It’s all over!

We have tried to include a lot of our photos in our blog to help get through some of my ramblings and as such have run out of download space on our free blog site. If you are still interested in following our adventure, you will need to log onto our new blog site, davidandlindasgrandtour2.wordpress.com (original isn’t it?) and click onto the “follow” link and enter your email address. We hope to see you soon!

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When in Rome……

1st February – 7 February

While Dave was getting his haircut yesterday, he struck up a conversation with a young guy who was studying medicine in Rome and was home for holidays. After much talk about where we have been, he told Dave about a place called Tropea that sits on the Promontorio di Tropea which was not part of our original plan, but only a 60km detour so we decided to take a look. Along the way, we caught sight of Stromboli which juts dramatically out of the sea and is the only island whose smouldering cone is permanently active. Once parked, we had to climb 196 steps to reach the old town, however the views were more than worth it. From the top the coast alternates between dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches, all edged by translucent turquoise water, it was just beautiful. The old town was full of little laneways, lots of restaurants which in peak period would be bursting at the seams, but quiet now. We have a spot for the night by the water in a small bay near the marina and in the distance we can see what we think is Mt Vesuvius. A nice man who owned the bar on the beach came up to us and started talking with the loudest voice we have heard yet, and Italians do speak loudly! He was very friendly and showed us where we could get water from behind his bar if we need it. We are glad we took the detour.

The plan was to drive to the town of Pizzo and have a look around. The trip was pleasant enough with views across the ocean. Once parked we started our walk down to the town and decided we wouldn’t go any further as it didn’t look too inviting. We got back onto the free autostrada section for 35kms then the state road to the town of Paolo, passing lots of plantations that were being sown with new crops, we could even see snow capped mountains in the distance. The spiel in Lonely Planet wasn’t raving about the town but as it was in the direction we were heading, we decided to stop here and visit the Santuario di San Francesco di Paolo a curious, empty cave with tremendous significance to the devout. The saint lived and died in Paola in the 15th century and the sanctuary that he and his followers carved out of the bare rock has attracted pilgrims for centuries. The cloister is surrounded by wall paintings depicting the saint’s miracles. The original church contains an ornate reliquary of the saint. Also within the complex is a modern basilica, built to mark the second millennium and just outside the are the usual religious souvenir shops. We are parked nearby and have a balcony view over the town to the water.

After a morning spent doing the laundry, we continued on the SS18 towards Naples driving on what would have to be one of the many spectacular roads, scenery wise that we have travelled on in Italy. The road wound its way through a range of mountains, hugging the coast with views down to the water, a colour of the likes we have never seen before. Blue in colour, it appeared to be glowing, see the picture below and I promise you there has been absolutely no touching up of the colour. We saw high peaks with snow dusting the very tops and we have found a lovely wildcamp spot on the beach (again!) in a town called Policastro Bussentino which sits in a bay that looks back to the mountain range we drove through and what we have yet to tackle. We took a short stroll to the small marina which doesn’t look that old and has a few small boats moored. It is blissfully quiet here, so a good night sleep should be had by all!

If you look closely you can see the road we drove on

If you look closely you can see the road we drove on

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On our walk yesterday around the marina, we found a closed restaurant that still had its unlocked wifi connected. As today was dismal with heavy rain, we decided to stay put and utilise the free fast internet by finally updating our blog posts which haven’t been done since the end of October! It took all of the morning to download about 100 pictures and upload them to our blog page. In between time we spoke to the kids via messenger, catching up on all of the family gossip. Dave did quite a lot of updating of our maps, Triposo etc and then backed everything up as well as taking a few short walks up the beach and into the little town here. It was good to get up to date with everything and tomorrow we move on.

Policastro Bussentino

View from our overnight spot at Policastro Bussentino

Very overcast skies accompanied us on our travels today passed more mountains although we couldn’t see a lot. There is a warning out for some bad weather later today and tomorrow so we wanted to get settled before the forecasted storms hit. We stopped along the way at the town of Agropoli. Initially we were going to stay there overnight but after having a walk around, visiting the castle on the hill which overlooked the marina area and oceanfront, we decided to continue on. We passed more ladies on the roadside, some had lit fires in small bins to keep themselves warm. We arrived at the sports stadium which is about 7kms from Salerno and we will stay here tonight, see what the weather is like tomorrow and decide then whether to continue into Salerno or stay put.

Agropoli

Agropoli

The weather today was awful, seems the forecast was mostly correct. We had heavy rain most of the night and throughout the day, so not the day for driving into Salerno or along the Amalfi coast. We spent the day reading and watching the street ladies do their business from the carpark. It was surprising to see the number of cars that drove by, not sure if it was too look at us in our motorhome, or to check out the ladies. There was a shift change at lunchtime with the morning shift doing most of the business!

Blue skies helped us to decide that we wouldn’t bother with Salerno and make our way along the Amalfi coast. Not quite knowing what to expect we thought we may be able to stop along the way and stay for the night. Ha ha, joke is on us. Not only was there limited parking but the road was very windy and narrow for most of the way. Poor Dave had to concentrate so hard I’m sure he missed a lot of the beautiful scenery. Quaint little towns dotted the rugged coastline where villas cling precariously to unforgiving slopes and terraced cliffs planted with lemon trees sheer down into sparkling seas. We did manage to park Italian style (basically anywhere you want) to get some great photos of the towns of Amalfi and Positano. With the heavy rains of the past two days and rough seas, the water while still holding its lovely colour was quite murky in places. During our time in Italy, we have found that Italian drivers like to use the road, the whole road even on narrow stretches and don’t like to move over. We were extremely fortunate to finish that leg of our journey unscathed, although we did almost clean up one car and one bike! We stopped just outside of Sorrento and had lunch before we made a mad dash in for a quick look. We walked to one of the lookout points and we could see Naples and Vesuvius on the opposite side of the bay and down to Sorrento port. Back on the road and we ended a big day’s driving at a town called Castellammare Di Stabia where we will stay tonight before driving to Pompeii, just 8kms up the road.

Amalfi coast

Amalfi coast

Positano

Isn’t it beautiful?

Positano

Positano

From Sorrento to Mt Vesuvius

From Sorrento to Mt Vesuvius

8th February – 15th February

We had a huge day’s walking today, starting with a 2km walk to the entrance gate of Pompeii which was once a Roman port. The archeological site spreads over 66 hectares, 49 of which have already been excavated and I think we must have walked 30 of them! We started at the Amphitheatre, and as you would expect everything we have seen so far pales in comparison due to most of the building being intact. It is the oldest among those known in the Roman world. We saw a display of nuts, legumes and fruit that had been uncovered, all black but in perfect shape, hundreds of pots and water jugs. We saw an amazing number of houses adorned with colourful frescoes and mosaic tiles at the entrance. Some of the more wealthy homes had marble ponds in the entrance with skylights over the top and lots of water features and ponds in the gardens. Temples, gates, theatres and gladiator barracks were spread out around the compound, roads that were marked with deep ruts where carts had been driven along, amazingly intact, and we visited a brothel, where small paintings with erotic depictions on the walls of the central corridor informed customers of the activities that took place. We walked for around 4.5 hours through this amazing site passed so many buildings, many of which were almost complete in their structure, you could spend several days here to see it all. Our final site was the Garden of the Fugitives where 13 adults and children were found trying to find a way out and were stopped by the pyroclastic flow. It was a sombre sight, but one that is known world wide. 2000 people lost their lives on 24th August AD79 but the figure could have been much higher. 20000 lived in Pompeii however after an earthquake in AD63 a lot didn’t return. There is a bustling city now surrounding the old site, not sure I would want to live there!

Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre

Retail therapy Pompeii style

Retail therapy Pompeii style

A Roman road

A Roman road

Garden of the Fugutives

Garden of the Fugutives

The plan was for a nice drive, but when driving in Italy in a motorhome that is 7.6 metres long, sometimes it can be very stressful. It appears that Italians love changing the directions of their one way roads. We have been caught many times in the past few weeks where our maps.me has told us one direction but when we get to a certain point, we can’t go any further due to the street being one way in the opposite direction. Dave has driven through some very tight spaces and unfortunately today was one of those days when street directions were not as we thought. We did get the motorhome out unscathed (again) however we are both now decidedly more grey! We found a place to stay for the night with a view directly onto Mt Vesuvius and the remainder of the day was spent trying to reduce the stress levels.

Were we tempting fate by watching the movie Pompeii last night before hiking to the crater of Mt Vesuvius today? Towering over Naples and its environs, Mt Vesuvius (1281m) is the only active volcano on the European mainland. Since it exploded into history in AD 79, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum and pushing the coastline out several kilometres, it has erupted more than 30 times. The most devastating of these was in 1631, the most recent in 1944. Approximately 600,000 people live within 7km of the crater and despite incentives to relocate, few are willing to go. We had a short drive to the carpark on a clear and sunny morning where we donned our hiking boots, paid our entry and headed up a volcanic rock path to the top picking up a furry four legged friend along the way. The view from the rim down into the crater was amazing with holes and vents sprouting sulphurous steam. One side of the crater had a lot more steam activity than the other and it was this side that the lava flowed down to Pompeii over 1930 years ago. It was obvious from the top the direction some of the lava flows took, with deep gouges full of multicoloured lava. On some surfaces of the crater, rocks covered with a bright green moss embedded with a white fern type plant looked like ice crystals. The view out towards Sorrento, Pompeii and the huge city of Naples was just beautiful as was the sparkling waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was a great hike, steep as you would expect but not too difficult. From Vesuvius we detoured around Naples on the autostrada, the only route available and for €4.50 to our overnight stop 44kms away, we can sleep easy tonight. Just near where we are staying is the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre which we had walk around the outside of, and walked to the ruins of Hadrian’s gate before returning home.

Our tour guide

Our tour guide with a view towards Naples

From Mt Vesuvius to Sorrento

From Mt Vesuvius to Sorrento

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Towards the cone of the volcano

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We had a small fireworks display last night. It’s amazing how many times we have seen fireworks in Italy, last nights was a private show that lasted about 5 minutes, but the kid in me gets just as excited. We walked into town this morning on another gloriously sunny day and there were lots of people out and about. We popped into the post office for some free wifi and as a treat, we booked a hotel for 3 nights in Rome. Normally we wouldn’t have splurged like that, but we haven’t paid for an aire since November, so we used that money. We spent the afternoon sitting in the sunshine, working out an itinerary for Rome and doing a spot of cleaning. Tomorrow we hit the road again.

After giving Tilly a bath, we had a nice drive around the craggy mountains and along the coast to the town of Sperlonga. We are parked with 7 other motorhomes and Dave struck up a conversation with a man from the UK who is living near Naples. When Dave mentioned that we had driven along the Amalfi coast, he advised us that motorhomes are not allowed and can get fined €500 if caught. Funny thing is we passed many police cars along the way but they didn’t seem interested in us, which is very lucky for us. After lunch we walked along the beach and up to the old town. Only very small, it afforded us views along the lovely sandy beach in both directions and the mountains behind. From town we walked to the southern end of the beach where there are ruins of Tiberius’ home and also his cave which was used as a bath house and is fed by one of the many springs in this area.

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Pretty Sperlonga marina

View from the other side of the marina

View from the other side of the marina up to town

Our journey today of around 100kms took us to Castel Gandolfo, a hilltop medieval town with views over Lago Albano. The largest and most developed of the Castelli’s two volcanic lakes it is set in a steeply banked wooded crater and is over 500 metres deep. The only site of interest in Castel Gandolfo is the pope’s 17th century summer residence, the Palazzo Pontificio where he holds his regular weekly audiences in July and August but unfortunately it is closed to the public. It is another sunny day and we have found a spot for the night just back from the lakes’ edge. For the size of the town, there are a surprising number of people taking advantage of the weather and walking around the lake. Perhaps something we may look at in the morning.

Across the lake to Castel Gandolfo and the Pope's summer palace

Across the lake to Castel Gandolfo and the Pope’s summer palace

14th February – Happy Valentines Day ❤❤❤🌹🌹🌹

After a cold night, we had more sun today so we decided to walk around the lake after breakfast. We had learnt that the lake was actually formed by two craters that became one lake after the sides of each crater collapsed when submerged under water about 70 metres below the surface. The path around the lake was about 12kms in length and bitumen in parts but mainly a dirt track through the forest area. It wasn’t a difficult walk by any means and the view across the lake back to Castel Gandolfo was just lovely. We had lunch before driving to our next overnight stop at the beach in a town called Passo Oscuro, 30kms west of Rome.

What started out as a lovely day with our drive to Tarquinia turned into a rather horrible one. After several days of having problems with our email account, we learnt today that Microsoft have locked our account and we cannot unlock it. Suffice to say we were really p….d off so instead of having a nice day walking around the town of Tarquinia, we spent three hours in the post office using their wifi, trying to sort it out. Not only can we not access our emails, but all of our folders within our email account and contacts have been lost! Whether it will affect our WordPress account we are still yet to learn. As the day progressed we found more and more things we couldn’t access so the next day or so will be spent trying to figure out what we have lost and whether we can retrieve it. By the time we had set up a new email account and sent a few emails, we were exhausted. Our original overnight spot ended up being quite busy so we decided to move to the beach. Along the way we saw about a dozen otters swimming in a small river near where what used to be salt lakes are. We have a really nice quiet spot overlooking the black sandy beach that is dark with iron, looks volcanic but it isn’t. Hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Another beautiful overnight spot

Another beautiful overnight spot

16th February – 21st February

We have been very fortunate since returning to mainland Italy from Sicily with the weather. While it has been cold some nights, the days have been warm and sunny with today being no different. A relaxing day was in order, however as we like to walk we decided to talk a stroll in the morning which ended up being a 10km round trip. We headed up the beach towards the small town that supports the beach huts and restaurants used in the summer. This 2km strip of beach is like all of the others, with paid beach chairs, umbrellas, showers etc. We left the beach and continued on to where the salt lakes used to be. In the 1800’s, they were the main source of income for the Papacy but bad weather saw the embankments washed away and market conditions changed. The area is now a nature reserve for birds and we saw a great number of pink flamingoes as well as ducks, black coots and egrets. We passed the river again with only a couple of the otters in the water, the remainder were sunning themselves. Back home for lunch which afterwards we spent a bit of time going over yesterday’s events, hopefully we have it all covered.

