A 5.50am the early morning alarm call was a welcome diversion from the fact we had hardly slept at all during the sultry and overheated London night. Also, my mother lives slap bang in the middle of town. This means that throughout the night the noise is constant – bottles being emptied into those massive trucks and smashed into a million pieces, drunk men having a boisterous conversation outside in the street at 2am, people sneezing, people screaming, motorbikes squealing up towards Piccadilly Circus, dogs yelping and -I think – the sound of Marco Pierre White coughing that month’s Benson & Hedges up from outside his restaurant downstairs which no one ever seems to eat in. Who’d have thought it would have been a relief to get to Stansted to catch a Horrid Air flight?
Outside, the Olympic lanes are already in use at 6.30am, long BMW estate cars coloured pink and white, and half of London gears up for 12 day gridlock. I feel that I don’t need to describe Stansted to you, dear reader, as you are a distinguished, worldly, travelling sort of lovely person, but suffice to say, 1pm found us baking in 35 degree heat at the tiny Ancona airport which is stationed so close to the dreamy blue Adriatic that for a moment I thought we were going to land in the sea. The best thing about Italy is the smell on landing here in the summer; it’s a dry, Deisel-infused smell. The worst thing is trying to calm a lady down who is driving a manual car for the first time since 1972 on the Italian autostrada in a vehicle where the air con doesn’t work. We drive northbound, following the route of the Adriatic, for 30km or so, before turning off for Fano, being disturbed by the nature of the roundabouts and then slipping up to the left for a 5km, hair-raising hillside drive so steep our ears popped. At the top, as if from a Merchant Ivory film set in turn of the century Italy, is a set of grey gates giving access to the breezy apartment complex, which is a good thing as Mother Bluebird is a nervous wreck and yours truly is dehydrated and her cheeks are hollow and sucked in like a dry corpse.
Hot, dry and humid, we wake up the concierge, who finally arrives at the door of his room, blinking, his wiry hair only partly concealing the table full of empty beer bottles behind him. Friendly and helpful, he suddenly explains everything in quick, brutal Italian which I have no hope of understanding. He whisks us through to show us the garage (where the key does not work) and we turn up through terracotta pathways lined with rosemary and lavender, up 41 stairs to the converted house which is divided into 3 flats. “La cucina c’e!” he says celebrating, as we open the door to the flat and find the kitchen is in. Phew. We have made it. The floor is cool, the air con is ramped up and we can hear nothing beyond the countryside around us, save the constant crowing of a bird and the distant clip clip of the flip flops of the two elderly lesbians from the apartment downstairs walking back from the pool. Only then do we realise that there is nothing in the apartment whatsoever, especially not any toilet paper, which we both need. The drive down the hill and the necessary 7km trek to the town can’t be faced. Instead we plan a walk three minutes up the hillside to the local B&B where we plan to beg for water, wine and hope to use some English words and be understood.
It is 35 degrees. “The hot weather comes tomorrow!” the concierge says, obligingly. Perhaps we shall all be melted away over the weekend. We open the doors onto the narrow terrace, amazed by the splendid view and basking in the strong hot sun like two happy cats…