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Day 1 Nottingham—Bergamo—Rovinaglia

We left a typical English Spring day—grey, a splattering of drizzle, a chill breeze. Drove down the M1 to Luton Airport and a Ryanair flight to" Milan" (ho ho) Bergamo, but we didn't care because we weren't going to Milan anyway and the flight was cheaper than the parking. We arrived on a typical Italian Spring day—hot and sunny!

Picked up a rented Fiat Punto (Eurocar) and drove not the freeway route but a hopefully more interesting route cross-country: Bergamo...Crema...Cremona...Fiarenzuola d'Arda...Bore...Bardi...Borgo Val Di Taro...Rovinaglia. It took a bit longer, but we got an immediate feel for the country. The first half of the journey was flat, peppered with factories and farms and straight-streeted dusty towns and neglected corners piled with rusting machinery. Then, abruptly, we turned into foothills and trees and hayfields and villages on promontories and the road beginning to twist and turn and snake up and down valley sides. At Bardi, a splendid view that summed up what I had been expecting to see, the clifftop castle watching over its broad valley as it has done for 1,000 years or so...

We bought bread and a few groceries in Bardi and drove the last 20 or so winding kilometers to Borgo Val Di Taro ("The town in the valley of the river Taro") and then up the bumpy road to Rovinaglia. After one false start we found our cottage, and dog-tired, worked out how to turn on the electricity and propane and cleaned away just enough dust and spiderwebs to enable Ralph to make a simple meal before we collapsed into our sleeping bags. We'd arrived!

bardi castle

A glimpse of the sort of country we were heading into...Bardi, from the north.

This was to be, of course, only a brief snatched glimpse of Italy, just one little corner that is off the most-frequently trodden tourist tracks. Neither of us speak any Italian, but the offer of the loan of a cottage seemed too good to miss, even though L. could only spare a week.

Indeed the fact that the village hardly features on the Internet apart from a few mentions on fungus-collecting sites, added to its attractiveness for us.

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