We had a short drive of 50kms to Viterbo where our future daughter in law Francesca’s mum lives and we plan to catch up with her tomorrow. We walked a kilometre to the train station and bought our tickets to Rome for Sunday. From there we wandered through town, surprised by the number of medieval buildings that are still standing, given Viterbo was heavily bombed during WWII. We visited the Chiesa Di Santa Rosa where her remains have been mummified and are housed in a glass case near the altar. After wandering around the lovely streets for an hour or so, we stopped in at a little pizzeria and had a nice lunch before coming home. More to explore tomorrow.

One of the many beautiful buildings in Viterbo

One of the many beautiful buildings in Viterbo

The first part of our day was spent walking around Viterbo again, this time walking along Via San Pellegrino, situated in the heart of the city’s well preserved medieval quarter and it was like turning the clock back hundreds of years with its low-slung arches and grey stone houses. There was also a small section of old wall that dates back to the Etruscan era. We visited the Papal palace, which served as the main papal residence from 1257 to 1281. We walked up the stairs to the graceful Gothic colonnade to peek into the Sala del Conclave, the hall where five popes were elected. From there it was off to the Saturday markets for a quick look before heading back. In the afternoon we met up with Francesca’s mum and had a lovely time. We spent a couple of hours at her house, chatting (with the help of google translate) before going out for dinner at a lovely restaurant about 12kms from Viterbo. We left the ordering to her and we sampled food that we would not have ordered ourselves, it was all delicious. She dropped us back at the motorhome and will drive us to the train station in the morning.

After saying our farewells to Titti this morning, we hopped on the train to Rome passing some lovely scenery along the way including what we think were the snow capped Appenine mountains in the distance. Two hours later we arrived at Roma Ostiense station where after coffee and a large glass of water before we left had us rushing to the bathroom. Imagine our horror when looking for some coins to pay for the toilet, we couldn’t find the wallet! We thought we had been pick pocketed. Dave lost every bit of colour in his face just thinking about notifying the banks of our stolen cards. After searching all of my pockets, we found it in Dave’s pocket, remembering that I had given it to him back in Viterbo. Crisis averted, we had our bathroom stop before getting on the metro to Termini station where we walked towards our hotel, near the Trevi fountain stopping for a bite to eat on the way. Everything about Rome is grand, from the beautiful buildings and churches, to the statues, fountains and piazzas. We passed the 3rd century Terme of Diocletian, the ruins now house the national museum and the Basilica Di Santa Maria Degli Angelica. This hulking Basilica occupies what was once the central hall of Diocletian’s baths complex and was originally designed by Michelangelo. On to the hotel, the room wasn’t ready so we left our bag, and ventured out visiting the Spanish steps and Piazza Di Spagna which gave us a great view towards the Vatican. Continuing on next stop was the Piazza del Popolo, heavily guarded by police and military where the guns were almost bigger than the soldiers. We walked to the Tiber river and down to Porto Cavour before working our way through the maze of streets back to our hotel. At dinner time, we ventured out again and had a lovely meal at a restaurant just down from the hotel. Great first day in Rome.

Chiesa di Trinita dei Monti at the top of the Spanish steps

Chiesa di Trinita dei Monti at the top of the Spanish steps

 

Trojan's column in the Roman forum

Trojan’s column in the Roman forum

View across Vittorio Emmanuel monument towards Trojans forum

View across Vittorio Emmanuel monument towards Trojans forum

After a lovely breakfast we headed out on what was to be a big walking day. We visited so many of the popular sites, Roman Forum, Colosseum, Roman Circus, Pantheon and Piazza Navona (my favourite piazza) to name just a few. We were surprised by the number of tourists here given that peak season is still some months away and again saw many armed soldiers barricading the streets leading to the main attractions, a sign of the times unfortunately. We came back to the hotel mid afternoon and ventured out again for dinner to a small cafe near the hotel. Food was great, beer was cold, what more can you ask for in one of the best cities in the world.

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Part of the Roman forum

Pantheon

Pantheon

Castel St Angelo

Castel St Angelo

It was Vatican day today. We got to the Vatican museum at 9.45am and were told by the touts that there was a 2 hour delay, however if we paid €33 each we could get straight in! Not on your life! We ended up waiting 75 minutes, which we thought wasn’t bad before we got to the ticket office and paid our €16 each entry. We spent over 2 hours wandering through the museum, passed many biblical paintings (as you would expect) and thoroughly enjoying the Egypt section which included an open sarcophagus with a mummy inside. The Sistine chapel of course was the highlight with the stunning paintings from Michelangelo including his ceiling frescoes and the Last Judgement. We then headed over to St Peter’s Basilica and got on the end of what we thought was the queue only to find that we had actually pushed in front of a group of young people who were too busy talking to move up. Oh well, we weren’t about to move so it probably saved us at least a wait of 30 minutes. After going through the heavy security, we made our way to the biggest and best Basilica of all time, Italy’s largest, richest and most spectacular. A monument to centuries of artistic genius, it contains some amazing works of art, including three of Italy’s most celebrated masterpieces: Michelangelo’s Pietà, his breathtaking dome, and dominating the centre of the basilica is Bernini’s 29m-high baldachin. Supported by four spiral columns and made with bronze taken from the Pantheon, it stands over the high altar, which itself sits on the site of St Peter’s grave. Excavations beneath the basilica have uncovered part of the original church and what the Vatican believes is the Tomb of St Peter. With very sore feet, we headed back to the hotel 6 hours after we started out. After 2 hours rest, we went out for dinner at another small restaurant nearby where on our last night in Rome we had a very nice dinner.

One of the many ornate ceilings in the Vatican museum

One of the many ornate ceilings in the Vatican museum

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Sistine chapel

Sistine chapel

Towards St Peters

Towards Bellini’s Baldachin and the altar

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The ceiling above St. Peter’s tomb

Posted in Italy 2017 | 3 Comments

Surprising Sicily

1st January – Happy New Year 🎉🎉🎊🎊

It looks like the gentleman at the tourist office didn’t understand our question about fireworks. Not only were they going off all night but at midnight there was a firework display coming from the town square where the New Year’s Eve concert was being held. The fireworks lasted about 10 minutes and we could see them from the luxury of our home. There were lots of little parties around the place with fireworks lighting up the sky in all directions and for most of the night. After breakfast, we did the laundry (have to start the new year all clean) before driving to Otranto, back on the coast. We went for a nice walk down to the marina first before heading across the headland. On the way we saw a huge turtle on the rocks that sadly had died. Further on we passed gun turrets with tunnels through the limestone and then up to what once was a lookout tower, now barely a ruin which had 360° views to the Adriatic in one direction and farmland and the town in the other. We came back a different way, mainly along the roadside before settling in for a quiet night.

2nd January – 8th January

We had a lovely walk around this really nice little town starting again at the marina on a day where the sun was shining and there was a hint of warmth in the air. Otranto overlooks a pretty harbour on the turquoise Adriatic coast and the water here is crystal clear. In the old town, high golden walls tower over narrow car-free lanes, where countless little shops sell souvenirs of colourful ceramics, biscuits, wine, cheeses etc. After walking around the perimeter of the castle with views from the ramparts over the ocean and marina, we visited the cathedral where a part of the history of this town is on view for all to see. Called the Sack of Otranto in 1480, 18,000 Turks besieged the town. The townsfolk were able to hold the Turks at bay for 15 days before capitulating. Eight hundred survivors were subsequently led up the nearby Minerva hill and beheaded for refusing to convert. Inside the cathedral is a stone preserved in the altar of the chapel on which the martyrs were beheaded. The Chapel of the Dead is a bizarre sight, where the skulls and bones of the martyrs are arranged in neat patterns in seven tall glass cases. A wooden coffered ceiling and mosaic floor add some beauty to this unusual place. We continued wandering the streets before taking a lovely walk along the beachfront to some small cliffs before returning to eat our lunch in the sun by the water. On our walk around, we passed some tents that we closed, so after tea we went for a walk. The main tent was an ice skating rink where some very inexperienced Italians were trying to skate. We watched them for a few minutes and then went back into town to see the Christmas lights. So pretty. It was a very quick walk as it was very cold, but I’m glad we went out for a look.

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The mosaic floor of the Basilica - can you tell they are elephants?

The mosaic floor of the Cathedral – can you tell they are elephants?

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After doing the food shopping, we drove to Porto Badisco situated in a lovely azure inlet so we could hike to Grotte del Pastore, about 2 kilometres away over limestone rocks that covered an area not too dissimilar looking to a lunar landscape. We didn’t find the Grotte but did climb up to one of the many towers that dot this coastline that were built as lookouts to spot the Turks landing at night. From there we continued on a road recommended by Lonely Planet that runs parallel with the wild and beautiful coastline to our resting place for the night, at the very small marina in Andrano. We have views back to the town of Castro over another azure bay.

Beautiful waters

Beautiful waters

Moonwalk

Moonwalk

One of many towers dotted along the coast

One of many towers dotted along the coast

We continued on along the coast road with similar scenery to yesterday until will came to the furthest point in the heel of Italy before heading inland to Gallipoli. The old town fills an island in the Ionian Sea and is connected by a bridge to the mainland and modern city. It’s a pretty town surrounded by high walls, which were built to protect it against attacks from the sea. Being a fishing centre, there were a lot more people here than we have found in the coastal towns. Walking around the ramparts of the old town we had views out to a few small islands, one of which had a lighthouse on the point. We visited the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata which is located in the centre of the old town on the highest point of the island. This 17th century baroque cathedral is lined with paintings by local artists and the ceiling over the altar was a kaleidoscope of biblical pictures. We walked around for awhile before heading back through the shopping precinct and back to Tilly. We had lunch before moving on up the road 5kms to our overnight spot on the beach.

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We had a mix of scenery today, starting with more rugged coastline before heading inland to Oria. The main reason for detouring here was to visit the cathedral where in the Cripta delle Mummie (Crypt of the Mummies) 11 mummified corpses of former monks are preserved. Unfortunately you can only visit by guided tour and the young lady was busy with another tour. We couldn’t get in until the cathedral reopened at 4! No thanks. We did have a walk around the narrow streets before venturing on to Taranto. We are in between the heel and the sole of Italy’s boot and with tomorrow being a religious holiday, we are unsure as to whether we will go into Taranto or move on. The weather is expected to turn very cold with possible snow, so the decision may be made for us. Stay tuned!

A very windy night with temperatures at -2° and snowing! Fortunately not heavy enough to build a snowman but it did help us to decide our plans for the day. We decided we would head to Matera and stay at an aire that has electricity until this cold spell passes, supposedly by the end of the weekend. Mother Nature had other ideas! Not long into our journey the snow started falling heavier than before and was starting to build up along the road although only the area where cars weren’t driving. That was until we turned off onto the road to Matera. We drove about 10kms in even heavier snowfall before we agreed that we would have to turn around, giving Matera a miss unfortunately as it was just too dangerous to go on so we continued heading south away from the bad weather along the coast. We stopped at a beachside carpark to fill with water and were surprised at the amount of steam rising off the water. We both commented on how odd it was also seeing snow falling over the ocean. We encountered quite heavy snow falling for about another 20kms or so that was blanketing the landscape and while it was beautiful to see, it was a bit scary driving in it. We finally left it behind and continued getting the occasional snow flurry from then on. We saw a couple of snow plows heading north, thankful that we were out of the area. We ended up driving about 200kms in total with mountains blanketed in snow in the distance on one side, stopping at a little town called Turretta Di Crucoli where we will stay for night. We had just gotten settled with cuppa’s and the gas heater on when sleet and very light snow started falling. While we understand it is winter, is this normal for this part of Italy? When we finally get wifi, we will have to look it up. Hopefully this weather won’t continue for too long or we could be in trouble.

Another cold -2° night again with strong winds and snow that melted on hitting the ground. After breakfast it was back on the road with snow continuing to fall. It must have been quite heavy in some parts as there was a lot of snow built up on the fields and the side of the road. At one point a man was standing at a roundabout telling drivers to slow down as there was considerable sludgy ice on the road. We arrived in Crotone and found a park near the beach next to a cemetery wall which will give us protection from the wind. Snow flurries continued throughout the day and as the wind chill is at about -8° we decided to stay indoors and hope for warmer weather tomorrow, even 0° with no wind would be good!

We woke to a different scene weather wise. No snow and the wind while still cold had decreased in strength considerably so we donned our thermals, boots and gloves and headed into town, 2 kilometres away walking along the ocean boardwalk. The water is a deep azure colour and there are three oil rigs just off the coast. We made our way to the castle ruins, built by the Spanish in the 12th century. Free to get into, we wandered around the different levels for about an hour, trying to imagine what life would have been like. From there we continued on around the old town visiting the cathedral and stopping for a nice coffee and cannoli before heading back to spend the afternoon watching the changes in the ocean as the wind increased.

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9th January – 16th January

Today was a driving day along the coast mainly to find water. As we are in the midst of winter, while we can find water taps, most of them are turned off so they don’t freeze up. We ended up driving about 75kms eventually finding a working tap before stopping at a shopping centre for a walk around to stretch our legs. While the day was sunny, the wind was very cold and more snow is predicted for tonight with temperatures of -5° expected. Thank god for the gas heater!

