It’s time to head north to my final destination, Venice. The weather has turned distinctly autumnal. It’s strange to think but a few days ago I had been wandering around in pair of bathing trunks and nothing else. Now it’s two T-shirts, a waterproof jacket and socks. I would’ve worn long trousers, too, but I’ve only got one pair and I can’t take the risk of them becoming spattered as I’ll need them in pristine condition when I get to Rimini. So shorts it is, and cold my knees and legs are.
I’ve hardly gone a few kilometres along the SS16, the Strada Adriatica, than it begins to rain so hard I take refuge in a station until the worst had blown through. It doesn’t bode well for the other 4oo km or so.
The road runs parallel to the coast, through one seemingly endless ribbon of dreary development – shops, factories, hotels, holiday apartments. The resorts are marked on the map – Ortona, Francavilla al Mare, Montesilvano Marina, Rosetta degli Abruzzi, Giulianova – but to be honest, it’s difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends. They blur into each other, drab and dreary. Perhaps they look different at high season, filled with families and shouting children. Now they look like the discarded husk of a lost civilisation.
There’s something forlorn and desolate about the Adriatic coast out of season, and when grim weather gets hold of it. Cloud and wind drain the colour out of the landscape. The sand turns to dull fawn. The sea becomes a murky grey green. The sky is grey. Most of the bars and restaurants along the foreshore are closed and shuttered. In one or two the owners and their friends sit and gossip, not seriously expecting any business. The various gaudy banners have become grubby and tattered. There are cluster of plastic beach boats pulled up on the shore, amidst the poles that would’ve carried bright sunbrellas a week or so before. The hotels are closed up, too, their windows blank and dead. There are solitary walkers on the beach, sometimes with dogs, sometimes not. There’s so much of it, kilometre after kilometre after kilometre of sand, sand, sand. The wind has removed the traces of foot steps.
There are pretty bits and handsome towns. I like Fano,and the centre of Pescara, with their core of Renaissance town centres. There’s a lovely landscape just between Termoli and Vasto, and just before you get to Ancona, where the road turns inland away from Numana and Siriolo. They make you realize just hoe beautiful this stretch of country must have been once, fought over again and again over the centuries. But for the most part it’s hard pounding to Rimini, where I have to leave Nicoletta so that she can be shipped back to the UK. I can’t take her into Venice.
The tachometer says we’ve done 5166 km together. Never a complaint. Never a cross word. Never an upset. She has been steady as a rock on good roads and bad, on piste and off, up hill and down dale. I feel about her as a race horse owner must feel about a successful thoroughbred when their racing days are over. I can’t bear to sell her. I’ll use her for pottering around the lanes of Gloucestershire when I get back. Still, it’s a tearful moment.