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March 27-30, 2014 | Tuscany

Our tour progresses to Tuscany. We make a stop in Lucca. The city pleases me enormously as it is much less touristy than other Italian highlights. In a side street, we find a pleasant restaurant and we while away the evening in the company of a glass or two of delightful wine.

Next morning, our first appointment is with Ilaria, the sister operation of Fonte Posina, whom we had visited last week. This gives us the opportunity to learn more about the company and its products. At Acqua di Nepi, in the afternoon, completely new topics are on the agenda. The spring belongs to the San Benedetto group. Our discussions revolve round the advantages and disadvantages of the single stage process for bottled water. San Benedetto produces about 95% of its bottles in the single-stage process, whilst only here at Nepi is there a stretch blow moulder, linked to a bottler.

Acqua di Nepi, Patrizio Dessi proudly shows off the strech blow moulder linked, just three weeks ago, to an older filler

In the evening we move closer to Rome so that we can get to our appointment with Plasco on time on Friday morning. We set off promptly from our overnight camping spot near the motorway exit heading for Anagni, and the Plasco offices. The satnav is unable to pinpoint the street. En route we consult Google Maps: the destination flag appears to be in the middle of a street! So off we go, in cheerful mood, into the centre of town. No problem, but when we arrive at the spot indicated by the destination flag icon, there is no Plasco to be seen. We call their offices, asking for directions. Back comes the reply: unfortunately Google Maps doesn’t work well here, and our location is not on satnav. You need to find your way to the motorway exit. Waldemar and I exchange glances. That’s exactly where we started from an hour ago!

Throughout Italy, preforms are transported in octabins. Plasco is trailling lattice boxes, until now take-up is low

That afternoon, no such problems in finding Ferrarelle, another very strong brand in Italy. Director Giuseppe Cerbone explains that Ferrarelle is synonymous with the middle rank; there is still water, there is carbonated water and then there is Ferrarelle. The sparkling mineral water has a natural carbonation of about 2.5%. On the factory floor, we find 4 PET lines, one of them only a year old. The 40,000 bottles per hour are palletised on an impressive Acmi drying machine. Friday evening and we are keen to move on to Sicily. Giuseppe asks if we are proposing to catch the ferry from Naples. No, no, we reply, we will drive. And drive. The motorway seems endless, climbing to more than 3000 feet above sea level. Our Editourmobil struggles valiantly against the steep climb but barely manages 20 miles per hour. As we reach the top, road conditions take a disastrous turn for the worse. Some of the roads in Latin America were bad, but the roads on this stretch really take the biscuit! And so we battle on, for mile after mile after mile. We manage to find a suitable parking spot for the night at a petrol station, only to discover that our gas supply used for cooking and heating is out of action. We have to fix it before we can continue our journey. Fortunately it turns out that the sensor has been triggered due to the bad roads and the gas has been shut off. I press the release button and the gas is up and running again. In the afternoon we finally reach Sicily. We drive through the narrow streets of a little village, and by 4 in the afternoon, we reach a pleasant camping ground for the weekend, which by this time, is almost over.

40,000 bottles per hour palletised expertly at Ferrarelle