We continued our drive along the coast, slowly heading to either Reggio Di Calabria or Villa San Giovanni where we hope to catch the ferry to Sicily. We have been driving on the SS106 road for almost 200km and with the road hugging the coast we get wonderful views over the ocean. We stopped at the town of Marina di Gioiosa Ionica and found our water supply before parking and having lunch. After lunch we walked to the Roman theatre nearby, only a small one and not too much of it remains. We then walked down to the beach where there is a huge strip of sandy beach as far as the eye can see both ways. Toward the southern end of the strip is a large mountain range. As it was so beautiful, we decided to head back to Tilly and move here for the night. We have been so lucky with our overnight spots, particularly the beach ones. No one seems to mind us parking anywhere and we haven’t paid for an overnight spot since the end of November! When the shops reopened in the afternoon I went for a walk to the hairdressers where I met a lovely Italian couple from Melbourne. He kindly translated my request and after being told I would need to wait half an hour, he and I had a lovely chat. He told me that the snow of the past few days in very unusual, it hasn’t snowed in this region for 20 years. He also mentioned that there was more coming and it would be a good idea for us to keep moving towards the ferry to Sicily hoping to miss expected snow on the weekend. Lovely man, great haircut!

11th January – Happy birthday Dad 🎂🎂🎉🎉

Oh dear! We had an awful night, not sure if it was the chicken we had for dinner but both of us were up during the night with stomach cramps and vomiting. Not ideal in a motorhome, especially late at night and with limited space. Suffice to say we are both feeling rather miserable today although we can’t complain, this is the first sick day we have had in 22 months. Fortunately Dave was feeling a tiny bit better in the morning so we agreed to keep moving for as far as Dave could drive. Our first stop was going to be beachside again but the road was washed away! Second stop, a further 45kms has us settled for the night, away from the ocean. Hopefully we will have a quiet night and catch up on some much needed sleep. We are only 30 odd kms from the ferry at Reggio di Calabria so perhaps we can organise something tomorrow for Friday.

13 hours sleep had us feeling a bit better so our first task was to fill with water. It was while we were filling that we saw this huge snow covered mountain in the distance and it took us a minute to realise it was Mt Etna! It was a reasonably clear morning so we had fantastic views on our drive to Reggio Di Calabria. As we weren’t sure where to go, we parked the motorhome and walked to the ferry terminal only to be told the ferries for motorhomes left from Villa San Giovanni, 10kms up the road. Back to Tilly and through some very small potholed streets we continued on. We have never not researched a ferry trip before so was taking pot luck with this. We drove into Villa San Giovanni and was delighted to see signposts leading to the ferry terminal. As with Norway, you just drive up, purchase your ticket and hop on the first available ferry. Within 10 minutes we were on our way to Sicily. 30 minutes later we docked in Messina, a very busy city with supposedly the most aggressive drivers in the world. Our brief experience to date has found they aren’t any worse than mainland Italy and almost anything goes with regards to road rules and parking. We drove out of town a few kilometres and found a quiet street to park in for the night.

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We had two choices of road to take today, either the autostrada or the SS road. Being on a budget (and also a bit thrifty) we decided on the SS road and once again were really happy with our choice. The road took us along the beautiful coast through many little towns, some reminding us again of the Cinque Terra with their little shops and small houses. We didn’t realise just how rugged Sicily was and being able to see Mt Etna along the way was just amazing. We drove to the cable car station at the bottom of the town of Taormina and caught the cable car up. Spectacularly situated on a terrace of Monte Tauro, with views westwards to Mt Etna, Taormina is a beautiful small town. Once the capital of Byzantine Sicily and a very wealthy town, it has an almost perfectly preserved medieval town. The medieval main avenue is lined with antique and jewellery shops, delis and designer boutiques. We had fantastic views from Piazza IX Aprile down to the Ionian Sea and mainland Italy across the bay but the highlight was the view to Mt Etna, different to yesterday as this big girl was smoking and plumes of greyish smoke were drifting down the mountain. We visited the rococo church, Chiesa San Giuseppe before making our way to the Villa Comunale, the public park that is full of tropical plants. We found a bird cage at the rear of the park that had two beautiful parrots who were quite annoyed when we turned around to leave, squawking their little beaks off. We didn’t catch the cable car down opting to walk down from the park. Once back, we drove a further 25kms to Riposto, where tomorrow, weather permitting we hope to drive to another cable car station to take us up to where we will hike to the lava flows of Mt Etna.

Taormina with Etna in the background

Taormina with Etna in the background on the right hand side

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Smoke billowing out of Mt Etna with the town of Giardini-Naxos in the foreground

Smoke billowing out of Mt Etna with the town of Giardini-Naxos in the foreground

We woke to sunny blue skies on what was to be an exciting day. We had a drive of 31kms to reach the cable car station at 1900m, and then the ride up to 2500m. From there it was on foot to just under 3000m, about a 4 hour return hike. Well, that was the plan! We had stunning views on the way up both of the ocean over to mainland Italy and the coast of Sicily driving through one huge lava flow that was hundreds of years old. We were about 5kms from the cable car station when we decided to turn around. There was a bit of snow on the road, no problem there as it was piled up on the edge but the black ice covering one side of the narrow road had us thinking otherwise. What would happen should we meet another car or bus coming the other way? No snow chains or winter tyres meant no insurance and while we were disappointed, it just wasn’t worth the risk. Still, we got to see some of the lava flow as well as the great scenery on the way up and down, so not all was lost. 10 minutes after we had descended, the rain started (thanks accuweather, not!) and we definitely knew we had made the right choice as Mt Etna was no longer visible and under cloud. We drove a further 20kms to Santa Tecla which is a town right on the waters edge and built on an old lava flow. We had lunch first then headed toward the beach for a look. Climbing over the lava it was easy to see which parts of the lava had cooled first by the unusual patterns left in the rock. It must have been an amazing sight at the time as the boiling lava hit the water, but devastating by the fact that people would have lost their lives.

Disappointed that we couldn't get any further, but you can see why we stopped!

Disappointed that we couldn’t get any further, but you can see why we stopped!

We drove a short distance to Aci Castello not far from Catania. We went through a pretty town a couple of kilometres back with limited motorhome parking so we decided we would walk back to along the seafront. Along the way we walked up to the 1000 year old Norman Castello at the top of a small hill. Originally situated on an island, the lava from an earthquake in 1063 joined it to land. On our way, we heard these huge explosions and on further investigation saw some men down at the base of the castle hill setting up fireworks. Apparently there is a religious festival on this afternoon with fireworks at the close, so we dashed back to where we were parked and moved to just near where the fireworks will be set off. We now have a perfect view back to the castle with the fireworks set to go off around 9pm. We had lunch and then continued our walk along the foreshore for a couple of kilometres to the lovely seaside town of Aci Trezzo. Along the coast there are huge basalt outcrops jutting out of the ocean, some with lava hugging the bases. The town itself is a fishing village with many restaurants and bars lining the streets. We stopped at a small market and sampled two of their local cheeses and bought some to have with a nice chianti. The festival started at 3pm and at 3.30 a number of fireworks were set off and oh boy was it loud. Seems an odd thing to set them off during the day, however we have seen this in Italy before. Can’t wait for the big show tonight! The procession finished late so the fireworks didn’t start until 9.45pm but it was well and truly worth the wait. There were two small fireworks shows that went for about 5 minutes each as the procession moved through the town. The main one was in two parts, we could see the men running around manually lighting the fuses. We saw many fireworks that we don’t see back in Perth and the sound and colours were just amazing. Suffice to say as we were only about 100 metres from where they were being set off, we went to bed with ringing ears. How lucky were we to be here on this particular day.

Norman castle almost 1000 years old

Norman castle almost 1000 years old

View from the castle

View from the castle

Aci Trezzo

Aci Trezzo

Catania was our destination today and we parked about 3 kms from town. Our first stop was the Piazza del Duomo, Catania’s central square which revolves around its grand cathedral, fringed with baroque buildings constructed in the unique local style of contrasting lava and limestone. The piazza’s centrepiece is the smiling Fontana dell’Elefante, crowned by a black-lava elephant dating from the Roman period and surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk, go figure! The Cattedral di Sant’Agata was our next stop and sports an impressive marble facade with columns from Catania’s Roman amphi-theatre. The cathedral honours the city’s patron, St Agata who famously resisted the advances of the nefarious Quintian (AD 250) and was horribly mutilated. Her effigy is venerated on 5 February in one of Sicily’s largest festivals. The cathedral also housed the tomb of Bellini. Off to the fish market for a look around before stopping at the Roman Amphitheatre ruins which were below street level on the main shopping street that is lined with some beautiful baroque buildings. Villa Bellini, the city park was further up street with views of Mt Etna. We headed back to the market to find something for lunch and came across a little cafe where we shared a lovely pasta dish and an arrancini, a rice ball that was filled with a vegetable mixture then deep fried, delicious! With full tummies we headed back on what turned out to be a 13km round trip.

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo

17th January – 23rd January

We had our first taste of the Autostrada on our drive to Syracuse as that particular section didn’t have a toll on it. Certainly made the journey a lot quicker, but the scenery isn’t anywhere near as nice, unless you like the inside of a tunnel! We stopped at McDonald’s along the way and organised our ferry from Calais to Dover in preparation for Tilly’s MOT in May. Continuing onto Syracuse, we were surprised at how heavy the traffic was as we made our way to our overnight spot at the marina, along with 10 or more motorhomes. We decided on a lazy day so apart from doing a few odd jobs, we just kicked back for the afternoon and waited for the predicted thunderstorm.

The old town in Syracuse is situated in the ancient island neighbourhood of Ortigia and is full of atmospheric squares, narrow alleyways and a lovely waterfront. Our first stop was the beautiful cathedral, originally dedicated to Athena which was built on the skeleton of a 5th-century BC Greek temple. A stunning columned facade was added in the 1700’s after it was damaged in the 1683 earthquake. Inside Doric columns are still visible underneath the many layers of reconstruction and twice a year the silver statue of Athena is paraded through the town. Along the promenade, the 13th century castle which guards the island’s southern tip was our next stop. We wandered around the perimeter walls, passed a lot of cave type rooms where the cannons would have been fired in defence of the castle. Continuing along the waterfront and back into the main part of town, we stopped for a bite to eat before heading home in the rain. Another thunderstorm has been forecast, the last one didn’t eventuate, will this one?

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Ortigia waterfront 

Note the Doric pillars on the left hand side that are built into the cathedral wall

Note the Doric pillars on the left hand side that are built into the cathedral wall

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Again no thunderstorm and clear skies when we left Syracuse on our drive to Modica, one of Sicily’s baroque towns which is set in a deep gorge. The multilayered town is divided into Modica Alta (Upper Modica) and Modica Bassa (Lower Modica) with our destination being Monica Alta, 3kms from where we had parked. We passed many ancient medieval buildings stopping at the Catedrale Di San Pietro in Lower Modica, an impressive church atop a staircase lined with life-sized statues of the Apostles. We wandered the streets absorbing the atmosphere as we made our way up to the top town where we climbed a majestic 250-step staircase to the extraordinary Chiesa di San Giorgio. Closed when we got there the exterior of the building was just beautiful, built in a honey coloured brick. We had our lunch sitting on a street bench before our steep walk back home.

The

Catedrale di San Pietro and the apostles

Cathedral interior

Cathedral interior

Modica Alta

Modica Alta

Modica Bassa

Modica Bassa

Like Modica, Ragusa is split into two towns, Ragusa Superiore (built after the 1693 earthquake) and Ragusa Ibla (rebuilt on the same site after the earthquake). Ragusa Ibla has the majority of the sights and that was our destination today. Stairs took us up to the
Catedrale di San Giorgio with its magnificent neoclassical dome and stained-glass windows. We had a wander through the palm lined Giardino Ibleo, the public park which was laid out in the 19th century and gave us lovely views down the valley. Many churches and palaces line the twisting, narrow streets and like a lot of places in Italy, outside of the main tourist season it was very quiet. Still, a nice place to wander before we found our parking spot for the night.

Catedrale di San Giorgio at the top of the hill

Catedrale di San Giorgio at the top of the hill

Strong winds and heavy rain causing flooding has been forecast for today and tomorrow so we decided that rather than hang around, we would head to Agrigento, 90kms away and hopefully find a high, safe place to park. We didn’t realise how high up Ragusa was until we got onto the main road out. The view down the mountain was lovely and we drove passed a lot of agricultural fields, many with plastic covered hot houses. Originally we were hoping to park at the Valley of the Temples carpark, however the police had blocked off the road in, we don’t know why, so plan B was actioned. We plan on visiting the Valley of the Temples once the weather has calmed down, perhaps on Monday. For the time being, we will try and stay safe and warm and hope the weather forecast is wrong.

The flooding didn’t eventuate although the wind is still very strong, not ideal for walking around outside to visit the Valley of the Temples, where the ancient Greeks once built their great city of Akragas. We decided to buy a combined ticket with the archeological museum and spend the morning in the museum out of the weather. The combined ticket was €13.50 each and has a 5 day expiry so we have a bit of leeway if the weather is still bad tomorrow. The museum was a surprise, both in its size and the number of displays. The artefacts were dug up from the Valley of the Temples, some dating back to the 5th and 4th centuries BC. As well as large urns, oil burners, figurines etc, there were displays of Greek painted ceramics and the reconstructed telamone, a colossal statue in the shape of a man recovered from the nearby Tempio di Giove. We ended up spending a couple of hours at the museum before returning home where the remainder of the day was spent reading.

