This blog post was written while on planes, trains and automobiles (OK – it was really a bus, but it had wheels so you get the idea). It took several days of using my time while we traveled by train from Bristol to London, by plane from Bristol to Dublin and then by bus between Dublin and County Kilkenny where we’ll be for the next couple of weeks on a new Workaway project.
We’ve been a number of places since our last update from the winery in Piedmont, Italy. It is amazing to travel the way we are traveling. To be fair, I love any kind of travel and I think each experience holds its own intriguing elements, with much to appreciate. So if I’m on a schedule with lots of things to see and do, I love that! But while we were at the winery, we didn’t have an itinerary on our days off and we were not particularly rushed. Traveling this way, we get to go places we’ve never even heard of before - -and learn that there are lots of places that don’t make it on the tourist route but are still unique and interesting and historic and beautiful. Mondovi, Italy is one of those places!
I had never heard of Mondovi before. It’s possible my knowledge of history is lacking, but even so, the name certainly didn’t register as a place I particularly wanted to visit. Our host at the winery said it’s a nice market town and they have a funicular. She gave us a map. That was the extent of what we knew about Mondovi before we went there on a sunny Saturday morning in October. Usually I like to do more research but sometimes it’s great to go to a place and just wander and explore and see what you discover.
We headed on our way in our host’s car with our fellow WWOOFers. Greg drove and I navigated. As we approached the city it became clear that this is a really special place! There are two levels to the town, an old part and a new part. And by old, I mean centuries old. And by new, I mean – still old by American standards. The new part of the city is below the hill and the funicular takes you up to the ancient city that was founded in 1198.
We visited the market and did our best to buy focaccia using all the Italian skills we have learned from Duolingo – only to be assisted by a lovely woman who is a translator, so her English was MUCH better than our Italian! We took the funicular to the old town on top of the hill and it was absolutely amazing! As it turns out, in the 16th century, Mondovi was the largest city in Piedmont. As we explored, we saw extravagant sundials that are scattered around the city and in the garden surrounding La Torre Belvedere at the top of the hill. Apparently, Napoleon thought that the view from the Belvedere was the most beautiful in the world as he savored his victory in the Battle of Mondovi in 1796. I tend to agree with him about the view!
The experience of discovering the interesting elements of a city I had never heard of was amazing. We had no agenda, no itinerary and no real plan (this is VERY unusual for me) – we just wandered and explored at a leisurely pace, soaking in the culture and the history. It was awesome. So was the gelato – which always makes the exploration even better!
The rest of our time at the winery was wonderful as well. We hiked through the vines, visited fabulous wineries, got to see the gorgeous villa where we will stay on our small group trip to Piedmont next October, enjoyed wine tastings at La Vite Turchese, our favorite wine shop in Barolo, and thoroughly enjoyed all the work we did on the winery. Marcello and Ursula at La Roche set a high bar for our WWOOF experience. We consider them friends and I feel sure that we will share wine together many more times in the coming years. We feel so lucky to have gotten to know them.
We left the winery mid-October and headed to Turin. We were just there for the night and stayed at a hotel very near the airport as we had an early flight out the next day. We had a terrible time finding the bus to get to our hotel after we got off the train. It was nuts! The sign for the bus stop was on the street side of an arcade covering the sidewalk, so you couldn’t see it. When we finally did find it, it said that the stop had been changed and it was on the far side of the piazza! Then when we got to the bus, it was packed, and then they changed drivers so everyone had to get off the bus and change to another one. That is all to say, it’s lovely NOT being in a huge rush when things don’t go according to plan! Issues are bound to come up when you travel. Transitioning from one spot to another can be stressful; but it was nice to have plenty of time to get to our destination, even though the logistics were frustrating, in the long run, the hiccups are just part of the experience and are usually no big deal.
Now, when we travel by ourselves, we do our best to save money. OK, I do my best to save money – Greg is not terribly concerned about it because he has ME to worry about the finances…..but I try to find a bargain wherever I can. And I found a bargain in our hotel. We stayed at the Pacific Hotel Airport in Turin for €36.55. It was clean, had everything we needed and it certainly wasn’t fancy but it was just fine. I’m so happy when these kinds of places turn out to actually be OK!
We got to go to Sicily next and it was awesome! We went there partially for fun, but mostly to investigate the island for a future small group trip there in 2020. We loved everything about Sicily – it was absolutely amazing. We can’t wait to put this trip together. Let us know if you are interested in going! We also went to Calabria – to Cirò to be exact, where Greg’s great-grandfather was born. It was a trip in search of his roots and it was so special. We also spent a night in Naples and all we did was walk and eat pizza – it was fantastic. Then we flew to Bristol to spend some time with Chelsea and Sam. It has been an incredible month. We’ll save some of these details for later.
On Thanksgiving, we got to go to London for the day to meet some of our very dear friends from Canada for dinner. How cool is that??? It’s amazing to be able to connect with friends from home even while we are traveling. And to say that we went to London “for dinner” sounds insane. We celebrated Friendsgiving at Chelsea and Sam’s flat the following Saturday and it was absolutely fantastic – turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sour cream dinner rolls and pecan pie. It was spectacular! I’m so grateful for all these experiences, and even more grateful that you are following along on our adventures!! Even though it will be the Christmas season when you read this, it was Thanksgiving Day when I started it. I want you to know that I am thankful for each of you!!
Christmas is coming! Why not give the gift of travel? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, England and all of Europe. We also still have spots available on our small group trip to Tuscany in May and our small group trip to Piedmont in October 2019! We'd love for you to join us! You can always reach Betsy at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you make your travel dreams to Europe come true!