From Rome we had a short drive to the port town of Civitavecchia where we were stopping off before getting the ferry across to Sardinia. The town’s campsite was another of those resembling a trailer park but, as long as you didn’t look too closely when you went to the bathroom, was fine for a night.

Sardinia was to be a bit of a break from the road trip proper: we were staying with our friend Valentino (who was over from London) and his family for a few days, before meeting up with Marcello’s family on the south coast for a couple of weeks.

After a very smooth five and a half hour crossing, we arrived in Olbia. We then hit the road again and made our way to Mamoiada, a small village not far from Nuoro where Valentino’s family live. The village is best known for a festival held in January where the men don traditional pagan costumes of sheepskins and wooden masks. Murals of these costumes, plus other scenes are painted on the sides of houses and shops all around the village.

After introductions with Valentino’s parents and a quick tour of the house, Valentino treated us to a drink in one of his locals before taking us to his brother’s pizzeria for dinner. Here we can safely say we had another “best ever” tasting experience, as Gianfranco’s pizzas were definitely the best we’ve had the pleasure of eating!

For our first full day we drove over to Cala Gonone on the east coast and spent a very chilled out day on the beach. The water was beautifully clear and warm and it was a real treat to have a day of doing nothing but relax as usually our chill days still involve some chores. Unfortunately for Valentino the day took a slight turn for the worse when he trod on a sea urchin, ending up with no less than seven spikes in his toes. Ouch!

The following day showed us even more of the marvels that Valentino’s family has to offer, but is just part of their everyday life. His mother put together an amazing lunch where more or less everything was homemade/home grown: ravioli, pasta sauce, melanzzane, Cuoro di bouie tomatoes, cucumber and super-sweet pears picked from their “orto” (orchard/large allotment), Sardinian bread, red wine and, last but not least, sebadas (a sweet pastry filled with ricotta and orange zest). They even have their own pressed olive oil. It’s safe to say that we practically had to roll ourselves away from the table and to go and lie down for a while afterwards!

After said nap, ‘Tino took us out into the surrounding hills to the orto where a lot of the food had come from. Our mouths nearly hit the floor and we were green with envy when we saw the quantity of produce and how well it all grows there. All different types of tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, cucumbers, lettuces, herbs, figs, pears, apples … It was incredible and we could have easily spent hours admiring it. We certainly took pleasure in filling a couple of crates to take south with us to enjoy.

After two and a bit days of fantastic hospitality from ‘Tino’s parents, brother and sister, we were up early to repack Charlie for the journey to San Antioco. Only this time we actually needed our one passenger seat for a passenger: it usually holds our clothes bags plus three boxes in the footwell. As well as needing to find a new place for those, we also needed to fit in ‘Tino’s luggage, plus all the food we’d picked the day before. All credit to Marcello’s packing skills, as what seemed like the impossible was achieved. However we’ve never seen Charlie so full – it goes to show that what we thought was full before wasn’t even close. Good practice for any times we may need an escort in Africa! (In case you’re wondering why we didn’t just put it on the roof, roof space is a last resort as the weight balance ideally needs to be as low as possible.)

After what seemed like an eternity on the mountain back roads, we finally made it to the campsite and got set up ready for Marcello’s family’s arrival the next day. Having gone from two to three, then we were nine! It was fantastic to have everyone together – particularly Peter and Hanne (Marcello’s parents) who we hadn’t seen since January. If only Gian-Paolo and Lliam could have been there it would have been the perfect Sangiorgio family gathering.

The next two weeks were a lovely mix of catching up, reading, soaking up the sun, swimming and snorkelling in the sea, putting the world to rights, playing connect 4, teasing, good meals, beautiful sunsets and a few cheeky beers (well, juices and ice creams for Gian-Marco and Paolo!). It was especially nice for everyone to be together for Marcello’s birthday. It was a tough job, but we all took on the hardship of helping him drink champagne, eat prawns and the lovely pasta Valentino made, as well as sing “happy birthday” tunelessly to him.

A few things that will really stick in our minds about our time together are the wonderful dishes Valentino made for us (having a chef on holiday with you is always a bonus!); the tussels over the braai between Marcello and his father; Juliano’s kiddie fan club, having organised lots of games of sport for them all; Gian-Marco and Paulo’s chatter about superheros; and not forgetting the wind and rainstorms of the last few days! Above all, it was great just to spend time with everyone before we set off on the next phase of our travels.

We also mustn’t forget to mention the additional bags’ worth of “stuff” the family brought over (extra supplies of mossie repellent, the forgotten shower rail for stopping rain from pooling on the awning, a new spare tyre cover for Charlie …) and took back for us (no longer needed books and maps, extra fleeces, spare chargers …). It has certainly made life on the road a little bit easier and we’re very grateful!

After a superb couple of weeks, it was time to hit the road again. This was the longest we’d spent in one place and it was nice not to have had to pack up every few days, however it was exciting to be starting on the second phase of our trip. It didn’t make it any easier saying goodbye to everyone though and we’ll definitely miss them.

From San Antioco we drove back up to the northern coast to Capo d’Orso for a few days, where Marcello had stayed with his family two years ago. Here we made the most of the lovely beach and reappearance of the sun, before heading back over to the mainland and the start of “city life” again.

Next stop, Venice.



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