Replica of Temple

Replica of Temple di Giovi with the Telamon holding up the roof in between each pillar

Actual size of Telamon found in the Valley of the Temples

Actual size of Telamon found in the Valley of the Temples

Torrential rain fell for most of the night and we thought our visit to the Valley of the Temples may have to be postponed, however when we got up, the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to shine. We had to drive a few kilometres and fortunately found a carpark on the roadside, thus avoiding the carpark fees which for cars were €5, motorhomes would have been possibly double that, and on top of your entry fee, it makes for an expensive day. Anyway, we were lucky and we only had a short walk to the entrance. There are 5 Doric temples within the park, the first one being the 5th-century BC Tempio di Hera (Temple of Hera, aka Juno), perched on the ridgetop. Though partly destroyed by an earthquake, the colonnade remains largely intact as does a long sacrificial altar. We passed a gnarled 800-year-old olive tree and a series of Byzantine tombs before reaching the Tempio della Concordia. This remarkable edifice, the model for Unesco’s logo, has survived almost entirely intact since its construction in 430 BC, due in part to its conversion into a Christian basilica in the 6th century and also to the shock-absorbing, earthquake-dampening qualities of the soft clay underlying its hard rock foundation. Next was the Tempio di Ercole (Temple of Hercules), which is Agrigento’s oldest, dating from the end of the 6th century BC. The Tempio di Giove (Temple of Olympian Zeus) was next and this temple would have been the world’s largest Doric temple had its construction not been interrupted by the Carthaginian sacking of Akragas. A later earthquake reduced it to the crumbled ruin it is today. Lying on his back amid the rubble is an 8m-tall telamon (a sculpted figure of a man with arms raised), originally intended to support the temple’s weight. This one is a copy, the original is in archeological museum that we visited yesterday. Another ruined 5th-century BC Temple of Castor and Pollux, and the 6th-century BC complex of altars and small buildings known as the Santuario delle Divine Chtoniche (Sanctuary of the Chthonic Deities), were our last stop before turning around and heading back to where we started, stopping again at the Temple of Concordia to have our lunch. We left Agrigento to drive 35kms to our next overnight spot at Eraclea Minoa where we have fantastic views along the coast. There are some Roman ruins here, but after what we saw this morning, everything else will pale in comparison.

800 year old olive tree

800 year old olive tree

Tempio della Concordia

Tempio della Concordia

24th January – 31st January

We struggled a bit today to find water, the taps were there but the water was turned off and we ended up driving further than we had originally planned. We eventually stopped at Mazara del Vallo where there was supposed to be water near the free aire next to the port. We had a walk along the pretty boardwalk for a kilometre or so and found the water tap, so after we had our lunch, we drove up there and filled up. Back to the aire where we parked facing the ocean. A quiet afternoon was spent doing a spot of cleaning and reading in the sunshine.

We spent the morning wandering the streets and alleys of this lovely town. We visited a couple of the churches and walked through a district known as the Kasbah, mainly because of the alleyways that crisscross the historic quarter. Many of the walls in the old town are decorated with colourful ceramic tiles where philosophers and thinkers’ quotations that resound with tolerance and respect are cited. We had lunch back at home before taking what was to be a short stroll along the boardwalk, this time continuing along the beach. Our short stroll ended up being 7kms long, but it was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Note the Arab influence

Note the Arab influence

26th January

Happy Australia Day 🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺

We had a short drive to Marsala which in AD 830 was conquered by the Arabs, who gave it its current name, Marsa Allah (Port of God). We had a walk around the historic centre which was just lovely, a few ornate baroque buildings and a very tidy town. We did go into the main church in Piazza della Repubblica and found the outside of the building was much more appealing than the inside which had whitewashed walls with minimal artwork. Having said that, the altar piece was beautifully decorative in silver. We had lunch at home before driving a further 13kms to an area called Saline Della Laguna. As the name suggests, it is a salt lake that covers a very large area and has many windmills that pump the water when they harvest the salt. Lovely and quiet, the views across the lake and the individual salt beds are to an island which houses a museum (all about salt of course) and three islands off in the distance.

Salt lakes

Salt lakes

27th January – Happy Birthday Adam 🎂🍺🎉🎂🍺🎉🎂🍺🎉

Our day started with a call to our son Adam for his birthday, it is always great to talk to the kids. Afterwards we drove to the port city of Trapani nowadays busy with a steady stream of tourists and traffic to and from Tunisia and the Egadi Islands. Our walk took in the pedestrianised Via Garibaldi passed some lovely churches and baroque buildings. Trapani’s other main street is Corso Vittorio Emanuele, where the huge Catedrale di San Lorenzo with its baroque facade and stuccoed interior is situated. We returned to Tilly along the waterfront and had lunch before leaving and we are now headed North. We drove through the surrounding beautiful countryside where the scenery was ranging from the watery vastness of the coastal salt ponds to the rugged mountainous shoreline to the north. We have come to Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro where we plan on doing a 15km hike around the coast tomorrow, weather permitting. We have a stunning view over the ocean to the end of the point and the town of Terrasini, south of Palermo.

A bit of baroque?

A bit of baroque?

Overcast skies greeted us when we woke, but we decided to go ahead with our planned hike. Just passed the ticket box there is a tunnel that was dug out of the rock in preparation for a road to go through this beautiful area, however environmentalists won a hard fought battle in 1980 and the road construction was stopped and the area became a regional park. The route we took hugged the coastline passed beautiful aquamarine waters in the coves and inlets. The path was a mixture of surfaces ranging from boggy mud to gravel to rocks. Along the way were signposts in Italian and English that gave a description of the plant life growing in the area as well as a couple of museums that were closed for winter. We came across a large cavern with the remains of stalactites on the roof as well as evidence of fires that had burned many many years ago. An information board nearby had pictures of ancient tools and equipment that had be found that we assumed are now housed in one of the museums. On the journey home, it started to rain and while not cold, it made the path quite slippery in places. It took us just under four hours in total and even with the rain, we both agreed it was worth it.

Looks easy

Looks easy

We ended up walking almost to the tower at the end of the landmass

We ended up walking almost to the tower at the end of the landmass

Beautiful palms surround the alcove

Beautiful palms surround the alcove

We had a biggish drive today with this section of the autostrada also being free, just a couple of kilometres from the nature reserve all the way to Palermo. The scenery was just beautiful, again with views to the ocean and the rugged coastline for most of the way. Once again, we took a wrong turn trying to get into Palermo, so we took that as an omen. Neither of us were overly fussed about stopping there anyway after reading the reviews in Lonely Planet and Triposo. We had lunch then continued on for another 20 or so kilometres to San Nicola and a lovely spot on a marina. We had a walk around the marina before settling in for the afternoon. The views from the front window are around the bay over the water to the rugged peninsula near Palermo.

Some of the beautiful scenery

Some of the beautiful scenery

After looking at Lonely Planet and Triposo (our travel bibles) we learnt that there were no towns between Palermo and Messina that were worth stopping at, so we decided to bite the bullet and drive on the autostrada and hope the toll wasn’t too expensive. We needed to do a food shop so we drove 145kms, at least 50kms through tunnels, stopping at a Lidl store not far from where we had planned to stay for the night. Dave’s estimate for the toll was €10, mine was €20. Dave won, it was €8 which we were very happy with. If we had taken the state road that wound its way through a lot of small towns as well as going up and down the mountains along the way, it would have cost us more than €8 in extra diesel. We only have a smallish drive of around 40km tomorrow to get to the ferry in Messina back to mainland Italy. Hope all of the bad weather has gone!

31st January

We had an early start on our run to Messina. We took the autostrada again (shock, horror!) and this section cost us €2 so all up we spent €10 to travel almost 200km. Can’t grumble at that. The ferry back to Villa San Giovanni was a few euros cheaper than the journey over, not sure why, perhaps the man in the booth gave me a discount for my smiling face. We only had a short wait before the ferry was underway and 30 minutes later, we were back on the mainland. We again drove on the autostrada (this is becoming a habit!) with this section being free. We went through more tunnels than I care to remember, although we did get glimpses of the ocean and some very deep gorges in between. We drove to a little town called Paravati, purely for the free parking with water, however it is on the way to our next stop, so nothing lost. We had a walk around the town to stretch our legs, commenting on the number of elderly Italian women just sitting outside their doors enjoying the sunshine, some by themselves, others getting together for a chat. All were very friendly, saying buongiorno as we passed. I’m sure they wondered who these strangers were.

Posted in Italy 2017 | Leave a comment

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet!

28th November – 5th December

A very heavy fog greeted us upon wakening however we decided to still get the bus in. The views to the plains below and Monte Subasio rising steeply above Assisi were whited out. As you would imagine the town is full of churches with the main one being the Basilica di San Francesco. The are two churches in this complex, the lower church, a Romanesque structure which embodies the spirit of the Franciscan life while the brighter upper church is a Gothic wonder, containing an elaborate tableau of frescoes. Every surface of the church was painted, the ceiling in parts a bright blue with gold stars and the remaining surfaces with biblical scenes. A sarcophagus housed his remains in a small chapel. Once again we were fortunate to hear the girls choir singing which resonated throughout the church. We also visited the Basilica di Santa Chiara another Romanesque church which was raised in honour of St Clare, a spiritual contemporary of St Francis and founder of the Sorelle Povere di Santa Chiara (Order of the Poor Ladies) now known as the Poor Clares. She is buried in the church’s crypt. The Byzantine cross that is said to have spoken to St Francis is also housed here. The cobbled streets were a delight to walk through albeit in the fog with a large number of shops selling religious paraphernalia as well as local wines and olive products. We headed home around lunchtime and drove to Montefalco where for €5 per night we have free power and once the fog finally lifted, views over the red leaved vineyards and olive groves.

Just beautiful.

Just beautiful. Basilica de San Francesco

Blue skies greeted us when we woke. The temperature was a balmy -1 although it was lovely and warm inside our electrically heated motorhome. Bliss! We enjoyed the warmth for a few hours after breakfast and then braved the conditions and headed up the hill to this lovely little town. A quick stop at the tourist office and a mad dash around the town walls in what felt like a windchill of -5. We could also see Assisi minus the fog. There is snow on the distant hills and we are well aware that we need to get a move on as we haven’t got any snow chains or winter tyres. As mentioned previously this is a wine growing area so we popped into one of the shops and purchased a bottle of Montefalco Rosso which will be opened this evening sitting in our warm motorhome with expected temperatures outside of -5°.

Home in Montefalco

Home in Montefalco

We were clad in thermals, scarves and gloves on our walk through town on what turned out to be another sunny but cold day. Given that the churches were closed we decided to take a walk to the nearby Carmelite nunnery through fields of olive trees past some really nice properties. We had lovely views across the meadows and the mountains with little hilltop towns dotted along the way. Our return took us on a different route which bought us to the other side of town and home again.

We were sad to leave our little spot in Montefalco, mainly because of the electricity but it was time to move on. We only drove a short distance of 25kms to Spoleto with the first part of our journey down a steep descent to the valley floor, through more of the Umbrian countryside and with a clear view to the surrounding Apennine hills. Once settled, we packed our lunch and walked into Spoleto where the Romans left their mark in the form of grand arches and an amphitheatre. We visited the Roman theatre after weaving our way through the cobbled streets and lanes twinkling with Christmas lights around the doorways of the shops. The medieval Ponte delle Torri, a 10-arch bridge that crosses a steeply wooded gorge unfortunately was closed and has been since the earthquake in Norcia, 40kms away in August. It was to be the beginning of a 6km walk along wooded trails but we still managed a nice small walk around the base of the fortress where we stopped for lunch overlooking the dome of the Duomo Di Spoleto. It was built in the 11th century, using huge blocks of salvaged stones from Roman buildings for its bell tower. The apse was full of mosaic frescoes and the walls adorned with painted frescoes all depicting biblical scenes and a beautiful tiled floor. We continued on through the laneways stopping at another church before heading back for a quiet afternoon.

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We were in two minds as to whether we should visit Norcia and after checking the internet which said it was business as usual, we decided that we would go and maybe have lunch there, giving one of the cafes/restaurants some well needed business. The pictures we had seen online showed the damage the earthquake had caused that hit in August but we were absolutely totally not prepared for the devastation we saw that has struck this town. Where we had planned to park, the area was taken over completely by emergency crews from the army, fire brigade, police and many volunteers. A lot of buildings were just piles of rubble and we saw houses where all that was left was the roof over what was once someone’s home. There were houses that were still standing but so badly damaged are unliveable. One house in particular lost the whole of one wall and we could see the dining room table which was still set for a meal. The town wall was badly damaged and the 800 year old cathedral is non existent. It was gut wrenching to see, we both felt sick and we saw all of this while driving in our motorhome. We passed a temporary army barracks as well as temporary housing for the local townspeople. We didn’t stop except to find a way out. The main road we were going to take was closed due to damage so we drove on a road that we thought would take us around another town, San Pellegrino and back onto the original road but further along. That town was worse hit and almost completely destroyed with only a few houses remaining relatively unscathed and all of the townsfolk have left. We had to change our route again and drive back past Norcia onto Cascia 13kms away where there were more emergency crews and temporary housing but no damage that we could see. We stopped and had lunch before continuing on. Still a bit shell shocked, we drove through the Apennines up to a height of 1000 metres with lovely views down into the valley to the town of Leonessa. We had a walk around the town, it is only very small and a short distance from the ski fields although we didn’t see any snow. We ended up driving a lot further than originally planned when we set out this morning with our good intentions. We didn’t feel that it was right to take any photos however those scenes will stay with us for a long time and our hearts go out to all of the people who have been affected.

Our next destination was L’Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region. We had a great drive through more hill towns on roads that wound their way through the Apennines, again with views to the snow capped peaks. L’Aquila was devastated by an earthquake in April 2009 with over 300 people loosing their lives. 7 years later the evidence is astounding. The majority of the buildings are covered in scaffolding and still held together with steel bands and windows and door frames are supported by either wood or more steel. We had no idea the city was still under repair with major cracks very obvious on our walk around. The majority of the small streets and lanes that run off of the Piazza Duomo are closed as it isn’t safe to walk amongst the fragile buildings. A couple of the churches that are still open have damage to the ceilings and walls and repair work seems to have not yet started. The main Duomo is a mass of scaffolding with the roof having collapsed and parts of walls missing. Our initial thoughts when we first entered the town was that a lot of development was happening, little did we know it was virtually being rebuilt. We did manage a walk around the fortress walls which had views to the mountains on one side before heading back. We decided not to stay and drove 18kms to a little lake just outside of San Demetrio where we walked around the lake before settling in for the night.

In memory of the people who lost their lives in the earthquake in 2007.

