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Report 1176: September Song: High Notes of a Few Precious Days in Italy

By Roz from Massachusetts, Fall 2006

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Page 5 of 16: To the Villa: Do the Twist

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Adventure on the road to the villa

I suppose the road to paradise is seldom easy; it sure wasn't for us. Creeping through major traffic jams (or as the Italians say, code, literally tails) after leaving Bergamo, we finally made it to Sarzana, location of our Slow Trav prize villa. We met Moira, the agency rep, near the autostrada exit and set off for Villa Ortensia following her yellow Fiat Panda. Driving through town, we saw ahead a very high hill with a little village partway up and wondered if we would be anywhere near that. Little did we imagine that we would ultimately be looking down on this village from the hilltop above!

We turned off the main road and began to climb ... and climb ... and climb. Every 30 seconds or so Moira would be honking her horn as a warning signal to anyone who might be around the bends that never stopped coming on this road less than two cars wide. (Later I counted 25 switchbacks on the four kilometers up to the villa.) But the corkscrew road was the least of our difficulties on this upward journey. Suddenly Moira's Panda stopped abruptly, and we could see ahead a big truck partly full of logs, completely blocking the narrow road. Moira got out to talk to the logging crew, who told her "10 minutes and they'd be done." This turned out to be the kind of "dieci minuti" that had nothing to do with time on the clock, but was only a delaying tactic to placate the opposition.

The 10 minutes stretched on into 20, and then 30 and more. Moira's attempts to reason with the loggers got us nowhere. They wanted to finish their tree cutting, and what did a couple of tourists matter to them? Next on the scene arrived one of the neighbors -- a feisty signora of a certain age, wielding her cell phone. She was furious that the truck (which she said was there without permission) was blocking the road -- what if there should be an emergency? How would an ambulance or fire engine get through? She was soon on the phone with the vigili (local police). This turned into quite a little operatic drama, with la signora yelling at the loggers, demanding action from the vigili, proclaiming her utter disgust and fury on the one side, and her sympathy with us on the other. I'm sure the vigili had her on their "pay attention to this lady, or you'll never hear the end of it" list, as within a REAL 10 minutes the police car arrived on the scene, and the loggers were soon out of our way.

Finally ... one last turn, and there was Villa Ortensia -- truly a paradise in the sky. Our hostess Letizia greeted us warmly and showed us around the exquisite guest house. I've posted a full review and lots of photos elsewhere (see Resources at the end), so I'll spare the details now. I'll just say that no matter how many pictures you see of the place, it's more beautiful than you could imagine. And Letizia, who lives next door in the "manor house," is the perfect warm and wonderful hostess. She invited us for drinks on her terrace where we drank in the magnificent sunset along with the wine and shared enough laughter and high spirits to surmount the language barrier.

Before we knew it, our cell phone was ringing with news that Mike and Maureen had made good time from Venice, and were in the vicinity. At that point we realized that the wine had perhaps flowed a bit too freely, as DH had more than a few trepidations about heading down that twisty road in the dark and leading M&M back up. But our lucky stars were still shining, and the best was yet to come .....

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