2005 letter from Sarzana: As we wrote this, we had begun an adventure. We were looking for a way to get to that part of the coast that is called Cinque Terre. In our English camping guidebook, there was a listing for a private person who rents space to four or five motorvans at a time. We have liked these kinds of places, so we decided to try this one. Getting there was a story. We came up on the autostrada, got off at the correct exit, found the marker on the main street where our instructions said you should turn, and found ourselves in tiny streets going up the mountain. After a long ride, we decided to ask for directions at a bar. The young man spoke no English but he made us a tiny map. Even with this, it was a frightening trip! First of all we could hardly believe that we could drive on these roads. Secondly, we were not sure the place was still there, because there were no signs. Third, it was quite obvious that we would not be able to turn around for many miles. When we did find the site, we could hardly believe it. And what a place it turned out to be.

It is a private establishment a hillside farm where they keep all kinds of poultry and grow olives, figs, grapes, and vegetables, attractive to so-called agri-tourists. It was situated high on a terraced hill. There were three or four buildings, including huge dining rooms with seating for 40 or 50 people. It took us a while to figure everything out because our 82 year old host spoke only Italian. His wife spoke both Italian and French, but no one spoke any English at all. But in the end, we found that they rented rooms and also apartments as well as space for motorvans. Apparently they also get busloads of people on some kind of agri-tourism, so they sometimes need the big dining room to feed their guests. Those in the rental units eat with "the family" and we were offered dinner too. Of course we accepted. (Picture 1 shows the view from our camp site.)

The long table was set for 20. At every third place were three bottles one green soda bottle with red wine in it, one clear soda bottle with white wine in it and one blue bottle of mineral water. In addition there were periodic cruets of their own first pressed olive oil. The Signore also had made the wine. He kept on indicating that it was just vino tavolo - table wine - but Ron thought it was better than the table wine he has been buying. Our host poured himself wine, and then put a slice of bread into the soup bowl in front of his place. Then he drizzled the olive oil onto the bread. We followed his lead. Then we were served family style: primo piatto was gnocci with ragu sauce; secondo was bracciole in a tomato sauce with capers and mushrooms. Cucumber salad in some kind of cream sauce; roasted, herbed zucchini; and a tomato and lettuce salad accompanied this. All the vegetables were grown on the farm. For dessert, we had extremely sweet figs from their trees and then an artful-looking fruit tart. The Signora prepared all the food.

The other guests were French, Italian or German. When we explained what were doing in Europe to those who understood English, we became the focus of the conversation with others translating what we said. It was quite an evening. At the end of dinner, the guests returned to their quarters. But a teen-aged guest and his mother, both of whom spoke English, came over to talk to us. We sensed that the young man in particular was very interested in seeing the inside of the RV so we invited them in. We had a wonderful time that evening, with lots of laughing and tasty food. It took us a long time to find that place, but it was certainly worth it.

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