In memory of the people who lost their lives in the earthquake in 2009

Piazza Grande where the spirit of Christmas lives on. Note the cathedral in the background under repair.

Piazza Grande where the spirit of Christmas lives on. Note the cathedral in the background under repair.

9 years on and still so much work to do.

6 years on and still so much work to do.

We have come to Sulmona, nestled in a valley with the Morrone massif in the Apennines as a backdrop. Another picturesque drive although we did go through a small town that had been affected by earthquakes with closed streets and repairs that look to have only recently been started. We again passed several hill towns, all looked inviting but we can’t stop at all of them. We have finally come down in elevation to around 250m although the ski resorts aren’t that far away. Not enough snow for skiing yet from what we could see, but still a beautiful sight. We have another fantastic parking spot, supposedly €5 per night with electricity (the ticket machine is broken!) and views to the mountains in front and on the side of us. Being Sunday, we ended up doing the shopping and the cleaning and will hit the town tomorrow which is up the hill behind us.

We had a lazy start to the morning to allow the fog to lift from the mountains. We got into town around 10 and made our first stop the Cathedral Di San Panfilo which after many additions and renovations is predominantly Romanesque in style and was just beautiful. Behind the main altar and down the stairs was a medieval crypt where a fragment of the heart of Pope Celestine V is kept. We visited many of the churches, none as impressive as the cathedral and made our way to Piazza Girabaldi, the main square where there are the remains of a 13th-century aqueduct which dates back to the time of Sicilian rule in the region in 1256. Along the way we stopped to sample some “confetti”, sugared almonds which are presented to guests at Italian weddings. A walk down to the Porta Napoli which is the most imposing of the town gates was where we turned around and came back to a lovely little pizzeria for lunch. We will be in Sulmona for a few days awaiting the repair of Dave’s glasses, so we will investigate this lovely town more over the coming days.

Confetti!

Confetti!

Roman aqueduct circling the main square

Roman aqueduct circling the main square

6th December – 12th December

We woke to see new snow had dusted the mountain tops and on a clear grey morning we decided we would walk to one of the hill towns nearby called Pacentro. After breakfast we first walked into town to find out when Dave’s glasses would be ready (tomorrow) then continued on one of the paths through the outskirts of town and onto a track into the scrubland and passed olive groves. We had quite a steep climb up to the town which gave us great views back to Sulmona as well as the surrounding mountains. We wandered through the small streets of this nice town for awhile, stopping in one of the squares to have our sandwiches. We took a different route down along the road where we passed two rockfalls that looked like they had occurred awhile ago. The net steel fencing that was erected to stop rockfalls was very badly damaged, in some places it was flattened to the ground. Strangely, the rocks have just been left on the road where they fell and traffic down to one lane in those spots. The walk along the road was a lot longer than we anticipated so the distance covered today ended up being 20kms! All in all it took 4.5 hours so we spent what was left of the day resting.

Pacentro

Pacentro

We had a very quiet day today. We walked into town to pick up Dave’s glasses then onto the Wednesday market in Piazza Girabaldi. Very much the same merchandise as we have found at most markets, clothes, kitchen gadgets, cheeses, meats etc. We bought some spicy olives and our fruit before heading home on another cool day.

It has been nice to stay put for a few days but again it is time to move on. We had glorious sunshine for our long drive. Our road took us through more mountainous areas up to a height of 1300m passed the ski fields where a small amount of snow was visible. Fortunately the roads were clear although there was snow on the roadside, quite thick in places. Had we come through in a few weeks time, we would have been in trouble. We wound our way back down through some lovely villages heading towards the ocean and away from the stunning Apennines. We drove up to the Abbey San Giovanni in Venere just outside of Fossacesia which gave us fantastic views of the calm Adriatic. We had lunch before heading up to the abbey where we walked to a viewpoint that is situated right on the edge of a cliff giving views in both directions along the water. There was a wedding going on in the chapel and while we had a quick peek, we didn’t get to see much of either the building or the service. We then drove down to the beach where we found a great spot to park for the night overlooking the ocean and a couple of oil rigs in the distance. We had a walk along the path in front of the beach for a kilometre or so before spending the rest of the afternoon watching the changes of the ocean.

Abbey of San Giovanni

Abbey of San Giovanni

A beautiful clear calm ocean was the first thing we saw when we opened the blinds today. Partial sunshine accompanied us on our drive along the beaches to our destination of Termoli which is the region’s top beach resort. We parked at the sports ground and made our way into town. One main shopping mall takes you down towards the beach. At the eastern end of the seafront, the old town juts out atop a natural pier, dividing the sandy beach from Termoli’s small harbour. The town’s most famous landmark, Frederick II’s 13th-century Castello Svevo guards entry to the tiny old town, a maze of narrow streets, pastel-coloured houses and souvenir shops. From the castle, you come to Piazza Duomo and Termoli’s majestic 12th-century cathedral built in Puglian-Romanesque architecture with a cream-coloured facade and medieval vaulted ceilings.

You can see why this is such a popular place

You can see why this is such a popular place

We have left the coast temporarily to head to the Parco Nationale del Gargano to do a hike or two. We travelled on the SS16 road which Dave quickly renamed Hooker highway. For about 30 kms of this road there were women strutting their stuff in the pull-in bays just off the road. At first we thought we were mistaken but the further we travelled we realised what they were there for. We have seen this before in Spain but not in the numbers we saw today, bit sad really. We stopped just outside of San Marco in Lamas at the Parco dei dinosauri which as the name suggests is a theme park with about 20 dinosaurs that move and roar as you walk passed them. We didn’t go inside, you could see most of it from the carpark. We took a walk to the Convento Di San Matteo that overlooks the town of San Marco in Lamas. We realised we had come to the wrong place, we had come to the Gargano range and not the park. While we could do a couple of hikes here, the terrain was quite uninspiring and on checking our map, we discovered we are about 30kms from where we wanted to be. Never mind, an afternoon spent in the sunshine was very relaxing and tomorrow we will drive to Foresta Umbra, the Forest of Shadows which is the Gargano’s interior and hopefully the starting point of our hike.

We had a very pleasant drive winding our way up through the national park until we came to The ‘Forest of Shadows’ in Gargano’s interior. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect and upon arrival realised our hike would turn out to be a forest walk. Lunch packed, hiking boots on we started what turned out to be a 10km walk along well signed paths passed a small lake. The forest floor was thickly covered with rusty brown and orangy red leaves with moss covered rocks and ferns poking out through thickets of tall, epic trees with picnic spots bathed in dappled light. It’s the last remnant of Puglia’s ancient forests where Aleppo pines, oaks, yews and beech trees shade the mountainous terrain. More than 65 different types of orchid have been discovered here. The wildlife includes roe deer, wild boar, foxes, badgers and the increasingly rare wild cat however we saw none of them. Oddly enough the only animals we did see were cows roaming the forest area, clanging their way through the scrub with their big bells dangling around their necks. We had our lunch at one of the lookout points where the view was to a gulley below with more forest on the other bank before heading back after a lovely couple of hours in this magical place.

Just beautiful

Just beautiful

We took the long way out of the national park so we could enjoy more of its beauty before getting back to the coast. We drove to Vieste, a beachside resort on Gargano’s easternmost promontory into the Adriatic Sea. It’s the Gargano capital and sits above the area’s best beach with a wide strip of sand and lots of restaurants and bars that now that it’s winter are all closed. We walked a couple of kilometres into town, stopping at the local market for a quick look. The town of Vieste is a maze of steep alleys that are overlooked by the castle which is closed to the public. Our next leg is supposedly one of the best drives in this area, so as the weather is a bit bleak today we decided to stay put although we did drive around the peninsula a bit and found a lovely park right on the beach. The rest of the day was spent keeping warm and watching the ocean.

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13th December – 19th December

We had a very nice drive hugging the rugged coastline for some of the way and then inland through more forest, this time full of pine trees. We didn’t realise just how big the Gargano national park is as we are still in it, although the scenery is quite different. We have come to Manfredonia, another beach town although nowhere near as touristy as Vieste. Originally we came here as a base to head up to Monte Sant’Angelo, one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage sites, however plans change and we have decided against it after seeing the town from where we are parked. After lunch we walked into Manfredonia, 3kms away. The main shopping mall was nicely decorated with Christmas lights and there was a small Christmas market surrounding the old fort, however all was closed for the lunch break. Still, it was nice walking along the beachfront in the sunshine. We are again parked right on the beach with views out to the ocean on one side and a rocky ridge with Monte Sant’Angelo on the other. Life is good!

We are loving the weather as we head further south with mostly sunny days, today being no different. Our destination was Lucera about 65 kms away and once again the “ladies” were on the roadside although these ones were dressed slightly differently to the fully clothed ones the other day. We were very surprised to see them in their intimate apparel, and not much of it either, on a day that was 7° when we passed them. We stopped in Foggia to do the food shopping before continuining on to Lucera. Once parked, we had a walk to the Roman amphitheatre about 1km away and although we couldn’t get through the gate, we weren’t really missing much given their was very little Roman anything! Apparently a lot of the stones from the amphitheatre were used to build the cathedral. We decided at that point that we would leave visiting the town centre until the morning when everything was open.

I spoke to soon about the weather, today was grey and cold however it didn’t stop us walking into town. We were a bit unimpressed initially until we got to the old town centre with mellow sand-coloured brick and stonework, and shops lining wide, shiny stone streets. We visited several of the churches with today being the first time we have seen a Christmas tree in one of them. We walked up to the castle ruins built in 1233 and it was obvious in the footings where the rock work from the amphitheatre was used. All that remains of this large castle is the exterior wall and some of the towers. The view from here was across the plains to the mountains in the distance. Back to Tilly for a cuppa before heading off again, this time to Troia. Only 16kms away, we have read great reviews about the free aire with all services and electricity so we thought we would treat ourselves to a few days R&R. Just imagine our disappointment when we plugged in and nothing happened! We rang the tourist office once it reopened at 3.30 and the young man there eventually got in contact with the caretaker Alfonso who was to come out after work two hours later. We weren’t sure whether he would turn up but just over two hours later he switched on the power much to our delight. We then plugged in everything to recharge and we are now comfortable in our warm motorhome. May stay here until winter is over!

The town of Troia is situated on top of a hill and the views are just beautiful. The aire is right on the edge of the hill and although there are trees around, you still get lovely glimpses. We had a walk into the little town, not much here really although they have decorated the Main Street with Christmas lights, so we may go back in later to see them. The rest of the day was spent relaxing.

Another relaxing day which was the plan with a trip into town after breakfast and a wander around the Saturday markets in the sunshine. Considering how small the town is, the markets were very large selling all of the usual stuff. We had another wander through town and down the hill for a kilometre or so before coming home.

We had a nice drive of around 80kms to the town of Venosa through a mainly agricultural landscape with a lot of wind farms on the nearby peaks. Venosa used to be a thriving Roman colony so our first stop was the archeological park across from where we are parked for the night. It houses a huge Roman bath complex where a mosaic floor is still remarkably intact, a Domus which consists of two residences, an Episcopal residence and two churches, one which was unfinished and was begun in the 11th century using materials from the neighbouring Roman amphitheatre. We walked a kilometre to the 15th-century Aragonese castle which houses the Museo Archeologico with displays of Roman artefacts uncovered at the archeological park as well as a small pre-historic museum which displayed a few human skeletons as well as bones from elephants, rhinos and bison and some hunting tools. It was an interesting few hours and all for €2.50 each, can’t complain about that!

Quite a lot to see in this archeological park

Quite a lot to see in this archeological park

The Roman road

The Roman road

On our drive towards the coast today, we stopped along the way at Castel del Monte which is perched on a hilltop and can be seen from miles away. The castle has eight octagonal towers and no one knows why Frederick II built it as there’s no nearby town or strategic cross-roads. It was not built to defend anything, as it has no moat or drawbridge, no arrow slits and no trapdoors for pouring boiling oil on invaders however it is a beautiful building with windows and doorways framed in corallite stone. We continued on to the town of Trani where we have found a carpark right on the water next to a monastery. It is cool and quite windy so we will hold off visiting the old town until tomorrow. We spent the afternoon reading and watching what we think were a school of tuna jumping out of the water.

My castle and my dog!

My castle and my dog!

20th December – 26th December

After breakfast we walked the 3kms into town along the waters edge on the boardwalk. We walked through a lovely park where the trees were lit with coloured lights and they had Christmas presents and decorations made out of coloured lights hanging from the trees and scattered around the park. We walked along the marina passed what we were told was an Italian film crew who were filming a Spanish movie with Spanish movie stars and we were asked to move along. They had a lot of equipment with massive trucks designed for change/rest rooms for the stars, another that housed the wardrobe/makeup. We continued on to the old town, visiting the cathedral which sits right on the seafront. Completed in the 13th century the interior reflects typical Norman simplicity and is lined by colonnades. The magnificent original bronze doors (now displayed inside) were cast in the 12th-century. Another of Frederick II’s castles was built here in 1233 and is next to the cathedral. A number of the churches were closed for the filmmakers as were two of the former synagogues in the ancient Jewish quarter which were converted to churches in the 14th century. We then just wandered through the maze of streets, stopping to listen to a school choir in one of the churches and heading home before the forecasted thunderstorm strikes.

Trani cathedral

Trani cathedral

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Some octopus for you Señora?

Some octopus for you Señora?

The forecasted thunderstorms didn’t happen and we woke to blue sunny skies. We had a short drive to Molfetta, 20kms away and another fishing town. On the way we stopped for water and we spotted a lot of nests in the trees nearby. We were delighted to see these cheeky green and yellow parrots poking their heads out of their high rise homes. There were more nests on the light poles of the stadium near where we parked to stop for the night. We walked into town along the beachfront again to another cathedral that sits on the seafront. Similar to the cathedral in Trani its interior was simple in its design. The old town here was quite small but the streets were lovely to walk through, as was the marina area. We stopped at a couple of the churches and were again treated to a little show put on by 2-5 year olds dressed up who were led around the church by their teachers singing. They were so cute, a couple were a bit overwhelmed and were crying but the remainder seemed to be enjoying themselves. A young lady sung a beautiful song, at first we thought it was a record until we moved down the front a bit and saw her in the sidelines. She had a really lovely voice. We visited the local fish market before venturing back to our seaside home for the night.

