24 – back to olde blighty

The following week both Paul and I, flew back to the UK, while our son gallantly held the fort at the rented villa, looking after our two dogs.

The purpose of this visit was to pack up my parents’ belongings and to escort them both safely over to Italy. Originally we had scheduled just a one week visit, but it soon became evident that an extra week would be required in order to get everything accomplished. However it was a superb opportunity to see family again after a long absence. How the grandchildren had grown, and how full of energy they were. We stayed a few nights here and there, living a strange nomadic existence, meeting up with more family members and friends along the way.

However the days seemed to fly by so quickly, taken up with writing numerous cancellation and change of address letters and more packing. We filled up yet more boxes, the final tally of which amounted to over one hundred and eighteen !!! In our absence, the housing market in the UK seemed to have virtually ground to a halt. Therefore we felt fortunate to have sold our house before this crisis had really set in. 

Finally, we were set to accompany my parents, Tina and Hugh, to our new abode in Italy. They were both so courageous to embark on such an adventure at their advanced time of life. However what was most important was to be together. Despite flying with a budget airline, we were pleasantly impressed, as my mother, a disabled traveller, received excellent treatment.

The staff were particularly kind and helpful and after we had safely landed in Rome the pilot even came out and took the time to chat with Mum, which thoroughly made her day. We hired a car from Ciampino and finally arrived back at our rented villa at around midnight, where we were treated to a vocal welcoming reception by the dogs. 

During the following few days Tina and Hugh generally took things quietly. During our absence the weather in Italy had decidedly heated up, and they found it especially difficult to adjust to the difference in temperature, therefore we elected to invest in a portable air-conditioner which they found to be a blessed relief. We also invested in a basic Sky Package so they could watch some BBC and English speaking programmes and news, as well as other free-to-air Italian channels. They particularly enjoyed watching old black and white films directed by the likes of Fellini and Di Sica, and comedies starring the renowned Italian actor Totò.

Just a few days later Paul once again returned to the UK in order to supervise the loading of “all our remaining worldly possessions” onto the lorry, which was soon to head off towards Italia. It was just as well that we had opted for the more generously proportioned lorry, as the selected vehicle filled up fast. In fact, at the very last minute Paul was forced to make some executive decisions as to which items would have to be left behind, as it became clear that all the furniture was not going to be crammed in the limited remaining space. This was rather a disappointment, however we put on a brave face – telling ourselves that these were only “material things” and nothing of any real sentimental value. Once again our team of friends were marvellous in assisting with this arduous task. We just couldn’t thank them enough for all their sterling efforts. Eventually, with Patrick – one of Paul’s best friends at the wheel, the lorry set off packed to the gunnels, on its long journey through Europe. 

photo *

Paul flew back to Italy the very next day.  We had been advised to prepare an itemised list of the lorry’s contents, translated into both French and Italian. We were concerned that Pat might encounter problems when passing through international borders, however in reality all seemed to go very smoothly and such paperwork proved to be surplus to requirement. Pat departed Bristol on the Tuesday afternoon, and finally arrived in Itri around midday on the Friday, somewhat weary but unscathed. 

We were not entirely sure whether the lorry would manage the narrow, steep and winding potholed road that lead up to the farmhouse, however Pat once again demonstrated his remarkable driving skills by successfully manoeuvring the truck along the way and eventually reversing up in the driveway of the house. Then came the laborious task of unloading the contents of the lorry into the downstairs “deposito” or lock-up of the house. It was an especially hot sweltering day, with temperatures soaring into the high 30’s. The metal tail lift was so searingly hot that Pat actually managed to barbecue his rather ample midriff whilst leaning against it. We managed to cram most of the items into the “deposito”, however we knew that we would soon have to transfer the contents elsewhere before any building work on the house could commence. Our friends Salvatore and Guido had kindly offered us some storage space in their lock-ups, however access to these was totally unfeasible for a large lorry, so we were forced to transport items ourselves in our versatile “People Carrier” vehicle. 

Pat rested up for a few days, trying out the local beaches and sampling the local cuisine. On the Sunday afternoon, Paul and Pat carefully manoeuvred the lorry back down the narrow winding road to the cemetery where they duly parked up. In Italy large lorries are banned from the roads during weekends, except for those transporting fresh produce, so Pat could not set off home before the deadline of midnight.

After a hearty meal, Paul and Pat drove back down to the lorry, which evidently had been noticed by the local “Carabinieri”, who were parked up nearby. Paul attempted to explain to them that we were British, and that Pat was a splendid friend who had transported our belongings to Italy from the UK. While struggling to explain that we were staying locally in a rented villa, Paul could not bring to mind the exact name of the district, at which point the “Carabinieri” said San Marco, as evidently our quiet  arrival in Itri had not passed unobserved, as they knew precisely who we were and where we were staying.  At the strike of midnight Pat departed on the long journey home.  We could not thank him enough for all his hard work and dedication.

photo * by Matthew Wynn


Chapter 25  –  next bureaucratic challenge – the italian health system


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