We’re here: N46.08166 E13.22270. It’s a car park about 2km from the centre of Udine in eastern Italy, only 40km from the Solvenian border. We’ve stayed on lots of aires and car parks, and this feels like one of the rougher ones. Partially due to the enormous mobile phone mast, and the fact all the other vans seems to be occupied by a watered down kind of Italian gypsy; tables out, cars parked up, nippers screaming. One of them even has their washing strung up between a couple of trees: very bad free camping form! On the other hand, they’re all far better dressed than us…
The weather is: time to make like a local and do nothing for 3 hours between 12:30 and 3:30pm. It’s roasting hot. Charlie’s had cool fountain water poured on his sizzling noggin to try and cool him off. It’s 8pm now and finally cooling off; the rumbling of thunder has started to the north.
After coming from Venice yesterday, any city was going to struggle to feel like an interesting place to be. Poor old Udine did its best, but just couldn’t make the grade. It’s a bit dull here; the town centre with its sixteenth century piazzas (squares) and palazza (town hall) features heavily on the postcards, the urban sprawn which begins immediately outside the ring road doesn’t.
Before I go on, a quick bit from my perspective of Venice. We’re living a dream taking this journey. Driving from fabulous place to place, with the sun on our backs and, if we’re lucky, a breeze blowing through Dave’s windows when it gets roasting. We want to squeeze as much out of it as possible, so we’re running on a tight budget to stretch savings out. Venice is reputed to be Italy’s most expensive city: we could easily have skipped it completely to save money. As it turned out, we got to see and feel one of the most magnificent wonders of the modern world for a whole €100. That’s the cost of two night’s camping, two 12 hour tickets for the water boats and a meal (read: snack) in a cafe near St Mark’s Square. Only spending a few hours in the city, and taking our pooch with us, limited the buildings we could go inside and see. However, Charlie has a way of making introductions for us, and we found ourselves chatting with a uniformed Venice coast guard officer and his wife, who we out walking their Cavalier King Charles. Another time he introduced us to a US couple who described the experience of living through earthquakes in LA. Countless more times we just exchanged smiles with fellow tourists who bent down to stroke him. We missed out on masterpieces (this time), but we got some warm contact with people, priceless.
Enough dog-loving commentary. Ju saved us another €22 on top of the €100 when she politely and firmly argued (correctly) we’d only stayed the two nights at our campsite. Misunderstanding sorted, we steered Dave out of Venice and east. We’ve until Saturday to get up to Lake Bled in Slovenia, a journey of maybe a couple of hundred miles. Our friends Jon and Anne on the other hand, have a similar amount of time to drive from Swindon, UK! Even if they drove straight there they’re looking at 1000 miles and a ferry. Now that’s a road trip.
Dave cruised the A roads, with us inside shaking our heads at some seriously lunatic, by our standards, overtaking. Whenever a road becomes physically wide enough for 3 vehicles to pass, that’s what happens, regardless of how many lanes are marked out. You just have to drive as far to the right as you can get. Morocco was crazy for driving standards, but everyone (bar the tourist coaches) went relatively slowly there. Here it’s full-pelt everywhere. No wonder Valentino Rossi appears to have no fear in the overtake, it’s genetic. One other observation on the roads: Italy seems to have decided it needs a shed load more roundabouts, but doesn’t have the cash to build them. Everywhere we go we find little rings of interlocked red and white plastic blocks being used as roundabouts, with roadworks signs looking like they’ve been propped up there for ever.
When I dared take an eye of the road to look around, I found us surrounded by flat farmland inter-shot with the odd canal, a little like the Netherlands or Belgium. The farm houses all appeared modern, in need of no renovation, and dull. The small towns and villages, run of the mill affairs. Our planned night stop in San Vito al Taglianmento had been dug up and the town looked quite ordinary anyway, so we found another spot in Udine on our database.
If we’d come here without seeing Verona, Venice, the Dolomites and the mountain towns, we’d be fascinated by the place. We didn’t though, and we aren’t. We’ll move on tomorrow without remembering much of the place, with the exception of the Greek Yoghurt ice cream, and the legend of the hill. It’s said that about 1500 years back, Attila the Hun roped his soldiers into using their helmets and shields into building a hill (which the present day castle now sits on) so he could see the nearby city of Aquileia in flames. We’ve been up that hill, and it would have taken some making with an army of JCBs, so helmets off to those fellas, I’m off for a beer.