One of the most enjoyable aspects of the motorhoming lifestyle are the little eccentricities that we all indulge in. When Ji Hye was travelling with us she just loved the camaraderie displayed as motorhomers waved to each other as we sped along the various continental roads. And within that the apparent "superiority complex" of pointedly NOT waving to caravan owners etc. We are a strange lot.
Add to that the fact that you immediately bond with anyone and everyone when you eventually settle on a site and you realise you are part of a very special club. Take, for example our travelling companions on this trip, Gianni and Loretta Carbone. Our relationship is just a year old having met on the banks of the Loire in April 2012 and have been firm friends ever since. We have lots in common including an inherent curiosity to explore and try things new.
So it is that curiosity that left us open to the excitement of finding not just a new campsite but one of such unique proportions that it has crept to the very top of our all time favourites list. as described in our previous blog, We have been here now a few days and regard it as a gift that keeps on giving. Take last night, for example. Yesterday was a feast day in Italy, a national holiday and not surprisingly the site filled up with every imaginable shape and size of vehicle. Smeraldo is obviously a gem in this Ligurian coastline and the Italians have been very successful in keeping the secret. We are the only two GB vehicles on the site although there is a sprinkling of Spanish and German rigs.
So last night we returned to the little site restaurant located with its own terrace with views that defy description. It is called "Dos Olas" and is a Ristorante, Pizzeria. The facility is run by a charming Italian/Spanish couple, Yuri and Suzanne Leandri and they bring a delightful charm and a personal touch. Assisted ably by Chef Cataldo who manages the wood fired Pizza oven they produce quality food the Italian way.
Last night we felt celebratory for a whole variety of reasons and I opted for a salami Pizza while Nancy and Loretta thought they would start with a Calzone. Now my experience of Calzones is limited to the time I lived in Arizona where a Calzone was something you had as a starter to get you in the "mood" for the real stuff to come later. This was a game changer as the picture shows Nancy and Loretta quickly decided that sharing one would pass as the main course!! Fantastic.
Needless to say Gianni is in his element, proud to be an Italian and guiding us beautifully through menus with little tips along the way. As the evening drew to a close, Yuri came and joined us rounding up the evening with a bottle of Limoncello for a nightcap on the house.
On reflection, this restaurant deserves all the luck it gets. True, it is in a beautiful location but the inaccessibility of the campsite means that his customer base is likely to be confined to the camping fraternity. A worthy venture and one that deserves a lot of support.
There are times, albeit not as often as we'd like, where there comes a 'perfect storm' sort of campsite. What does perfection consist of you ask? In order of preference, such a place would have to be; scenic (magnificent views) with photo opportunities galore, temperate climate - hopefully with little or no rain, wifi...because we just need it, and if the satellite finds its homing beacon and Sky sends us a little love from the UK; our world is complete. Add to that heady mix, the company of wonderful friends (Loretta and Gianni) and you have a place that will be difficult for us to leave. So...we found such a place in Moneglia, Italy on the Italian Rivera. Breathtaking doesn't do it justice...and there is a restaurant, which makes it even more compelling to those of us who would prefer little of no cooking on a holiday.
Dougal likes it too - he's had two meals of spagetti and will doubtless have another this evening.
It has been decided as the weather is due to take a turn by Friday, that we'll move on then. No worries as who knows what other gems may await us at our next destination, which I am reliably informed is Lake Garda. More to come!
I really don't know where to begin this. It is astonishing how things pan out and in all my days, months and years of motorhoming I have never had an experience like yesterday. By the way, this picture was typical of the sights en route to our destination. Let me set the scene a little.
Those of you who have been following our adventures will know that we moved from the French Riviera at Port Grimaud into North Western Italy two days ago. We were having a rendezvous with Loretta and Gianni Carbone, two good friends who are, like ourselves, meandering across these countries in search of the unexpected. We met at Camping Delfino just a few kilometres from the beautiful town of Alassio which will feature on our Photo Gallery Page. As always happens when we get together there was good food, good wine and good craic!
There is always one question that gets asked sooner or later, depending on how much we are enjoying the site. "Where do we go to next?"
The process of selecting that location is diverse…Research, books, Google Earth, recommendation or a combination of all of those. Problem is that different people have different tastes so what appeals to me might not be your cup of tea.
This time the decision had already been made before we ever got to Delfino! Gianni, as is his wont, had been wandering about the campsite chatting to all the other campers and sharing experiences…He really is a friendly fellow. In the process he met an older couple from Switzerland and he asked where they had been and was there anywhere they would recommend. They had been past Genoa and stayed near a small town called Moneglia still in the Liguria region. The site was called Camping Smeraldo.
Now, being wary of recommendations in general, I set about researching this site and although it has its own Web site I found very little other reference to it. My old faithful technique of loading up Google Earth, zooming in to the town of Moneglia and searching for local campsites produced results for about 10 campsites in the area but no mention of Smeraldo. That was indeed surprising.
I went onto the Web site for the camp to see if I could locate the coordinates but they were not mentioned. Just a post code. I keyed the post code into Google Earth but that only took me to the centre of Moneglia. By this stage I didn't know what to think so we agreed that Gianni should call the site to make sure there was availability and to ask them for the coordinates for the satnav.
Answer one. "Yes. Plenty of availability." Answer two, "The coordinates don't work because of the tunnel, by the way how big is your van?"
By this stage it was becoming a bit of an adventure but we had the recommendations of the Swiss couple who reaffirmed that the place was "Lovely".
And so yesterday morning we set off to travel the 90 miles along the coast to find Smeraldo.
The journey was utterly breathtaking and rewarding in its own right. Viaducts a plenty, tunnels by the dozen and views that, sadly, I don't have the words for.
The descent into Moneglia was a bit challenging but that was nothing compared to the views.
The little town was delightful as we relied on Archie's Europe on the satnav to guide us to where it believed the site was. Smeraldo had now taken on the character of Shangri La!
As we left the town we were confronted by something of a mountain! With a tunnel! Bedecked with signs telling you how little room there was either in height or width we calculated we could just about get through. Let me tell you at this point that this was an old railway tunnel that bored straight through the mountain and it lasted for several kilometres. An intricate traffic light system made sure that you didn't meet anyone coming in the opposite direction. At this point I expect you think that we drove through the tunnel and out the other side to find our campsite. Well, tough you are wrong! Half way through the tunnel there was what can only be described as a hole in the wall through which we had barely enough room to turn and lo we had arrived at Smeraldo.
Everything about the place is breathtaking. There is a small intimate restaurant which is fabulous and, in all honesty, I have never had a better motorhoming experience. Neither have the others.
If you are thinking about travelling in Italy just come here. It will take your breath away, and, it has got very good wi fi!
If you are thinking you would like to zoom in on Google Earth just put the coordinates into the search bar. They are. 44.237058, 9.476463
Life is good. Even Dougal decided the view was worth a pose! Judge for yourself.