I am camping tonight somewhere north and east of Rome in the Appenine Mountains. I navigate by GPS more than map, so I never know exactly what city I am close to. All I know for sure is that things are really different up here in this part of Italy. The roads are nice; there is no trash lying around; the scenery is absolutely magnificent; and best of all, the people are very, very friendly. If you have been following my blog, you know how shocked I was by the attitude of many people from Sardinia, Naples and Sicily. I don't mean to paint everyone with the same brush, because I met a lot of nice, friendly people in the south too. But I also noticed how the people were rude down there, not so much to me but to each other -- always shouting at each other, and at their kids too. This was also true of their driving -- pushy and selfish. None of that here in the north where people speak softly, are nice to their children, and smile and go out of their way to help each other. They also drive up here like they do in the rest of Europe, or like we do back home in the United States.
Here is an example: I was on a four lane road in Sicily, and I was passing a slower vehicle, so I was in the left lane, and I was going about 65 miles an hour. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see another car passing me to my left, with inches to spare between me on his right and the guard rail on his left. Scared me, I am not ashamed to admit.
I have noticed that they have discovered the cell phone big time. I was in a restaurant the other day, and at another table there were seven young men, ages about 18 to 23, and every single one of them was texting on his phone. I have not noticed it as much up here in the north where I am now, but down south store clerks would carry on long cell phone conversations while customers waited in line. If I were a store owner and I noticed one of my clerks doing that, s/he would be gone the moment the conversation was over.
I came up from the south along a very nice toll road. As I've mentioned before, they like to plant flowering bushes and evergreen trees along their roads. I noticed right away that there were dumpsters from time to time, and that they were emptied, and there was no trash lying around. Maybe the Mafia has not gotten a hold on this part of Italy.
There are not a lot of Suzuki shops in Italy, and I was wanting to get some things for Odysseus. It took some doing, and a lot of help from strangers and store clerks, but I located a nice Suzuki dealership in a larger town along the Adriatic Sea. The shop gave Odysseus a clean bill of health: brakes, chain, Etc. They looked him over pretty carefully and said he was totally ready to take to the Alps next week. I bought a filter and some oil (oil is about 20 dollars a quart here) and changed the oil and filter at my campground last night. That was an experience. I bought two liters of water and poured out what I couldn't drink. Then I drained the oil into a cup, shut it off when the cup got full, and poured it into the jugs. It took a long time, but I can tell you that Odysseus just purrs with the new oil in him.
So, I am in the mountains east and north of Rome. It is a national park here.
I am not too sure what being a national park means in Italy. There are no visitor centers or public campgrounds, or any of the other things we associate with a park, but it certainly is pretty.
The mountains are really high. Some of them still have a little snow on their tops. The Apennines are really under-rated compared to their more famous northern neighbors, the Alps.
I loved riding the roads. The honeysuckle is blooming and everything smelled nice and clean (no dead cow smells). I hardly ever saw another car, so I sometimes just stopped in the middle of the road to take a picture.
There were lots of tiny little towns. They were just as pretty as the mountains.
Some of them are post card perfect.
I kept seeing these signs for deer. The signs are all over the place, but I never saw a deer (I did see a pair of big grey foxes though).
Here is another sign for you. It was in a little cafe where I stopped for lunch.
I would love to have a good, big cup of coffee like the lady has in the picture. They don't understand coffee here. They make it so strong it can almost walk, and they drink it in tiny cups. I think they must just want the caffeine high.
There is a lot of open range in the mountains, with both cattle and sheep.
I like the farms in the mountains too, although I can't quite figure out how they can make a living on hay, sheep and cows. Nice farmhouses though, so I guess times can't be too hard.
I was riding down the roads looking a scenery like this:
And I came to the very peak of a mountain, and surprise -- there was a county fair getting ready to start up there.
I've said it before: the best things are those that are discovered unexpectedly by serendipity.
But here was something I couldn't figure out: this fair was at a crossroads, way up on top of a mountain. There were no towns and no farms. Where do the people come from? One of life's mysteries, I guess.
So instead, I came to the campground where I am now. And it is great! It is Saturday night, and there is a party going on. The older people are playing cards, and the kids are dancing. Everyone is certainly having a good time.
I leave you with one final picture. If anyone can figure out why I took it you win a prize, because I don't have a clue myself. I do remember that it seemed like a good idea at the time.