13 September, Italy – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’

Left Rome yesterday and spent the afternoon driving up through the mountains to the town of Ascoli Piceno. As we journeyed our way up the snaking dual carriageway that carves through the mountains with tunnels and vertigo inducing bridges, our attention kept being drawn to the ancient little towns and villages perched on top of rocky outcrops. How people manage to live up there, and what on earth they do to earn money, we couldn’t work out, but it must be quite a unique life.

None of us had realised that we were heading quite as high as this, and as my ears popped with altitude and the clouds rolled in I began to realise that we may be kissing goodbye to the hot weather. We arrived at Ascoli Piceno and managed to squeeze our van through the centuries old streets to check into our hotel, then made our way down to the town square. It’s known as one of the most beautiful in Italy, and it would be hard to disagree. A large stage was being constructed in the square, which we assumed must be for some sort of festival.

This morning we headed down to the sports ground and, bathed in sunshine, learnt about how to wang wellies so we could take part in the Wellington Boot Throwing World Championships. A small but passionate crowd were fired up by a parade of drummers and trumpet players dressed in Medieval dress (for reasons I didn’t quite understand) and then Iain and I went head to head. We had three goes each and turned out to be so appalling at it that only one of our throws was declared valid. Luckily that was mine, and I was declared winner of the final Main Event of the series – on the very last day of location filming for ‘All Over The Place – Europe’.

Filming wasn’t quite over yet though. Once we got back to the hotel we had to film a quick shot to drop in for a gag in another item. So my very last task in this block was to dress up as an Italian and be filmed reading the paper on the toilet.

Once that was over we headed to the square, having found out what the stage we saw being constructed was for – a heat of the Mr and Miss Italia 2014 competition! Things didn’t kick off until around 10pm, by which time it was getting chilly, so I felt a bit sorry for the young men and women striding up and down the stage in their pants trying to stop their legs from jiggling with cold. It went on for 2 hours and ended with one of the most hilariously out of time dance routines I’ve ever seen – and I’ve watched myself dancing on television. I wonder what motivates someone to enter one of those things?

Feels weird that the daunting quantity of filming we had ahead of us in June is now over. On our travels through Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Denmark and Spain we’ve had some incredible times that I think supersede our last two series in the USA and Australia, maybe because those two countries have less of a historical footprint. There’s no other continent on Earth that is so culturally rich, or has such wildly differing landscape in a fairly small area, and I feel that we have so much more in common with our European neighbours than I ever realised. Things have changed a lot across Europe since the days I explored the place on family holidays, and despite the fact we speak different languages I feel I have more in common with the nations I’ve explored over the last few months than I ever did on our ‘All Over The Place’ filming trips further afield. The rest of the crew seem to feel the same way and it’s taken us all by surprise a bit.

What’s especially lucky is that we’re getting the chance to do it all over again – we just found out today that the next series of ‘All Over The Place – Europe’ has been confirmed for 2015!

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