When I arrived on the outskirts of Calcio it was after 18:00 and I needed to find somewhere to sleep. I had read on the internet that wild camping in Italy is illegal, however in Switzerland it isn’t, so I was kicking myself that I had paid for camping whilst crossing Switzerland. So I needed to find a good stealth camping site where I would not be discovered. The roundabout at the entrance to the autostrada looked promising, apart from a car parked on the roundabout stopping me from doing a proper reccy. I think they were waiting for someone coming off the autostrada. I cycle all the way round my potential camping spot but couldn’t see anywhere to set up camp, as the roundabout had vines on it, you could see straight through from one side to the other, which meant I would clearly be seen. Within 5 minutes I spotted another possible stealthy spot, it was a sub station, very tall with electricity cables at the top going across the road, on one side was a house and the other a builder’s yard both the house and the yard had high fences. I thought I could set up behind the sub station in between it and the fences. The only thing I was concerned about were dogs, if there were any they would find me, I had a talent for dogs finding me. I cycle on knowing I could always return, another 5 minutes and I was at a supermarket I popped in to buy a sandwich but couldn’t find any, I thought they must have sold out but when I asked the very pleasant and helpful staff said they would make me one. I chose the ham from the delicatessen counter and the bread roll from the bakery section and a they made me a ham roll, all the staff were involved in the process which I found funny.The main street in Calcio had a barrier across it, stopping vehicles driving down it, beyond this barrier was what looked like a market being set up. I of course ignored the barrier and cycled into the main street, the first stall was of interest as it was right outside the hardware store, they were building a display of wood burning stoves and other heaters. I propped my bike up against the steps and went in to see if I could buy camping gas, they sold gas but not with the fitting I needed. As I left I asked if it was a night market and was told that it was the fiesta of the white knight a very special occasion. I slowly cycled down the main street and had to stop outside a huge beautiful church which looked more like a cathedral, it was magnificent it just seemed too big for the village, this church would not look out-of-place in Vatican city. I continued slowly passing the stalls saying ciao to the people behind them, at the end of the street was a bar which had set up tables outside and were having a BBQ. I checked out the menu and ordered a brisket roll, I was told the BBQ wasn’t ready so I agreed to come back later. The atmosphere was starting to build and there were a lot more people out and about, I headed back to the front of the church which had more stalls outside and a couple of children’s rides. I cycled up to the red cross staff and asked if anyone spoke English, three of them did so to be polite and start a conversation I asked about the fiesta. I also asked if there was a campsite nearby, so I could join in the fiesta but have somewhere to sleep. The answer was that there was a hotel 3 km away but the fiesta went on all night, meaning I could enjoy the party and then just find a corner to sleep, most likely that would be in front of the church next to the bike rack I could see.I thanked the red cross staff offering to help if they needed it and wandered back towards the BBQ. The tables were busy so I propped my bike up against the wall next to them, a small group of people said hello and we chatted about my journey, they invited me to sit and eat with them. I queued for my brisket, chips and beer, the red cross team passed and stopped to say hello. I had to wait a while for my BBQ but it was worth it. I joined the group at the table and we chatted about my journey, a wonderful lady called Gloria Glory translated most of the conversation on her mobile phone, it would turn out that Google translate would be very busy. The atmosphere was a real festive one and everyone was very friendly, I was sitting with the Belotti family, Davide, Daniela and their extended family and friends. Matteo their son said hello did a little translation and then went off with his friends. Daniella offered for me to stay with them overnight so I could shower and sleep in a bed, I accepted. Davide explained that the BBQ ribs were aged meat and passed me one to try, it was delicious and juicy. There was such an incredible community spirit people passing our table would stop to say hello, Daniella would explain why I was there, I felt like royalty. The staff at the BBQ were very busy but took the time to come and say hello, one of the waitresses looked like Demi Moore. I couldn’t remember the actresses name at first and I said Ghost, Patrick Swayze , Davide soon remembered the actresses name. I hope she took it as a compliment.After our BBQ it was suggested we go for a walk, Daniela arranged to put my bike at the rear of the bar and due to my panniers being too wide to fit through the small door Davide opened the huge wooden doors which stopped cars driving in. I was the centre of attention and was being introduced to everyone in town. We met Davide and Daniela’s neighbour who spoke excellent English then headed to the church to meet the head of the local karate school. There were young children everywhere most of them had boxing gloves on and were either punching someone or something. A few people were setting up a projector but it wouldn’t display the laptop screen, so I tried to help but failed, as I couldn’t understand the Italian version of windows. Daniela and the rest of the ladies headed for a bar across from the church to organise English tea. Davide and I joined everyone for tea, Davide asked if I drank wine and ordered some Italian champagne, here’s me a complete stranger and I’m being treated like a celebrity.
After tea and good conversation with Gloria translating with Google we headed to get Matteo who was playing a card game with his friends. The card game was called Kanomi and the boys took it very seriously, it had the tension of a high stakes poker tournament. Daniela asked what I wanted for breakfast, I said croissants and coffee would be perfect, so we headed to the bakery. It was quite late, around 11pm but the bakery was busy and outside there were huge croissants which could easily feed a family of four. I picked a smaller versions and when I offered to pay Daniela wasn’t having any of it.
At the Belotti residences we chatted using Google translate added each other on Facebook and watch formula e the electric version of formula one on television. A neighbour brought a folding bed round and I settled down for the night, the hospitality in Calcio was amazing but there was more to come.
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