of love from the locals. I think the alcohol helped them a bit as they admitted that they are shy using their English. Everyone was paying for their drinks, we were paying for ours at the start, but as the night grew and we became friends with Andy, he started giving us drinks for free. He was a passionate bartender who had been in the trade for years and he made us some wicked cocktails. It was a fun night. We had drinks, listened to loud music and even polished the D floor a little.
The next day we were hanging by the pool soaking up some sun. Not as much as the Italians though. When Eb and I would hang by the pool the first thing we’d look for was shade. The Italians were the opposite. We’d slip slop slap sun block on to us and they’d do the same, but with coconut oil. In Australia there’s a lot of promotion for protecting your skin. I don’t think Italy got the memo. The children would spend 8 hours or so in the pool and not one of them had a hat or sun screen applied and they were so dark. The women (grandmas) were the worst. They’d be there first in the morning and leave last. They had skin that looked like my brown leather wallet. It was like a competition between them on who could be the darkest. Oh, and they would sunbake topless which really hurt my eyes (someone think of the children).
As we were hanging out by the pool, a man and his daughter sat next to us. He started talking to us in Italian then we replied in English saying we can’t speak Italian. That didn’t bother him, he came closer and spoke more Italian to us. Eb would kind of understand him as some words are similar to French but I had no clue. His daughter would try and translate but struggled too, she revealed to us that she had failed her English course 2 times. The man, Salvatore, was really funny and would jokingly get angry at me because I couldn’t understand him. He’d slap me on the leg, back and push me, all in good nature though. I’m not one to sit there and take it so I returned the favour. Next minute we’re wrestling each other and fell into the pool. He was so in my face and was dunking my head under water. I couldn’t believe it, I was thinking “this guuuy” I had no choice but to give it back to him, although it was hard as he was a lot bigger than me. It was soo funny. He even bit me and kissed me! He invited us to his camping area to have dinner with his daughter and wife, which was so much fun shared with so much laughter. Most of the time Eb and I would nod when they talked as his wife knew a little bit of English but not much. They spoke to us as if we understood Italian and did most of the talking and we just kept on nodding and trying to understand haha. One thing we understood was that they admired us for travelling. It’s funny that we could still have a conversation despite the language barrier. The next morning we planned on leaving the campsite and they insisted we see them and share a coffee before we left. They offered us their home in Milan whenever we come back which was really nice as we’d only just met them the day before. We hugged and exchanged details before we went on our way towards the bus depot in Milan.
Our next destination is Germany, unfortunately bypassing Switzerland (because that’s out of our budget range).