Windows down, sunglasses on and the Provence scenery whipping by. Check, check and check. I was determined to get to Italy this trip having never been before. We decided to visit a miniscule medieval fishing village with a mountainous backdrop by the name of Noli in the province of Savona. The roads wound through tunnels in the mountains and along high bridges that ran over deep valleys giving spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea and the towns that were scattered along the coast line.
Approaching Noli after several hours of driving and enjoying the gorgeous views we faced a parking problem. Or in other words, a lack of parking problem. We entered several car parks conversing in a combination of broken Italian, English and a somewhat ridiculous game of charades with parking attendants as we tried to explain that we would pay if we successfully found a space. Giving up on the car parks on the edge of the village we drove into the village where we followed another car through several small roads and somewhat awkwardly through the pedestrianised village square thinking that they must be going to park somewhere, and they were, at a designated parking space for their house. Admitting defeat and embarrassingly being helped by the people we had followed to turn our car around and direct us out of the tiny street, back through the plaza where an elderly Italian lady familiarly reminiscent of a lolly pop lady stood, her arms wide directing us out and back to square one. Eventually we found a space in a free car park when a smart car pulled out, somehow we managed to fit our large estate car into the same space and prayed that neither of the vehicles beside us were planning on leaving before us.
Finally stepping out into the Italian sun we ambled through the narrow-cobbled streets lined with coloured Mediterranean houses with vines crawling up the walls. On the sea front I could hear the rush of the sea in my ears adorned with children’s screams of delight next to the old wooden fishing boats beached on the shore. All the people we met were friendly and when they noticed we spoke English they stared and gave us wide smiles, many even waved.
Down a side street we found a restaurant for lunch where the extravagant owner saw us to a table outside happily chatting away to us in Italian not caring that we understood not a word. My younger brother turned down the offer of wine, but the owner brushed this away stating that he was drinking by his age and promptly poured him a glass anyway. The food was of course divine and the conversation wonderful.
It was lovely to get away from the overtly touristy areas in this region and be able to enjoy a much more authentic Italian experience rather than choosing to visit one of the bigger towns that we had passed along the way.
It was worth the dent in the wing mirror.