#2 Crossing Italy

Aix-en-Provence – Genoa

It’s time to hit the road towards Italy. As I have no direct access to a gas station, I make my way out of the city with a sign saying “NICE”. I’m not planning to make a stop there but it’s the next significant city on my route. A black car soon slows down and pulls over. The driver waves at me and tells me to get in. Rodolphe is on a business trip and agrees to take me to a gas station just before Nice where I will look for a new ride. Finding a car here turns out to be a little tricky. Never mind, it’s still early and I’m in no real hurry. I exchange travel stories with two German hitchhikers for a while and resume my search. After roughly two hours, a kind Moroccan family on holiday takes me a little further. Although they don’t take me for a long distance, Abdel Jabbar, his wife and his daughters make me cross the first border of the trip. I’m filled with excitement but also slightly moved as I realise that I’m not going to set foot on French soil again before one year.

The road from Nice follows the outline of the coast and is very scenic. While stopping for lunch, I meet a Franco-Italian couple driving to Rome. Barbara and Dominique first tell me that their car is full, yet we get on well and they soon go about reordering their luggage to make me a bit of space. Genoa, here I come! Once again I’m going to reach my daily goal. I am all the more pleased because I will be able to stay at Andrea’s place, my host met through Couchsurfing.

Right away I am struck by the size of Genova. The city seems to come close to Marseille’s dimensions and extends as far as the eye can see. It takes me nearly two hours to reach Andrea’s flat in Marassi, a neighbourhood in the north of the city. My backpack, despite several adjustments and sacrifices, quickly becomes a burden when it comes to walking long distances.

Andrea is putting me up for a couple of nights. We’ve only met a few minutes ago but we get along well. He shows me around his flat and lends me a set of keys so that I can go in and out as I wish. How trustful! Andrea is quite busy during my stay. We still spend a bit of time on the beach on the following afternoon with some of his friends. I use the time spent alone to update my travel diary and to explore the city.

Genova is far from being the most splendid Italian city with regards to architecture or history – Rome and Florence are in these respects unrivalled – yet the capital of Liguria possesses charm, character and authenticity. The city is built along the Mediterranean coast on a hilly terrain. The historical centre is quite flat while the multicolour residential buildings are perched on surrounding hills. This geographical separation amounts to a socio-economical hierarchy whereby the wealthiest hardly ever venture into the heights of the city.

Genoa – Lake Garda

I leave Genoa with no destination in mind. My Couchsurfing requests in eastern Italy have proved fruitless. When reaching a gas station in the outskirts of the city, a sign “NO AUTOSTOP” reminds me that hitchhiking is illegal in the country. Never mind, I’m not giving up.  Two hitchhikers from Portugal I meet at the gas station tell me they’ve been stuck here for three days looking for a ride to Milan. Three days! That doesn’t bode well. Yet, to my great surprise, I manage to find a car within only five minutes… for Milan. I feel slightly guilty as one of the tacit rules of hitchhiking is that the first arriving to a spot should be the first to leave. However Tony only has one place to offer in his car and wouldn’t have been able to take them. Tony is on the way back from Sardinia to his native Amiens and will drop me off at a gas station before Milan.

There’s no way to find a car going east from here so I finally decide to get a lift to Milan. Once there, I take the metro to the eastern outskirts of the city and start hitchhiking again. Overall, Italians are wary and hostile to hitchhikers. I wait one, two, three hours. Two pretty Italian girls stop to tell me I have no chance of getting a lift here and suggest to take me to the central train station. I appreciate their offer but I’m not taking the train. Hitchhiking is a good school of patience and resilience. And fortunately, it always pays off in the end.

A middle-aged Italian man takes me to a gas station a few kilometres further on the highway. Milan, Bergamo, Brescia… I make good progress now. A very kind couple from Zurich drop me off near the magnificent Lago di Garda. The day has been long and tedious, I decide to stop here for today and pitch my tent near the lake.

 

My camera was stolen in Slovenia so the pictures of Italy are lost. The photograph used to illustrate this post was found in the internet.

 

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