We’ve spent the past week touring around the Friuli part of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the most north easterly province of Italy bordering Slovenia to the east, and Switzerland – and the Alps – to the north. We didn’t go up into the mountains, choosing instead to stay on the plains where the landscape is largely agricultural. It’s a wine producing area, so we passed many vineyards with field after field of empty vines after another harvest. It’s an autonomous region with it’s own language and cultural identity, though the road signs in two languages were the only obvious signs of this.
Travelling in an anti-clockwise loop, we stayed on free municipal sostas – just like the free aires in France and Spain to encourage tourists to visit their town and spend loads of money. A couple of the sostas even had free electricity, which is always a result.
So how does Italy compare with other places? Well, we’ve driven through some lovely scenery, though being so close to the Alps obviously helps, and the standard of driving has been generally OK, no worse than other countries we’ve visited so far. The Italians evidently share the Slovenian passion for campanology, with church bells ringing for lengthy periods at random, but I think we’re getting used to it now.
A common complaint from fellow motorhomers is that the roads in Italy are in a terrible condition, with potholes everywhere, but we haven’t seen any evidence of this. To the contrary, we drove along quite a few recently resurfaced roads, and resurfacing work was in progress in a number of places. We’ll just have to see whether this continues when we drive through to southern Italy – fingers crossed that it does. The diesel in Italy is much dearer, closer to the UK price at €1.37 vs €1.22 in Slovenia.
We stopped to visit a Carrefour, our first since France in early June. It was huge, like an aircraft hangar, and probably the largest one we’ve ever been to. The difference to Slovenian supermarkets very stark, with a huge range of pasta, formaggio, prosciutto and biscotti (three large aisles!) on sale.
Whilst we’re not anticipating getting caught in any snow, we don’t want to get caught if it does. It’s also a legal requirement in some places to be carrying snow chains between mid-November and mid-March (including parts of Italy and also Bulgaria, which we’ll be visiting in February). We therefore had to buy some, and luckily Carrefour had one set left in our size so we’re now the proud owners of a set of snow chains, which we will hopefully be selling unused on eBay when we return to the UK. I’ve also gone all European, buying myself a puffa jacket while we were there.
We passed a number of Lidl stores, but no Aldi/Hofer ones which was unusual. It was surprising to see that the Lidl stores open on Sundays and public holidays – I don’t think that happens in the UK.
The towns we’ve visited have all been very old, though some had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1976. In the spirit of spending money in return for free parking, we visited local cafés and bars, and also had a cheeky gelato as you do.
Tuesday was Halloween so, after an early dinner, we walked into the centre of a lovely village called Maniago to see how the Italians celebrate it (if celebrate is the right word!). The shops have a three hour lunchtime siesta, and so stay open until about 7 PM. Very few had themed window displays, so it doesn’t seem to be a big event. There were lots of children in the centre of the village dressed up in their Halloween costumes, with some having made more effort than others. As the shops were still open the kids went trick or treating around the shops, cafés and bars, rather than going house to house. We called in at one of the bars to watch over a glass or two of wine (€1 a glass – terrific bargain!) and fortunately for the kids, the bar staff had stocked up with plenty of sweets.
The following day was All Saints Day, or All Hallows. It’s a public holiday across much of Europe including Italy, and it’s a day for remembering deceased family and friends, visiting cemeteries to pay respects. We stopped for a coffee break outside a cemetery in Torviscosa, and afterwards we went for a walk around inside. The cemetery was of course very busy, and we didn’t see a single grave or memorial stone without flowers. Most of the headstones and plaques had photos of the deceased, and the inscriptions were very simple – just names and dates.
Winter’s definitely on its way – the nights are drawing in now that the clocks have gone back, and the weather’s getting much colder. The silver screen has come out so that we don’t lose heat through the windscreen, and it also tops the condensation.
We’re now heading back to Slovenia for a week so that I can get my dental implant work completed in Ljubljana. On the way, we’ll be stopping off in Trieste to get our kitchen tap (which has been playing up) replaced, and we’ll also be visiting some caves. In the meantime, some pictures of the past few days are below.