On the first evening we walk up to the small, local square which is three minutes away and where old stone walls give way to a hugely impressive ululating valley. The local hotel supper is ok, not brilliant, but we are too tired and hungry to complain. An inquisitive looking bloodhound and his equally inquisitive owner arrive, the latter chomping on a cigar during his evening passeggiata, the former sniffing in distaste at the large citronella candles that sit on the top of the wall overlooking the twinkling lights of the valley. One glass of the local Sangiovese finishes us off. My legs become incredibly heavy and we can barely walk home. The great disappointment of dinner was the anti-climactic local cheese, Fosso, which seems to sit drily in the pasta. By ten o clock we are both asleep, dozing amidst the hum of the air con.
I’m awake at 7am the next morning, which is usual for me, desperate for coffee. Just a slight turn of the head on the pillow grants me a spectacular view of Emilia Romagna countryside. It is weepingly beautiful in the early mornings and evenings here but the harsh daytime sun reduces you to a bright red, sweating madman within half an hour. There is still nothing in the apartment and on Thursday afternoon the concierge had to spend about an hour explaining to us how the hob worked. All we have is a small saucepan and some stolen tea bags from the cafe round the corner. There is nothing in the living room except the vast plastic covers we had ripped off the new mattresses in a fit of tiredness the previous evening, and we head out for breakfast at the local trattoria, which I am assured by Mother Bluebird, does splendid suppers, and I have a perfect cappuccino and local bread, jam and cheese. This morning we have to venture forth in search of food and a bank, and we are both nervous about locating either.
The car is perfect for these hills and swift corners – a small, manual Fiat. But the air con doesn’t seem to want to pump out cold air at all and instead it feels like a very hot hair dryer is being blasted into your face in a branch of Toni & Guy. Eventually we give up and open the windows. Our search for the fruit and fish market in a particular town yields nothing so we drive on and on until we find a grocery store where we fall upon the plastic bottles of water, cheese, milk and prosciutto supplies. We buy six delicious peaches from an ancient lady for 3 Euro, and then head back down the same road toward the apartment, then veer off in the opposite direction so Mother Bluebird can visit her new Italian bank in a small town called Calcinelli.
Like all small Italian towns, Calcinelli has five things : 2 shoe shops, both selling slingbacks at exorbitant prices, a grubby bar so dark that you can see nothing upon entering as the Adriatic sun has temporarily blinded you, at least 9 hairdressers per resident, an old shapeless lady shopping with a string bag and a pharmacy which for reasons that are not clear, sells Mars bars. We find the bank only after asking directions. Italians tend not to describe directions using road names, but instead sharply and quickly tell you “3rd road in the right, turn left at 4th crossroads, then 500 metres to the right….” Eventually we find the bank, and everyone who works there is wearing shorts. It’s terribly European, you know. Last time my mother was here a woman ran in screaming. Mum, assuming she was in the middle of a hold-up, dived for cover. The other customers, mainly comprised of long distance lorry drivers in flip flops, took no notice. It turns out the woman was going nuts because someone had taken her car parking space outside the pet shop.
Proud of ourselves for successfully locating the bank and depositing money, we repair to the main street in Calcinelli where I treat myself to a double espresso so gloriously strong my eyelashes start twitching and I am rendered extremely excitable for the remainder of the afternoon. We think about London, as it gears up for its huge spectacle, and then retire to the apartment where we gorge ourselves on stolen restaurant grissini sticks and local honey and toast the 30th Olympic games with a cup of English Breakfast tea, made by slowly boiling a small saucepan of water on the confusing stovetop.