Beautiful waterfront

Beautiful waterfront

So colourful

So colourful

View to the cathedral

View to the cathedral

We were in two minds as to whether to stay in Bari however we needed to go there to have the oil and a new oil filter put in. We spent an hour or so at the mechanic/tyre place and as it was nearly lunch time we had a bite to eat before continuing on to
Polignano a Mare which is known for being built on the edge of a craggy ravine pockmarked with caves. We have another beach carpark just outside of town and had a small walk along the cliffs looking at some of the caves tucked in along the shoreline. We intend on spending tomorrow continuing on foot along the coast. We are not sure how many caves we will see from the land side but it is a beautiful rugged coastline so it will be worth the walk either way.

Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare

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We were fortunate to have a sunny day so after breakfast we donned our hiking boots and started our cave walk. Further along from where we went yesterday are some very deep caves which in part could be seen from the track, one has been turned into a restaurant. We walked through the warren of streets in the old town, visiting one of the churches before continuing on the boardwalk. A lot of money has been and is continuing to be spent along the cliffs with boardwalks and large carparks being constructed. Most of the boardwalk is finished and covers an area of around 2kms which we walked before turning back and going into the shopping precinct. The roads are in the process of being replaced with marble slabs in part of the town and there is a new hotel being constructed where they have kept the facade of an old building. Views from the rear rooms overlook the sea and the rugged coastline. There were Christmas carols being piped through speakers in town which gave it a really nice feeling. We treated ourselves to a gelato before heading home.

We have left the coast again for awhile and drove a short distance to Castellana Grotte purely because the aire is free and has water and dumping facilities and is half way to our next stop, Alberobello. We passed the Saturday market on our way to the aire, so once parked we headed in to town for a look. The market was very large, covering many streets selling the usual market gear and there were loads of people buying their last minute Christmas gifts. The streets here have been really nicely decorated with lots of lights and many of the balconies in the main part of town were decorated with Christmas presents, lights and lots of poinsettias in flower boxes.

25th December

Merry Christmas🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

Tradition rules that we watch Love Actually on Christmas Eve, so we did. We woke at midnight to the sound of fireworks and jumped out of bed. They only went for a few minutes but they were lovely to see. We heard fireworks off and on during the night and because it’s Christmas we had a bit of a lie in. Nothing from Santa when we woke, we have either been a naughty girl and boy (as if) or he didn’t get our change of address notification. We agreed not to buy anything as it would only be more stuff to take home and we are short on suitcase space as it is. After a yummy breakfast of bacon and eggs and speaking to the kids we headed back into town to see if there was anything happening. Apart from people going to church and Italian men meeting in the square, it was quiet. Church bells rang almost hourly during the day, such a European sound, we love it. The remainder of the day was spent doing a few odd jobs and relaxing.

26th December – 31st December

With it being Boxing Day and nothing open, we decided to stay put and for a bit of exercise walk to the next town, Putignano, 6kms away passed many curious circular stone-built houses dotting the countryside, their roofs tapering up to a stubby point. These are Trulli, Puglia’s unique rural architecture and the reason we are heading to Alberobello tomorrow. As you would expect, Putignano was all closed apart from the coffee shops where as always in Italy do a great business no matter what day it is. We walked through to the old town, stopping at a lovely baroque church on the way. We saw a procession of priests walking towards another church, one carrying the incense burner and another carrying a large cross. We followed them to the church and listened to the choir singing for a little while before continuing on. There was a band playing near the square and we watched them before walking through the back streets of this very tidy town.

We saw a lot more of the Trulli houses on our way to Alberobello where some of the complexes had several of them built together. We had a short walk into town where the first area we visited was Rione Aia Piccola. This neighbourhood is much less commercialised, with 400 trulli, many still used as family dwellings. We then headed for the Zona dei Trulli on the western hill of town. This area is a dense mass of 1500 beehive-shaped houses, white-tipped as if dusted by snow. These dry-stone buildings are made from local limestone, none are older than the 14th century and the majority of them are used as shops selling anything Trulli, from miniature Trulli houses to locally produced wines, pasta etc. We climbed up onto the roof of one shop which gave a view across the rooftops, it was quite an amazing sight. We poked our heads into a house which had the front door open. It was being renovated with below floor heating being installed as well as additional rooms out the back. Perfect for hobbitses. We had lunch back at home before driving a further 10kms to Locorotondo which we will visit in the morning.

Trulli houses

Trulli houses

Hobbit heaven

Hobbit heaven

Very strong winds and a big thunderstorm kept us up for awhile during the night as we lay and watched the lightning. After breakfast we walked into the whisper quiet pedestrianised centro storico (old town) of Locorotondo where everything is shimmering white except for the red cyclamens in the window boxes and surrounding doorways. The town is situated on a hilltop on the Murge Plateau and from the public garden, we had panoramic views of the surrounding valley that is dotted with more of the Trulli houses. We walked along streets paved with smooth ivory-coloured stones to the Santa Maria della Graecia, a beautiful baroque church with the sounds of the organ keeping us company. Back home and we continued onto Cisternino, another white town not too dissimilar to Locorotondo both in looks and its position on a hilltop, again with views to the valley below. The rest of the day was spent inside out of the strong winds and dry from the hail which fell intermittently throughout the afternoon.

Leaving Locorotondo

Leaving Locorotondo

Another cold night and we woke to patches of snow on the ground, in the windscreen wiper channel and on the roof, not much fortunately for us as we don’t have snow chains or winter tyres!! We drove to the last white town within the Trulli region, Ostuni. Sounding like a broken record, this two was similar to Locorotondo however the old town here was very small. Gale force winds and more light snow falling had us scurrying inside again after a quick look around at the cathedral and a walk through some of the streets. Ostuni is not far from the coast so we were surprised and delighted to be able to look out of our window at the wild ocean with snow falling. With such a nice view we decided to stay put for the day, it is a bit scary driving when the wind is so strong as well as dangerous with the snow flurries. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

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Still quite windy but dry we decided to give Brindisi a miss after reading Lonely Planet and Triposo and head to Lecce. The drive was uneventful, straight up the SS road for 65kms passed hundreds of old olive trees. Every so often, my back plays up and today seemed to be the day. Originally we were going to do the shopping and have a quiet day, but as I couldn’t move around too much, it ended up being a very quiet day. Hopefully after a good night sleep, things will be brighter in the morning.

With my back feeling a little better, we walked into Lecce, what a lovely place. The old town is beautifully baroque with its churches and palaces intricately sculptured from the local soft sandstone. It has over 40 churches and thankfully we didn’t visit all of them, but the ones we did were amazing. The facade of the Basilica di Santa Groce is one of the most unusual with sheep, dodos, cherubs and beasties wriggling their way across the building. The 12th century cathedral is also unusual in that it has two facades, one on the western end and the other, more ornate, facing the Piazza del Duomo, a baroque feast and the city’s focal point and one of the most beautiful Piazza’s we have seen to date with lanes and streets leading from it in all directions. Below the ground level of the piazza is the restored 2nd-century-AD amphitheatre, which was only discovered in 1901 by construction workers. It was excavated in the 1930s to reveal a perfect horseshoe with seating for 15,000. We had a nice lunch in one of the trattorias before wandering around the markets, amazed at the number of stalls selling fireworks for tonight. The tourist office advised that there we no big firework shows scheduled for tonight like at home however locals buy them for their own little parties so it could be a very late night.

The Lecce cathedral

The Lecce cathedral

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Italy in November

26th October – 1st November

We arrived in Sacile around 11, so we packed our lunch and walked into this lovely little town which is formed by two islands standing amid the willow-lined Livenza river and a network of canals. Sacile took much of its early architectural inspiration from Venice, which is reflected in the Venetian townhouses and palazzo that line the tranquil little waterways. We visited the Duomo with its frescoed altar before strolling to the park to eat our lunch. We decided to move on to the next spot, and we had a great drive winding our way through the mountains to Lago Di Santa Groce (lake) where we were hoping to stay the night at a free aire. Not free anymore and as we know we can get a good wildcamp spot almost anywhere, we continued on for a of couple of kilometres to a spot just near the Tesa river which flows into the the lake. We have views to the mountains in front of us and the rushing waters of the river to our side.

So pretty, Sacile

So pretty, Sacile

After breakfast, we donned our hiking boots and headed out for a short 6km walk, along the river, through a small forest area with a lookout tower to the bird sanctuary and Lago Di Santa Groce. We passed the caravan park near the lake which was closed for winter but in a really nice spot with a large area in front of it that would be well used in the summer. Back to Tilly and a short drive to our next town, Belluno which is perched on high bluffs above the Piave river and backed by the majestic Dolomites. The historical old town is only small and is filled with Renaissance-era buildings. We wandered through the streets visiting the early-16th-century Renaissance Catedrale di San Martino, which like the other cathedrals we have visited to date was very wide and the altar full of biblical frescoes. Several palaces and two town gates from the 16th century were also visited before we had a nice lunch in one of the restaurants near the square. Once home, we got the chairs out and sat in the sunshine at the park across from our overnight spot for awhile before the chill in the air had us moving inside.

The markets were in full swing when we arrived in Feltre, 20kms from Belluno. A picturesque walled town surrounded by the Dolomites blends Middle Ages buildings with Venetian style frescoed buildings. We visited the cathedral before making our way up to the old town where we wandered the cobbled streets. The old town was in the walled area above overlooking the Piazza Maggiore. The markets were full of people mainly purchasing flowers and not just one bundle, some people were carrying three or four. The remainder of the day was spent reading.

Market day

Market day

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A 2.5km walk up to the “Pearl of Veneto” Asolo one of the most beautiful and enchanting small-sized historic centre in Italy is how the tourist brochure described this town and they were spot on. Dating back to the first century BC this lovely town has several monuments, the most notable is La Rocca, an austere fortress atop Mt Rico which overlooks the Asolan hills and the old town centre. The climb up to the fortress was quite steep with a couple of hundred stairs to reach the top. We walked along the wall with spectacular views all around. We also visited the cathedral, again adorned with frescoes and Piazza
Girabaldi which was a tidy square with a centuries old fountain. From our visit to the castle the views were of very expensive villas that hugged the side of the hill. We had our lunch in the square before our walk back. We continued on to our next stop, Montebelluna where we will stay for the night. We had a walk into town, mainly to look for a laundry and a phone shop as our iPhone charger broke. Success with both, and another couple of kilometres walked under our belts.

The view from the castle back to Asolo

The view from the castle back to Asolo

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Laundry done we headed to our next destination of Treviso. The drive was uneventful and we arrived at our overnight spot to find a lot of other motorhomes parked. The aire is free and not too far from town so it’s no wonder it is popular. We ventured out after lunch for a walk around the old town wall which is amazingly in tact. Surrounding most of the old town is a moat where in some places it is a double moat. There was an island in one particular spot where rabbits and chooks ran free and the city had installed rabbit hutches and chicken coops, a great idea. Being such a beautiful day, what started out as a small walk ended up with us walking the whole way round, a distance of about 6km. Back to the aire to sit under the trees and relax. At around 3.30, the aire which is a mixed carpark started to fill up. By 4.15 it was bursting at the seams so we asked a couple of people if there was something going on in town that we didn’t know about. Apparently it is a weekly thing that on Sundays, locals come into town to wander the streets and more so yesterday because it was such a nice day. Two hours later the carpark emptied again.

One of the old town gates

One of the old town gates

31st October 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

What a lovely town Treviso is. There are many canals that run through the old town which made for a really nice atmosphere. We spent the morning wandering the streets, visiting the cathedral, the crypts and a few of the other churches. There was a fountain in a courtyard called Fontaine del Tette (Fountain of Tits) where three times a year, white wine comes out of one nipple and red wine out of the other and people can drink the wine. Sadly today it was just water! Many of the interiors of the buildings we visited were covered with frescoes and there were lots of signs around the old town which gave detailed descriptions in Italian and English of the buildings history. We had our first pizza and a glass of red wine in the square before heading home.

Fountain of Tits

Fountaine del Tette

Only a short drive today to Mogliano which is 14kms from Venice. We have found a nice wildcamp spot near what once was a swimming centre and took a walk into town. Today is a public holiday in Italy, All Saints Day so all of the shops were closed but we wanted to check out the timetable for the train or bus to Venice tomorrow. We popped in to the cathedral for a quick peek before asking a young lady at the bus stop about times, cost etc for the trip into Venice. We also went to the train station and decided we would train in as it was cheaper and the trains ran more frequently. Back to Tilly for lunch and mid afternoon we went out for another walk to stretch our legs, this time along the river for a couple of kilometres before coming home again.

2nd November – 8th November

We woke to foggy overcast skies which wasn’t ideal for our trip into Venice and we were hoping for sunshine later in the morning. Our train trip only took 15 minutes and we arrived at Venezia St Lucia station at 9.15. Our first and only set destination was the Basilica di San Marco. The queue to get into the Basilica wasn’t too long, we only waited 20 minutes which was more than enough time for Dave to put our backpack into the locker room. When we were in Venice 7 years ago, we were shunted through the Basilica like sheep however this time we were free to roam for as long as we wanted. We admired the mosaics all around the building with some made from 24 carat gold leaf fused onto the glass. In behind the main altar containing St Mark’s sarcophagus is an altar panel studded with 2000 emeralds, amethysts, sapphires, rubies, pearls and other gemstones which portrays his life and is a Byzantine masterpiece. From there we roamed the streets past
Marble palaces, teal waters with gondoliers calling for business and golden domes atop many of the beautiful buildings. Lots of markets filled the streets as well as street vendors selling Venetian masks, bags and t-shirts, all of the usual tourist stuff. Murano glass was on sale in some of the shops and there were many stunning pieces. We had our lunch in Piazza San Marco people watching while we ate. We walked over the Rialto bridge and continued through the maze of streets that make Venice what it is and after 5 hours of walking, we only touched the surface. Still it was a very enjoyable day even if the sun didn’t make an appearance.

