If you see a break in the snow … Don’t you ever let a chance go by

We woke at dawn. That’s 7:15am. It was -8C. But it wasn’t snowing. There was snow out in the hills – we could see that coming. We knew we had a small window to run. We’d arranged with Emma, our contact, to leave the keys with the Neighbour’s letterbox. Left Emma a note explaining what had been left behind foodwise, grabbed the rubbish and our remaining bags and raced to the door, and entered the slow motion world of the icewalker. Negotiating fresh ice with several bags each was the sort of vision you’d see wind up on one of those compilation, “World’s Craziest Idiots” shows. Still we made it down to the main path in only 10 minutes and were home-free until Pip found some fresh ice and slipped. (Rudely, before I could get my camera out!)

No injuries apart from some pulled muscles and a twisty knee (quite a blow to her self-image as an ice dancer), but she was determined to crawl back to her feet and limp the rest of the way to dig out the car.

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Not our actual car – snow free by comparison!

Found the car with about a foot of ice and snow on it; doors frozen shut; wheels half covered in ice and snow – but it started and provided heat to the windscreen while Pip scraped away at the ice. We slipped out of the parking space and felt the snow chains grip the icy road just as the first flakes of the next snow storm started falling. Everything seemed to be working, the chains meant it was largely a second gear trip out of town, but we weren’t slipping and the brakes seemed to eventually stop stuff. Made it down the hill without incident – only the occasional car overtaking – and onto the Strada Statale 7, which was relatively clear. Our dilemma was whether to leave the snow chains on in case there was ice and snow on the road between here and the Autostrada, because if we took them off, we’d never get them back on again. It was about 85km and we were crawling along at 50km/h making a hell of a racket (as snow chains are wont to do), when the racket changed to a clanging, bashing kind of a racket, and not in a good way.

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Stock Photo – but taken this week

We pulled off to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, -4.5C on the dashboard gauge, light snow falling and thought for a while. A couple of cars stopped and enquired if we were alright. We were of course, as we’d decided to call the roadside assistance we’d paid extra for at the start of the rental. They didn’t have anyone available who could speak English, so asked for our number and they would call back in a couple of minutes. Got the same response when we called them back in half an hour. So we took stock of our supplies – half a bottle of drink and a packet of lemon Grisbees. We’d be OK. Decided to take things into my own hands and remove the snow chains (the crashing was the repair old mate in Calitri had done with wire coming un-repaired and flailing about inside the mudguard). Now I had bad memories of removing snow chains in my younger days – very difficult – and it was something I had not been looking forward to. Took a while, but got ’em off and continued our journey, hoping the road remained clear through to Avellino. Light snow fell most of the way, but very little and easily avoidable ice on the road. We were on target for Roma by 3:30pm.

It took until about noon before the 15cm of ice on the roof surprised up by slipping down over the windscreen and completely obscuring our vision for what seemed like an age while rounding a corner – but you know, newbie fail!

Now that we knew we would make Roma – we rang ahead and booked into our favourite hotel in Trastevere (Yes. We have a favourite hotel in Roma, so what?) and sat back for the 2 hour dash along the autostrada.

The drive into Roma was relatively easy and we arrived the hotel round 3:45pm, snatched a street park right near the place and hit the town. Sunday night in Roma – hit the Trevi Fountain and found a Chinese restaurant before a reasonably early night.

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Bond villains and lemon juice

Avellino, the main town of this Provence and an hour and a half’s drive over some of the most spectacularly high bridges we’ve ever been on. Down valleys with ridiculously perched villages high on every second mountain (or so it seems).

Avellino is between Calitri and Napoli and is a reasonable sized city of just over 50,000 and has a large pedestrian only centre. This meant that after securing a street park and dropping breadcrumbs behind us, we could have a decent walk right up through the centre of the town. As it happened, we parked near a symbol of the city, a baroque clock tower, which was helpful as a very large breadcrumb when we needed to find our Panda again.

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Preparing the breadcrumbs, Avellino

Avellino seems like a well to do town, the people in the street looked well dressed and… well, let’s face it, put on a big black coat and some cool sunglasses and you’re looking pretty good. (There were a number of men who looked a bit like Bond villains, but they’re rich too, eh?) Pip was lured into a sock and tights shop, of the type that there are hundreds of in Italy but very few of at home and was quickly attracted to a ‘buy 5 pairs and pay for 4’ offer. Me? Not so taken with the socks, but I’m sufficiently amazed by the concept.

Found a gorgeous grocery shop called Latticini from where we purchased some lemon pasta, eggs and a tiny bottle of mandarin yoghurt. Could have bought more stuff than we either eat or carry, but we are the souls of restraint.

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Latticini, Avellino

So with socks and pasta, we headed back to find the car with only a slight sidetrack into cafe where I thought I ordered lemonade, only to have the juice of 5 squeezed lemons and a sugar bowl delivered to the table – even though whistling was out of the question for the next hour or so, I do like lemon juice and it’s got to be healthy, right?

Zoomed home to arrive right on dusk (phew!) and booked to hit the town’s German beer house for dinner. Double Jack’s Gasthaus sits on the northern edge of town in a double story, pink place. It’s all woody and cosy German inside with many biers and sausages on the menu. It also has pizza on the menu, and chips, and for Monday night, things were rockin’ by about 9pm. Double Jack is actually Mario and he and a young girl serve (or try to) the whole place, consequently, it’s a bit of a shemozzle. It’s good pub food, but they’re so run-off their feet they can’t clear or be distracted by such frippery as wanting an extra drink or the dessert menu. Still we had fun watching the locals down pizza by the cubic meter.

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Double Jack’s Gasthaus, Calitri