The directions tell me to turn left at the second sign for San Sano. The trouble is, there is no second sign for San Sano. This I am certain of, because I have drove the same 15km of road for the last 45 minutes searching for the turn.
When I finally locate the (unmarked) turn, I follow the next direction towards 'town centre'. The direction says: once on road to San Sano, follow the centro sign to Ristorante Ralla Dierdo, park on the left beyond the frog fountain. Approaching the town there is an arrow right to the centro and an arrow left to the Ristorante. I ponder this choice for a moment or two before a small Ducatto behind me starts honking and swearing at me in Italian. I go right. Nothing. I route back around and go left. Nothing. I pull over and park on the street side, hop out of the Fiat and start wandering in the 36C heat to someone who can help. "Raba"? I ask two men sitting on a bench near by. One stands up and puts his pointer fingers next to his years, shakes his butt and starts laughing. The friend laughs too. I shrug and keep walking. I walk from one end of the town to the other. No frog fountain, no resturant. It is only 9am in the morning...
Almost at a breaking point at 11am, I take a break for a cafe. I usually make a point of consuming less than three cups a week (this is numero three, and it's only Thursday) but I am gracing myself with an exception because it is hot, I am frusterated, tired, lonely and increasingly confuddled at the task of sorting out this trip. I take my job as a Specialist so seriously in Death Valley that I consider my notes almost bullet proof- anyone from anywhere could walk in, pick up that package and lead the trip without trying based on my notes alone! To be faced with a stack of notes that are so unhelpful they may as well be written in French makes my heart rate quicken, and not because of intensive exercise.
The day peters on in an unfortunate fashion, most of the leader notes and directions for the back half of the trip end in the middle of the driving directions (quite literally, writen) "drive about ten minutes from the hotel and make a right onto the unmarked gravel biache. Drive this for another 5 to 10km and watch for the electric post and the bunch of trees. Make another turn at the post. In another fifteen minutes you will see the turn for the main road." Some of my later exploring has unearthed that a non-native English speaker looks after this trip, meaning that words like ' house of the water' actually means sewage plant.
I arrive at a hotel property we stay at to be promptly dismissed by the staff. Initially I thought it was because I had sweated completely through my bike jersey and shorts and was wearing no make up, but as I was being gently escored off the premise I managed to swipe, in a small act of rebellion, a wedding program. An Italian man and Hindi woman were getting married this afternoon in the scorching heat. The wedding program ended up being the hghlight of my entire day, this thoughtful package had been assembled in both English and Italian, and explained the ins and outs of the ceremony. I sat in the van, Air Conditioning pounding full blast, reading this. Despite the hikes ahead, the van support to figure out, enoteca to visit, I delighted in reading about these two people and the ceremony. It's like reading trashy celebrity magazines but better, because the content matter is actually touching.
On my scorching hot afternoon hike I encounter four closed gates on one hike (all are mounted and jumped) angry dogs, a pen of pigs and a woman who refuses to fill my water bottle at a resturant, despite me asking for tap water and asking in Italian.
No I cannot do, she says to me. I am desperate. 6km of exposed vineyards in the heat has me parched.
You cannot fill, she says again, pointing to my bottle. It is bad.
I explain again, calmly, I want aqua di spina, normal tap water. Not sparking, not bottled. She refuses.
Fed up, irritated and feeling as though the surfaces of my body might begin to crack I continue along the hike. On down a sketchy path that is right next to a huge ditch. Walking the wire on the edge, shins cut and bleeding, I make the decision to hop the electric fence (knee height) and chance it in the actual vineyard. Warning signs in Italian tell me there are dogs. Private roads. Private property. The damn walking directions have me either (option one) hiking-nay bush-wacking- on the side of a ditch or (option two) walking in someones private vineyard against explicit warnings not to. The longer I walk the more I notice the ten foot fence the marks the perimeter, complete with tangled barb wire. I begin to rehearse in my head how to say, sorry we're lost, put the gun down, make your dog stop attacking, don't blame us, we're just americans who can't speak Italian. There is a break in barb wire. I make a go for it. How I am going to bring actual people on this hike is beyond me.
In the moments of sanity in my day (il cafe con brioche, see below) and my 45 minute bike ride, I have a little pep talk with myself. Since I have landed here there have been many self- pep talks. Today was a prime example of a multi-pep kind of day. Inside of the sweeps of emotion I came up with some goals for the next 50 days (until Oct. 15th- the arrival of my special company!) and 65 days (until I return to Canadian soil).
Come up with every day something I like about Italy. (Yesterday, Aqua Frizzante, today Cypress trees)
Every day a new word or phrase to add to my library of Italian words.
Laugh at something every day. Laughing tears would be appropriate.
Exercise vigorously a minimum of fifty days for the duration of my trip.
Save over half of everything I earn. Have my Inamorata October Italian Interlude paid for, upfront.
Reflect on 2010, start goal setting for 2011 and start an Ongoing Projects List, amend the bucket list, refine the ten year vision/ 5 and 3 year goals.
Do all these, spare my sanity, smile through the barbed wire... because there is nothing like smiling while you're lying, afraid, uncomfortable or otherwise troubled.
One of the four locked gates.
This photo belongs in Apple Blend- Kelowna, Heaven on Earth
Look familiar Hillary? From a brief stop in Radda en route to Gaoile.
I live in Calgary where I own a small business, instruct fitness classes and call myself an endurance athlete. I am the proud owner of four bikes, an expensive wine education, and a strange fascination with the colour orange. I have a long-time love of football, baking, and coffee. I put my minor in creative writing to use occasionally both here and in other publications. I live with my tall, handsome and often-hungry professional triathlete husband.