San Marco square

San Marco square

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The sun today was shining on our journey to Montegrotto Terme, which is 13kms from Padova and a natural hot spring resort area. The springs have been active since Roman times and there is a large area in town where the ruins of the Roman baths can be found. We came here for two reasons, one was to do a hike and the second because of its proximity to Padova by train. We decided against staying at the aire in Padova due to some poor reviews, specifically about safety. Once parked near where we were hiking, we packed our lunch and headed up to Monte Alto (a small mountain) hoping to find some roman ruins along the way, which we didn’t. The hike was quite steep in parts and we passed olive groves and grape vines before coming to a nice forest area with lots of oak trees and tree ferns where we stopped for lunch. Another couple of kilometres had as back at our starting point. We moved to the aire in town near the train station and spent the remainder of the day relaxing as we have walked a lot of kilometres in the past two days.

4th November – Happy birthday Riss 🎂🎂🎂🎉🎉🎉

We had a sunny day for our trip into Padova. We had a quick look at the ruins of the Roman baths on our way to the train station. A 12km train ride at 145kmh and we were there in just on 10 minutes. Our big day of walking started with us following the tram line into Piazza della Erbe where one of the many markets is held, this one selling fruit and vegetables. Apparently the produce is tiered in regards to quality with the less choice produce on the outer perimeter and the better stalls are near Palazza della Ragione. We stopped for a coffee before continuing on to the Piazza della Frutta market where all types of clothing are sold. We spent over 5 hours walking around this beautiful town, visiting the Duomo and the adjoining 13th century baptistry which is full of frescoes with biblical scenes. We had our lunch in the Prato della Valle, the largest square in Italy. Previously an ancient roman theatre, it was restructured in 1775 to include 78 statues of artists, popes, poets and saints poised on a circular wall and a canal within, which today had an otter swimming in it! Next on the list was Basilica di Sant’Antonio, a key pilgrimage site and the burial place of patron saint St Anthony of Padua. Rising domes atop a Gothic brick structure are crammed with Renaissance treasures. The Capella del Tesoro is where the relics of St Anthony reside (his chin and his tongue!) and in the Cappella del Santo, his tomb is covered with requests and thanks for the saint’s intercession in curing illness and recovering lost objects. The chapel itself is lined with nine panels vividly depicting the story of Anthony’s life in extraordinary relief sculptures. The whole building was an art gallery with so many beautiful statues and paintings, it was probably one of the most ornate large basilicas we have visited so far in Italy.

Prato

Prato Della Valle

It was a very wet and miserable day today so we had a change of plan, drive some, do the shopping and drive some more. We were heading towards Verona and we passed two accidents, both rear enders where thankfully it looked like no one was seriously injured. Shopping done, wallet emptied, we continued to our next stop at Soave. For the first time in over a month, we paid for an aire, €5 per night with all services including electricity and wifi. What a luxury to have more than one light on at a time! This town is entirely encircled by medieval fortifications including 24 watchtowers and we are hoping the weather will be better tomorrow so we can hike up to the castle and have a good look around.

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It was still raining when we woke this morning so we decided to have a very lazy day. Dave cleaned the solar panels and roof in the rain while I spent an hour and a half talking to my sister, and that was after chatting to Larissa and Daniel. We did venture out later in the morning under umbrellas to find out about the bus into Verona tomorrow but apart from that, we stayed indoors. The rain did eventually stop and the mistiness over the castle disappeared. What an awesome sight.

The misty morning cleared to sunny blue skies for our bus trip into Verona which took almost an hour. Surprisingly bigger than we though, this city is another one to just wander the streets. We visited many places on our walk today, Piazza Brà where the Roman Arena is, built in the 1st century BC and still used today for live concerts, especially opera. We had a coffee in Piazza delle Erbe which is bordered by many palaces before making our way to the Basilica of Sant’ Anastasia. The interior of the church is gothic in style and contains many artistic masterpieces and altars. Across the river and up the hill to the Roman theatre and a handful of ruins before returning to town for lunch. We visited the Duomo (Verona Cathedral) and saw a mosaic floor nearby that dates back to the 2nd century. Of course you can’t come to Verona and not visit Juliet’s house with its famous balcony. Across the lane from the house is a shop which sells all things Romeo and Juliet including magnets, locks, cups etc. however we did manage to keep the wallet in our pockets! We did walk to where Juliet’s tomb is housed but we didn’t venture inside. Back to the bus stop and our journey home after another big day of walking. Once back in Soave, we walked around the perimeter walls of the old town on our way home. A very enjoyable day in what is called “The city of love”.

Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo!

Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo!

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8th November – 14th November

Another sunny day and a drive of around 70kms to our next stop Castleguglielmo. There is nothing here but a very small town, however the aire is free and it is a break in our journey to Ferrara, which we will complete tomorrow. The aire has a great setup with electricity, water etc and there is room for 10 motorhomes, each having their own water tap, electricity plug and room to put out your awning. They do have wifi, however it wasn’t working while we were here. We had a walk around town (which took about 10 minutes and that was with a stop at the supermarket!). We have a view over the fields that have been ploughed ready to plant. The remainder of the day was pottering around, me doing a spot of cleaning and Dave doing a service on the water pump.

Upon arrival in Ferrara about 30kms away, we headed for the old town which is inside 9km of intact medieval walls. We picked up a map from the tourist office and commenced our mapped walk of the medieval centre starting at the castle. Once the home of the Este family it now houses a museum and government offices. We continued on to the cathedral which dates from the 12th century with the interior having been redesigned through the 16th – 18th centuries. Statues, religious paintings and frescoes adorn the walls and we caught glimpses of the roof paintings which are netted off due to renovations. The remainder of the medieval walk had us visiting many piazzas, one in particular was where the Christmas markets were being constructed, past the old Jewish quarter and a couple more of the Romanesque churches. On the way home, we had a walk around the lake in the park which is just outside the old wall. We spent the remainder of the afternoon waiting for our son Daniel to call to announce the arrival of our grandson.

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10th November – 👶👶👶🎉🎉🎉

Walter Lionel Boaden was born at around 12.45am Perth time from what we can gather. We received the phone call just after 6pm last night our time (7 hours behind Perth) from Daniel who was very excited but very tired. Mum and baby are great, no measurements yet as the doctor was still with them. Nothing written today will surpass that news, but here we go anyway. Our morning was spent walking around the 9km of wall which is in amazing condition in some places. Remains of several covered waterways were visible as well as some of the many towers. We stopped at McDonalds along the way to get our first look of our grandson who of course is beautiful and had lunch back at Tilly before driving 85kms to just outside of Modena. Our overnight spot is next to a large park with a copse of autumn coloured trees to our left. Not sure if there is a major bushfire nearby but it is quite smoky, so we will stay indoors and rest in preparation for our trip into Modena in the morning.

First stop in Modena for a bit of shopping was the Maserati showroom. Unfortunately we had left the cheque book at home! Found a couple of nice his and her cars if we decide to go back there. The walk in from there took about 15 minutes and we arrived at the Piazza Grande and the Modena Cathedral. Of Romanesque design, the interior is very dark with the Gothic Rose window that lets in rays of light when the sun is out. The Torre Ghirlandina adjoins the cathedral and is an 87m tower that can be climbed for views over the town. Both buildings are being constantly monitored as they are being affected by subsidence and have obvious leans, not quite Pisa but easy to spot with the tower being the worst of the two. We wandered the streets passing some beautiful buildings before stopping at a small church whose interior was being used as a shop selling Christmas trees all brightly lit and ornaments of glass, wood and ceramics. We had a nice lunch of pasta and chianti at the Cafe Grand just near the square before the bitterly cold wind and rain had us scurrying home.

It's crooked!

It’s the leaning tower of Modena! Torre Ghirlandina

The ancient lion (not the one standing!)

The ancient lions (not the one standing!)

 

Piazza Grande

Piazza Grande

The beautiful cathedral

The beautiful cathedral

We took a small detour on our journey to Bologna as we wanted to do a hike. Dave had found a review for a free aire through Camper contact that was in the Natural reserve of Salse Di Nirano so we decided to head there. After making our lunch, we plotted a circular route that would take us up to the ridge line of a small peak (380m) through some farmland and back down the other side. There was nothing written about this reserve in either Triposo or Lonely Planet so we were not really sure what to expect. A few hundred metres or so into the beginning of our hike, we came across these unusual mounds that looked like small volcanic peaks. On further investigation (after reading the info boards) we found that they were mud volcanoes, all active with bubbles of mud erupting not only at the top but down the sides and from spots at ground level too. What a find! There were five in total in the area we were in and more on the other side of the peak which unfortunately we couldn’t find the path for. Not always active, we were so lucky to see them. Continuing on up a steepish incline, we had views across the valley to the snow covered Appenine mountains. We stopped near a winery to have our lunch with views across the valley of the red grape vines common in this area. Due to all of the rain yesterday, we decided against walking back along the river and opted for the panorama trail instead. The landscape included a range of small peaks of similar geology to the mud volcanoes with obvious areas of landslides along the front. We passed the ruin of a large house on the hillside on the final leg of our hike and spent the remainder of the afternoon sitting in the sunshine.

Mud volcano

Mud volcano

We set off on a very cold morning -2.5° towards our destination of Bologna. We stopped along the way to fill up with water at a mini race track where men were racing their formula one model cars on a track that was set up exactly like a real one. It had an area for the pits, mechanical and tyre modification and a computerised leaderboard, they even ran these cars on racing fuel. We watched for a little while, with some of the cars clocking over 100km an hour on the straight. The men racing them had amazing control over their machines, it was great to see. We were in two minds as to whether we should stop in Bologna but after reading up on it, we decided to take a look. We drove to a carpark in the suburb of San Lazzaro Di Savena where we will stay the night and catch the train into Bologna in the morning. We took a walk to the train station for details of times and cost, €1.50 each one way for a 6km journey with frequent trains. Now to do a bit more reading about where to go and what to see.

Sometimes life throws surprises at you that aren’t expected and Bologna was one of them, a must see destination. Once off the train, we headed towards Piazza Maggiore passing terracotta medieval buildings adorned with kilometres of porticoes. Bologna cathedral, dedicated to St Peter was our first stop and what an impressive building. A grand and majestic interior of Baroque design, the artwork, statues and frescoes were just beautiful. We have been very fortunate to see some wonderful cathedrals and basilicas and this was up there with the best of them. We also visited the San Petronio Basilica which has an exterior that was never finished however it is the largest church built in bricks in the world and like St Peters was full of statues, frescoes and artworks. We continued on to our next stop, the Two Towers, the Asinelli Tower (97 m) and the Garisenda Tower (48 m) which are the landmark of the city. The Garisenda tower was originally 60m tall but due to ground settlement (it has a 3.2m tilt) it was cut down for safety reasons and as you would expect is heavily monitored. The leaning tower of Pisa’s tilt is 3.9m. The Asinelli tower can be climbed by going up 500 steps, however as the weather was very wet and overcast, we decided against it. Our last stop was at the Basilica Di San Domenico, the founder of the Domenican order whose remains lie in an elaborate sarcophagus covered with ornate marble carvings, his head is housed in a gold reliquary at the base. Having seen so many churches, we spent the remainder of our time in Bologna walking the streets before returning home on the train.

15th November – 21st November

We had a nice drive of around 70kms in the sunshine to our next destination of Ravenna, arriving at lunchtime. We had a walk around the nice park area where we are parked before making our way to the castle ruins just outside of town. Many information boards in Italian and English were scattered around the area which provided us with a history of the castle and the town in the 16th century.

We spent a few hours walking around the town of Ravenna. Sadly a lot of the Unesco sites are tied up by having to purchase a combined ticket to enter 5 of the sites and not ones for paying to see a church, we were limited in what was available. Not to let that upset our day, we did get to see the Battistero degli Ariani (baptistry) that houses a beautiful dome mosaic depicting the baptism of Christ. We stopped at the Tomba Di Dante, a mausoleum which houses the bones of Dante Alighieri, Italy’s Sommo Poeta (supreme poet). He was expelled from the city of his birth Florence in 1302 for political reasons and spent many years ‘on the run’. He finally sought refuge in Ravenna, where he died in 1321. As a perpetual act of penance, Florence still supplies the oil for the lamp that burns continually in his tomb. Just outside of his mausoleum is a garden which contains a plaque that is positioned where his bones were laid for safe keeping during the war. We had a bite to eat in town before driving 12kms to the marina/port area, where we will stay the night. We had a walk out along the harbour breakwater which is 3kms in length, past many fisherman. There was also a number of buildings built on posts in the water where huge nets were suspended to be dropped into the water. We don’t know what type of fish they were designed to catch, but we watched two of them being hauled in and they were both empty! A beautiful sunset with a bright pink sky finished our day before another chilly night.

Dante's final resting place

Dante’s final resting place

We drove about 45kms to the town of Cervia for a look around as the lady in the tourist office in Ravenna said how nice it was, but limited parking had us continuing on. We did get a bit of a look along the canal area while driving out of it as we headed to Pinarella, a major beach resort town on the 40km strip of Adriatic beaches in this area. We packed our lunch and took off for a walk along the beach. Huge walls of sand have been put up to stop winter erosion and all along the beachfront were cafes, restaurants, change rooms for hire and toilets that were also boarded up for winter. There were a few people out walking in the sunshine but apart from a group of adults waiting to pick up their children from school, the place was like a ghost town. All of the shops in town were closed, hotels boarded up as were the holiday rental apartments. The only other place we saw people was at the heated pool where we are parked for the night. A quick check of prices and at €6.30 each for a swim we decided against it, showers were extra!

