We’re here: N44.32933 E7.49149
The weather: sunny then clouded over, then thunder and lightning!
Last night we ate crepes while listening on the radio for the election results. We’d been in Paris when the last election took place and were sitting in a restaurant when it was announced that Sarkozy had won, so we knew it wouldn’t be an all night wait like in the UK. Just before 8pm I won €10 from Jay when Hollande was declared the winner.
This morning we were up early and at the supermarket for 9.30am to stock up on French treats and food which will no doubt be far more expensive in Italy. We saw the prices jump between Spain and France and suspect we’ll see the same. Dave’s tank was also topped up to the brim at 1.456 a litre before we set off over the Col de Larche. After yesterday’s butt clenching ascent we were pleased to see today’s road was wide enough for two cars to pass, however the Alpine Gods had thrown another challenge our way – falling rocks. We’ve driven along miles of roads with falling rock signs, even seen a few fallen one in the road but here there were falling rock barriers with flashing lights and notices stating if the barrier is down for more than 5 minutes turn back. All along the route small rocks lay in the road with much bigger rocks waiting to join them. This was the first time I’d been really concerned about falling rocks, fortunately they stayed on the slopes as Dave ploughed on.
We reached the snow and the top of the Col at the same time. We pulled over so Jay and Charlie could have a play in the snow and I could get a good photo of the Italy sign. But there wasn’t one. There was a France sign, an Italian region sign, a memorial to someone who’d done something – all in Italian, but no welcome to Italy sign.
As we set off we were instead greeted by 18 hairpin bends (I didn’t count them, they were numbered) to get us back down the valley. Fat, furry marmots played on the rocks by the road and Charlie wedged himself behind his bed as Jay deftly dodged huge two trailer lorries coming up the hairpin bends.
Eventually we reached our first Italian town. A ski resort, but it was shut. The houses that were built looked closed and empty while those being built looked like all work had stopped, so we carried on. Several similar towns later and we stop at the Aire in Vinadio. A quick bite to eat in Dave (as all the cupboards are so full stuff falls out when you open them) fuels us for a trip round the town, where we find Fort Albertino. It’s a massive Fort one part of which is a museum, so you have to pay to go round it, but there’s still plenty of the old fortifications that are sat there waiting to be explored for free. So in the warm sunshine we walk through the fortifications down towards the river. It was finished in 1847, although I suspect that the ice rink and stage area set up in the lowest section may have been a more recent addition!
We decided to press on to another aire 30 minutes away – we’re very pleased with the number of free motorhome aires so far, fingers crossed it’s like this everywhere. Just outside the town Jay pulled over to let a big lorry overtake us, we weren’t in a rush and didn’t fancy him on our bumper as we ambled along. A flatbed truck also snuck past us and we happily followed them both through the next town with it’s ridiculously narrow streets. As we were coming out of the town a lorry heading in the opposite direction hit the wing mirror of the flat bed truck. Jay quickly pulled us as far off the road as he could (which was about 1ft, but far enough to save Dave from the same fate). The trucks wing mirror sat in the road surrounded by glass, we pulled up behind it further up the road where it had stopped, but he indicated for us to go past. As we did we saw that the glass on the road wasn’t from the mirror, but the window which had shattered, fortunately the truck was for some reason right hand drive despite being on Italian plates.
Slightly shocked Jay employed the driving skills he learned in Morocco to avoid any close calls for Dave as we carried on to Borgo San Dalmazzo. We found the aire situated between a football stadium, a football pitch, a trainline, a skate park and some flats, but there are a few other vans here and despite all of the above it’s actually quite quiet.
We’re right next to the historic town centre, so we head off for a look around. We stumble across a throng of people down one of the streets, so wander over to see what’s going on. It’s only another election! As we haven’t seen the news for ages we don’t actually know who’s in charge of Italy – it was Berlusconi when we left – so we don’t know if they were local, regional or national elections but it certainly gave everyone something to talk about. The results were taped up outside the polling station and cars stopped in the street to say hello to people they knew lining the pavement.
We carried on out of the old town and found a petrol station for a price comparison – €1.79?! But then on closer inspection it was €1.68 at another pump where you filled up yourself. Further down the road another station, but this time offering 10c discount for what we think is self service. We’re not really sure what’s going on but are glad we have a full tank.
After all the fun and excitement of getting into Italy today we were brought down to earth with a bump as we walked around a memorial to Jews who had been deported from here during the war. Three carriages like those used to transport them stood behind a platform of names. The names written on the ground represented those who did not survive the concentration camps, while those names written standing up were for those who did. Of the 329 who left here in 1943, only 18 survived. As I looked at the names written on the ground, in lines and grouped by family as they would have been when being deported it brought tears to my eyes to see so many families, many with very young children and I couldn’t bring myself to go into the open carriage as it was just too painful to try and imagine what it must have been like. There was an information board, which has obviously been written by someone who doesn’t want people to forget what happened – it’s all very moving and if you’re ever around here you need to see it. We’ve been around quite a lot of France and seen many war memorials to soldiers, resistance fighters and town inhabitants who died during the occupation, but nothing to remember the millions that were deported.
We headed back through the town and to lighten the mood Jay nipped into a Panetteria to buy some fresh bread. He came back with a huge loaf, which he thought was quite expensive until the assistant weighed it, the price was per kg. It was still more expensive than France, but we’ve enough to last us for a week or so.
Jay cooked up pizza for tea, well we are in Italy and we’re now going to hit the maps and plan a vague route for the next few days. So far though, I’m really liking it.