It is time to leave Sesto and head for the South. We decide to avoid Milan (and Gallarate!!!) by heading due South. Frank points his finger to a tiny wiggly road on the map, saying this is where he wants to stay the night, in the basin of the Ticino River, probably amongst the rice paddies. We do a number of things on the way, shopping for food, washing Emma, filling up with firewood and water, so by the time we arrive at our destination, the place is drenched in moonlight. We sense that it is a beautiful place, an old abandoned mill to our left and open space to our right, but nevertheless, the next morning, we have a surprise in store for us!
For more pictures of this amazing frosty morning, click here.
We warm up sawing some wood and get Emma ready to go. Our plan is to drive to Salsomaggiore, a town with a hot thermal spring, but we are only about 500 metres down the road when we are stopped by a passing car. “You are on your honeymoon? Would you like to join us for lunch in a farmhouse restaurant in the middle of nowhere?” You bet we do, even if we’ve just had breakfast and turning around proves to be a bit difficult with rice paddies on both sides of the very narrow road.
The restaurant is a glorified living room in a farmhouse, and we get served a fixed menu, simple but tasty. Franco and his father-in-law Luigi are very nice, and we try and practice our Italian while Franco uses the opportunity to speak English. They are from Bergamo, on a Sunday outing to go hunting and eat at their favourite restaurant, Cason Pol . During lunch, Franco gives us many names of places we absolutely must go and see. Top of the list is Certosa di Pavia, so after a hearty farewell, we cross the Ticino River and have a look at this extraordinary monastery. As soon as we enter the grounds, we tag onto a French group of tourists with the funkiest guide ever, who is hilarious, whilst at the same time being incredibly knowledgeable. I wish I could understand all the nuances of her stories, she has the whole group in stitches.
Taking photos is expressly forbidden with repeated signs and verbal warnings from the tour guide. These have the opposite effect on the group – everyone, including Frank, is snapping away as soon as the guide or any of the guards are looking the other way. The interior decoration is immaculately preserved, according to our guide due to the fact that there’s never been any artificial heating in the building.
Click here for more photos.
We come back to Emma just as dusk is settling over the fields. A couple of hours driving takes us to Salsomaggiore, where serendipity leads us to a great car park for campervans right by the station.
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Before leaving for the Tango workshop in Devon and the wedding at the Dru, I arranged to meet the archivist at Sesto’s main church on our return. We called in at the shoe shop, where the owner had told us he would try and find out if there was some sort of connection between our two families. Sadly, in the interim, there had been a death in his family and he was very apologetic about not having made any headway. Then, at the church, we were informed that there was a funeral and that the archivist wasn’t available – we didn’t find out whether the two events were linked – and we were told to come back in a couple of days, as we couldn’t wait another week for the archivist’s visit. The woman who answered the door tried her best in a room set aside for the purpose and took a number of ledgers from the numerous steel cabinets but was unable to shed any further light on the subject of my mother’s branch of the Bassetti family tree. How frustrating – she had five siblings and who knows we could have been passing relatives in the street without either of us knowing! All leads seemed to have dried up so we went to the library where we looked up the facebook page for the Sesto community that Michele, our architect friend, had recommended. There we might be able, at least, to post an appeal for information, together with a photo of me by my grandfather’s grave. Who knows what new info it might reveal – we can only wait and hope.
Looking for Relatives!
We are looking for living descendants of Giuseppe Roberto Bassetti, born 10.11.1881 in Sesto Calende.
His children were called Nita (*1911), Roberto (*1913), Luciano (*1913), Elvira (*1915), Carolina (*1918) and Angelo (*1923).
I am the son of Nita Bassetti and would love to find my family!
This is a photo of me beside the tomb of my grandfather (Giuseppe Roberto) and great-grandfather (Vinanzio), in the cemetery of Sesto Calende.
Please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, Frank
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After 10 days in the UK, we are back in our Emma. We arrive in the middle of the night to a sharp frost, much colder than it was in Wales where we’d spent the previous weekend at the Druidstone Hotel, where Beth and Angus, the owners, got married. It was a very moving ceremony and so lovely to see their joy in saying yes to each other, in the midst of running the hotel (and their own ceremony!), with two little children in tow and having come through the loss of both of Angus’s parents in the last three years.
To see more photos of the wedding, click here.
As we arrive too late in Italy to catch a train back to Sesto, we have to get a hire car from Milano Linate airport. Somehow we get lost on the way home, driving round and round in a deserted town called Gallarate in the middle of the night, which reminds me of the time when my first boyfriend Helmut and I were travelling in Italy and tried to find a way out of Milano towards Lago di Como. Somehow the signs seem really good until at some point, there are no signs at all and then you seem to find yourself back where you started, with the same run of roundabouts again…
The next morning, we have to drive back to Linate to return the hire car. As we drive along, trying to avoid getting lost in Gallarate again but not succeeding, somehow this all doesn’t make financial sense: counting train and bus journeys plus hire car costs, maybe we could have just parked our van by the airport – not to mention the time it all takes. There must be another reason for having chosen this way for our return. Anyway, we drop off the car at the airport and take a bus to Milan centre, where we walk around a bit, taking in the sights before heading for the train station to go back home.
At the station, Frank sees a poster of ‘Mamma Mia’, the West-End Musical for which his nephew Jason’s company Deadline, sets up and takes down the stage all over the world. We give him a ring, and sure enough, he is in Milan, so we arrange to meet for a cuppa. What a lovely coincidence! So that was the reason for all this travelling to and fro with the hire car, now it all makes sense
On the way back home, we get stuck once more in Gallarate, this time on the train. A train has broken down on the line in front of us, giving us time to contemplate the sights of Gallarate train station for about one hour, before the train haltingly shuttles back into motion. Maybe there was something in this town that we had to discover, maybe we missed it in this life. If so, I’m sure it’ll come up again.
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