On Sunday, June 7, we had breakfast at the hotel buffet and headed for the Venice airport, but we got the directions wrong and spent an extra hour on the bus due to starting in the wrong direction. Fortunately we were not catching a flight, but just renting a car! When we arrived at the airport, we followed the wrong signs to the rental parking lot but eventually found it. We had reserved a car with an automatic transmission so that both of us could drive, but the Hertz agency didn't have any, so we got a tiny Peugot convertible with a manual transmission that only I could drive. As we were walking to the car, we witnessed the only car accident we saw in all of Italy, when two rental customers backed into each other!
Since we were running late, we drove on the highway all the way to Bologna rather than taking back roads as I had hoped to do. We saw a lot of grapes, some hills and clouds, and a lot of very speedy drivers. Jessie took a lot of photos. Once in Bologna, we rented half of a mobile/manufactured home at a Tourist Bureau campground. It had the largest shower of anyplace we stayed in Italy. We drove into town and saw the Neptune Fountain and the church of San Petronus before going back to the campground for a dip in the pool.
We tried to follow the Frommer's guide recommendation for dinner, but the menu had changed and the place was packed, so instead we took our chances across the street at Contavalli Osteria. The waiter was very apologetic that they didn't have an English menu, so he brought us complimentary shots of "Bolognese" aperatif before and after our meal that made me very tipsy. Since I didn't feel safe driving, we walked around the historic district looking for gelato for about an hour but didn't find it until we gave up looking and headed back toward the car.
Monday the 8th, we woke to Jessie's alarm, which she had set to Weird Al's "My Bologna." We had breakfast of cappuccino, pear nectar, and croissants at the campground and drove into town to see the Basilica of San Dominico and some early Michelangelo sculptures. After a snack, we headed for the west coast. We stopped at a rest area for another snack, and while I went to the restroom Jessie hunted for wi-fi and left her camera unattended on a table, where it was promptly stolen. We lost most of our digital photos of Bologna, so the photos we have are from Jessie's "pop art" camera.
We had lunch in La Spezia at a McDonald's where many of the menu items were peculiar to Italy. We found a coastal road to follow and although we couldn't see the sea for miles, we drove with the top down so I could sit up straight! We found a beach in Massa and went for a swim before we discovered it was a private beach, but nobody hassled us about it. There were good waves, and at one point Jessie got swept ashore.
We continued down the coast looking for a hotel and found Ostello Lille Mare. It had fully furnished apartments with kitchenettes, intended for longer term family vacations, but the owner was delighted to rent to some Americans, repeating "Obama! Obama!" We had an amazing dinner of pasta & seafood at the restaurant on site for only 17€. Then we walked about a mile along the shore road in search of gelato and found three shops all together. One of the flavors we tried had chocolate covered Cheerios in it.
The families in surrounding apartments were loud until about 11pm, and we had little to do since the wi-fi shut off when the office closed at 9pm.