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©John R. Turner

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May 23, 2014

For the last portion of our Italian journey, in order to avoid the high prices of resorts on the Mediterranean coast, we decided to stay in a small town about twenty miles inland. We figured it would be easy enough each day to drive to the coastal towns and then return to our hideaway for a late supper and sleeping. And that turned out to be pretty much as expected, with the exception that the roads leading away from the sea were not as easy to figure out as we had anticipated. What we had not prepared for was the nature of the place where we found accommodations. I didn’t realize Italy had villages as remote and high up in the mountains as our choice of Ossegna, in Liguria. And the surprise turned out to be a delight.
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In America, we’re accustomed to signs indicating the location of motels and boarding houses but in Italy that’s not always the custom. When we finally found our way to Ossegna in the middle of the afternoon, there was no indication of where our place might be. We pulled into a car park along the road below the village and began to walk up steps leading to what seemed like the center of town. A couple of hundred yards up, I saw a man standing in his doorway watching us fairly intently. So I walked over, showed him the name of our hotel and tried to ask him where it was. He indicated that he couldn’t read the name without his glasses, and started into the house to get them. Just as he turned to go, about another two hundred yards up, a vigorous man came hurrying down the steps asking if we were the Turners. He proved to be Massimo, our landlord. How he discovered that we were in town I never did learn.

On his web site for his rooming house, Arcobaleno, Massimo had said support in English was available. That turned out to be based on his definition of English, which meant slight familiarity with, maybe, twenty-five words. So conversation was more a matter of body movements than of speech. Nonetheless, Massimo managed to usher us into a large dining room, with a huge window overlooking the mountains, where he and his wife served us a cup of tea and a “cafe americano,” a drink which is fairly pleasant but not much Americano. After we had sat and “chatted,” as it were, for a quarter hour, Massimo indicated he would show us our rooms. That involved going down a steep flight of outside stairs to a door two floors below the dining room, where we were ushered into a fairly spacious apartment, with a kitchen, a dining room, and a spacious bedroom. Massimo warned me to duck my head when going from the dining room into the bedroom, the practicality of which you can see in one of the accompanying photographs. The cost of all this was astoundingly low, so low I don’t dare list it, but I’ll say it was about a third as much as a single motel room in the United States. It also included a fairly sumptuous breakfast each morning.

Ossegna is perched, seemingly precariously, on the side of a steep hill, as is mostly the case with all the villages nearby. But since the town has been there since Roman times, I don’t guess there’s much chance of its sliding off.

We had a wonderful four days there, going out to famous places on the coast each day, and then retreating to our mountain refuge as the sun went down. Massimo continued energetic and cheerful the whole time, sometimes coming in at breakfast to attempt conversations with us. He continued to ply us with free bottles of wine. We were lucky that there were three English people there with us, a couple who in their retirement had decided to move to France, and their daughter who worked in German city just across the border. We had delightful conversations with them each morning, comparing national characters and reflecting on the insanity of the world.

In travel, I almost always find that little events which can never make it into guide books end up being the occurrences to stick most in my mind. In the car park to which Massimo directed us, even farther up the hill than his hotel, there was a faithful little dog, always there each evening to welcome us home. I began to depend on his being present, and he never failed us.

Ossegna is certainly an out-of-the-way place, but if you’re ever in northwest Italy I would advise you to check it out -- that is if you can manage to find it.