The beauty of motorhome life is that you can move on at a moment’s notice. And sometimes you have to.
We are making our way down the east coast of Italy to catch a ferry to Sicily, then on to Malta and Gozo; but as we’re not in too much of a hurry, we are enjoying Italy’s northern regions.
Three days ago we parked in the pretty town of Cesenatico, where the high street is a canal that runs down to a fishing harbour and beach, and seafood restaurants abound. Even the seagulls are stylish (see banner image).
We planned to stay two days in the free camperstop, only a few hundred metres from the centre.
It turned out to be a lively site, with expensive, top-of-the-range Italian vans jostling for space with shabby but well-loved vans, some clearly full-time homes.
There was even a mobile brothel, complete with a pink feather boa hanging from the rear-view mirror and a large picture of an attractive woman on the passenger seat to tempt potential customers. I presumed when it disappeared the working girl was, well, working.
This is not the first mobile brothel we have spotted on our Italian journey. A very attractive young woman plied her trade from a small camper van parked outside a large shipping container yard close to our Venice campsite.
And the roads are peppered with billboards signs promoting “Sexy” shops, where all sorts of delights are promised.
But I digress, back to Cesenatico. We woke on Saturday morning to discover our leisure battery was almost flat, and we were in danger of running out of power.
Digression number 2: Motorhomes get their electrical power from two sources: an electric hook up, usually at a campsite, where you plug your van into mains electricity and can run, well almost any appliance. Except when the mains electricity is only 6 amps (as it seems to be in most Italian sites); then you can just about plug in your MacBook.
The second source is a leisure battery which holds electrical power, and is charged up when you’re driving, just like a car battery. It can also be charged by solar panels, which we have.
This battery holds enough power for a few days off grid, provided it is fully charged and you don’t run appliances that need a lot of power, like hairdryers (how do the working girls manage?).
For a proper explanation on how electricity in a van works, particularly leisure batteries, the Camping and Caravanning Club has produced this helpful guide
Anyway, back to Saturday morning in Cesenatico. We had not driven long enough the day before to fully charge our leisure battery, and the solar panels need sun to work. Weather report: There is no sun in north Italy at the moment.
Without electricity we could not run the pump that drives our gas heating, and without heating we would freeze.
So, reluctantly, we abandoned the idea of enjoying a long, leisurely lunch at one of Cesenatico’s fine seafood restaurants, complete with the obligatory Prosecco, or two; instead we headed to Loreto, a small hill-town 150 kms south.
Why Loreto? I hear you ask. Because, according to our trusty guide, Camperstop Europe, the town has an interesting church, and more importantly a cheap campsite with electric hook-up, showers and wifi. And it was on our (rough) route to the ferry.
Our guide turned out to be less than trustworthy.
The campsite did indeed have electricity, showers and wifi (which was switched off at night for some strange reason), but the interesting church was in fact the magnificent Basilica Della Santa Casa, where four million pilgrims head each year to pay homage to the Virgin Mary.
The Basilica is home to three walls of Mary’s Nazareth house (Santa Casa), brought from Holy Land in 1294, or thereabouts.
Only a few days ago I had been disappointed by St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. I was entranced by Santa Casa.
Its appeal was heightened by the Festival of St Antonio Abate, patron saint of domestic animals, butchers and gravediggers, which took place on Sunday morning.
Just before lunchtime, local people brought their pets, mostly dogs, with some horses, two oxen and a solitary cat, to the piazza in front of the church to be blessed.
The local brass band, effortlessly stylish in their red quilted jackets and, of course, sunglasses, provided the music, and the air was full of deep throated barking, high pitched whines, and, well, love.
It was a delightful way to spend a cold, grey Sunday, as part of a crowd of people who had gathered to share their love of their pets, and their faith.
It may sound sentimental, corny even, but we enjoyed every moment. And we would have missed it if our leisure battery had been fully charged.
It is these magical moments that make travel so compelling.
Of course there are times when driving round Europe in a van is less rewarding, hard work even.
We miss our family so much. Limitless, fast wifi is but a distant dream, as are rose scented bubble baths. And I dream of roast chicken.
But tonight we hope to sleep in a vineyard, and tomorrow…well, God only knows what tomorrow will bring.
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