A sea mist rolled in during the night and stayed with us the whole way to Rimini, about 25kms away. We arrived in Rimini just before lunch so we had a bite to eat and then walked in a light rain to town through the park The first landmark we came across is Arco di Augusto (arch of Augustus). This great Roman ruin was commissioned by Emperor Augustus in 27 BC and stands 17m high and is in remarkably good condition for its age. It was once the end point of an ancient road that linked Rimini with Rome. As it was lunchtime, all the shops were closed (you would think we would have learnt by now!) but we still wandered the streets, stopping in Piazza Cavour where the city’s two finest palazzos stand, both originally built in the 16th century and reconstructed after WWII but closed to the public. The next landmark was the Ponte di Tiberio, a majestic five-arched Tiberius’ Bridge that dates from AD 21 and was the start of the arterial Roman road. It still links the city centre to the old fishing quarter and rests on its original foundations consisting of an ingenious construction of wooden stilts. The rain had become heavier so we decided to head home back through the park, past Rimini’s congress hall which is shaped like a giant round spaceship.

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19th November – Happy 2nd Birthday Eleanor 🎂🎂🎂🎉🎉🎉👼🏻👼🏻👼🏻

A very quiet day today. We did the food shopping before continuing onto San Marino, a short drive of 20kms. The weather was wet and a heavy fog hung over the mountain, so not much good for anything, particularly when one of the features of San Marino are the views down the coast. Spent the remainder of the day relaxing and hoping for better weather tomorrow.
The rain held off for our trip up to Città di San Marino although there was a heavy fog in the valley. San Marino is a sovereign state and is the oldest surviving republic. The city of San Marino sits 750 metres above sea level on Monte Titano, it has the lowest unemployment in Europe and one of the highest GDP’s. There are two options to get to the top, either by cable car or to walk up a steep incline, in places with a 25% gradient. We chose to walk! We had some great views back down to the foggy valley on our way up which took about 30 minutes. There are two castles at the very top, each on its own peak and our walk there took us through the medieval streets of this very old town. Absolutely geared for tourism because of its duty free status, the shops along the way were selling San Marino wines, Italian leather, jewellery, perfume, alcohol and surprisingly a large number of shops were selling weapons. Cross-bows, swords and guns of all descriptions (they looked real) as well as pepper sprays, BB guns, hand cuffs, grenades, we are still scratching our heads as to why???? The fog had cleared somewhat when we reached the castles and the view across the valley to the hills was just lovely. On a clear day in the other direction you can see out to the Adriatic and back to Rimini, but not today. We had our lunch on the way back down admiring the view as we ate. We stopped at the local market near the bottom, this one selling all sorts. No food, but old records, gramophones, old medals, more guns (these were real), old phones, old irons. There was even a stand that sold coloured pencils, ink fountain pens, all in mint condition, took me back to my school days. One of the stands sold brand new barbie dolls, with many different outfits, there was even a container full of barbie shoes and boots!

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We tend to steer clear of the autostrada and stick to secondary roads. Today we took a tertiary road on our travels to Urbino, 70kms from San Marino. Did we make the right choice? Absolutely. The scenery along the way was just beautiful. We travelled through hills with rolling greens all around. We could see San Marino and Rimini in the distance behind us and many castles on the hillsides. We drove through a number of little towns where the residents jaws dropped on seeing us in our motorhome, we don’t think it was a major tourist route! Urbino as well as being a renaissance town is a university town and the parking situation confirmed it. Our first aire that Dave had picked was not only full, but on quite a steep slope and we are scratching our heads as to why it got such a good rating on Camper contact although it is very close to town. Second choice (we always have one) had us driving back down the hill from the old town to our current overnight spot, just near the sports ground and on reasonably flat pitches. We did venture out for a bit of a walk before coming back and lapping up the lovely sunshine.

22nd November – 28th November

As with most town visits, we have walked for miles. Entrance to the old town is down the steepest road we have seen to date. The town itself is full of beautiful renaissance buildings and palaces with the majority of them now being used for the university. The whole town is a world heritage site and the Palazzo Ducal houses an archeological museum and an art gallery with works from Raphael. The building has an unusual Facciata dei Torricini, a three-storey gallery in the form of a triumphal arch, flanked by circular towers and is impressive to see. We visited the cathedral and walked around the perimeter walls which gave us a great view over the valley with the Apennines in the distance. We had lunch in a nice restaurant off the main square and had to tackle the big hill to get back home with tummies full of pasta, bread and wine.

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We travelled 60km through the beautiful Umbrian countryside to our destination of Gubbio, a medieval town at the base of Monte Ingino. Our first stop today was at the Roman theatre, built in the first century and sections of it are held together with modern day brickwork. The seating area, which held 6000 spectators has a small section remaining and apparently is still used for concerts. In the old town we made our way to the Piazza Grande which is dominated by the Palazzo dei Consoli, with its facade and tower which can be seen from all over town. We visited several of the churches and had our lunch in Piazza Grande which overlooks the town. Atop of Monte Ingino is the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, which can be reached either on foot or via a cage like ski lift that whisks you to the top. Today it wasn’t running so we hiked 2kms up the hill to a height of 810m. The view was breathtaking (so was the walk but in a different way!) with the entire valley spreading picturesquely before us and the little toy town far below. The basilica displays the body of St Ubaldo, the 12th-century bishop of Gubbio, in a glass coffin above the altar with beautiful stained glass windows behind. The walk down was a lot easier and we wandered though the streets and cobbled lanes of this really nice town.

The view to the top

The view to the top of Mount Ingino

The view from the top of Monte Ingino

The view from the top of Monte Ingino

We took another tertiary road through more of the beautiful countryside with thick fog in the valleys and patterned with fields as we climbed to around 700m. Our destination was Perugia, the capital of Umbria, another hilltop town that’s perched above the Tiber river. Today is a rest day to give our knees a break before we tackle yet another steep climb to town.

We are staying in Ponti Rio, at the bottom of the hill so there was another steep walk up to the town of Perugia. All old towns are dominated by a cathedral or Basilica, usually around the main square and today was no different with Piazza IV November being the meeting point for the ancient Etruscan and Roman civilisations. The Cattedral Di San Lorenzo was our first stop. Massive marble pillars and bronze statues as well as some stunning biblical scenes adorn this beautiful place. Irrespective of whether you are religious or not, just to see these artworks and give thought to the countless days (as well as stiff necks) it must have taken to paint the ceilings and walls which look so lifelike in many instances is a treat. We wandered through the maze of cobbled alleys, arched stairways and piazzas framed by magnificent palazzi (mansions) visiting many of the churches, one in particular was the Chiesa de Sant’Angelo one of Italy’s oldest churches which dates back to the 5th century. A visit to the Rocco Paolina (fortress gardens) afforded us with expansive views across the city’s spires to the countryside and cypress-cloaked hills beyond. We walked along the top of the aqueduct before tackling the downhill journey home. We had a short drive to our next destination, Togliana about 20kms away and our view from the aire is back to Perugia across golden vineyards and olive groves, which this area is famous for.

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Another short drive today to the town of Santa Maria degli Angeli which is 3kms from Assisi. We did try and find a park in Assisi but to no avail so we will catch the bus from here in the morning. It is a very cold and foggy day however we walked into town to visit the Basilica entering through a gate that was manned with three heavily armed military personnel. Inside is a 9th century church, the Porziuncola, the most sacred place for the Franciscans. It was here that the young Francis of Assisi understood his vocation and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor and thus started the Franciscan movement. The Basilica was built around it in the 16th century and is the seventh largest church in the world with many scenes depicting his life painted on the walls. We were very fortunate to be there at the beginning of the Sunday service where nuns along with the choir were singing, it was very moving. The chapel was erected over the place where he died and the rose garden is where he is said to have thrown himself into the thorn bushes which the Lord transformed into roses which are still growing there. The chapel of the roses was built where Francis’ hut lay and inside it is covered with frescoes dating from the sixteenth century.

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Posted in Italy 2016 | 1 Comment

Italy with a dash of Slovenia

20th October – 25th October

We had an odd day today. It started with our border crossing, yep you guessed it, no passports out and the Croatian border control wanted to see them, so there was a mad dash to the safe to retrieve them. The same thing again 50 metres up the road, Slovenian border control wanted a look too! OK! We continued on to the town of Piran, which sits at the tip of a narrow peninsula. We parked a couple of kilometres away and made our way to the old town. Full of Venetian architecture we wandered through the alleyways up to the cathedral of St George dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. We visited the parish museum which housed the treasury, a crypt and in the church itself, paintings and a heavily renovated wooden figure of Christ. In the town square is a 15th century Venetian house with its tracery windows and stone lion reliefs which when it was originally built, overlooked the inner port but in 1894 the area was filled in and it now takes pride of place in the marble paved square. From Piran we headed to Koper where once again the parking situation was not motorhome friendly so we left Slovenia behind and headed to Italy. We had to do a quick change of direction as the road we had picked to travel on, a H road was actually a motorway, and no vignette, no motorway. Dave found an alternate route that ran alongside the motorway, through a non existent Italian border post to our overnight spot, waterside just outside of Muggia. We met an Australian man and his Argentinian wife and chatted to them for awhile before the cold wind had us heading indoors. A stressful day for Dave with the parking situation and the route change, but a cold beer settled the nerves, also how many people can say they visited three countries in one day!

We left our overnight spot and headed up to a lookout point about 10kms away that gave a great view over Trieste and the water. Continuing on to our overnight spot through several small towns we got our first glimpses of the Dolomites from the Italian side and were surprised at how much snow is covering the peaks at this time of year. Our camping spot is an actual official camping place (first time since leaving Ljubljana on 2/10) in the very small town of Capriva del Friuli, not far from Udine which we will visit tomorrow. This is a premium wine growing area so we plotted out a round circuit walk that took us passed thousands of white wine vines, olive groves, many wine cellars and through a small forest. We had views to the alps along the way and the final leg of our 10km walk took us passed a very nice golf course. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the sun while we charged all of our gadgets.

After a quiet night which ended up being free as nobody came to collect the fee, we drove to Cividale del Friuli about 20kms away which was founded by Julius Caesar in 50BC. The dark stone streets made it a lovely place to wander around with many of the buildings retaining parts of the original wall in their construction. Splitting the town in two is the symbolic Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge) that crosses the emerald green Natisone river. The 22m-high bridge was first constructed in the 15th century with its central arch supported by a huge rock said to have been thrown into the river by the devil. It was rebuilt post-WWI, after it was blown up by retreating Italian troops. We had a nice lunch in one of the restaurants just off the main square and learnt one or two words from the waitress which will come in handy during our stay in Italy. As with many European countries, everything closes at lunchtime for a few hours (apart from restaurants, although they close between lunch and dinner) so we headed back.

Big Julius

Big Julius

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Being Sunday, all of the shops are closed except for supermarkets and cafes so we decided to do the food shopping. We drove towards our overnight spot in Udine, stopping at Lidl first. Money spent, fridge full we continued to another parking spot where we walked to the local McDonald’s for wifi. As we have found since arriving in Italy, all wifi is locked and you need an Italian sim to access it, which we don’t yet have. We went to a Vodafone shop yesterday but the guy serving us couldn’t get his sim to work in our phone and we know it isn’t locked. We plan on going into town tomorrow and if we still have no luck with the SIM card, we will have to purchase a cheap phone and sim. We don’t like being uncontactable, especially with our new grandson due any day now. Back to Tilly where we had our lunch before completing the final 4kms to the Area Comunale (free parking). It’s great to be back in a country where parking isn’t restricted and a lot of the motorhome overnight spots are free, many with free services for filling with water and emptying the toilet. Once settled, we went for a 7km bike ride around the area we are staying in up to the sports arena where a soccer game was in progress. You have to love the way Italians park their cars, nothing seems to be unacceptable, parking in a roundabout is a classic example as well as the front of the car being on the footpath and the rear of the car is on the road! It must have been a capacity crowd given the number of cars as well as the noise from the crowds. I wonder who won!

We were planning on riding our bikes the 3.5kms into Udine however it rained during the night and looked like more rain was coming so we walked in. We made our way to the Piazza della Libertà, dubbed the most beautiful Venetian square on the mainland, it is surrounded by a maze of medieval streets. Roman columns, Grecian statues and Venetian arches abound the buildings nearby, including the town hall. Opposite the town hall is a clock tower modelled on the one gracing Venice’s Piazza San Marco. We walked up to the mid-16th century castle which was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1511. The view over the old town was good and on a clear day the snow capped Dolomites can be seen. We visited the Romanesque-Gothic cathedral with its 13th to 17th century frescoes in the Chapel before finding a cafe where we tasted our first spritzer! It was bright orange and had lots of bubbles as well as a bit of a kick. Must find out how to make them! Next stop was the Vodafone shop to purchase a SIM card but we forgot to take our passports, so it was home for lunch then another trip into town 3 hours later when the shops reopened. It is all sorted now thank goodness, so we will just sit tight to wait for the phone call announcing the arrival of our new grandson.

Udine

Udine

We woke to wet and misty skies. After breakfast we hit the road back towards the Adriatic passing through the town of Aquileia where the standing columns of the ancient Forum can be seen from the roadside. Continuing on along a narrow island backed by lagoons
Grado is linked to the mainland by a causeway. We walked into town along the beach promenade and were surprised to find not only sand instead of pebbles but beach huts, showers, stalls for drinks and ice creams (all closed since September). It wasnt until we reached the end of the promenade that we saw the pay booths. Oh how lucky we are in Australia to have free beaches. The maze-like medieval centre, criss-crossed by narrow lanes is dominated by the Romanesque Basilica di Sant’Eufemia and the nearby remains of a 4th to 5th century church mosaic with fragments of Roman relics dating back to the early 4th century. Originally we were going to stay in Grado but as the weather wasn’t the best, we decided to move to another overnight spot closer to our next destination of Sacile. The scenery along the way was coloured with the autumn leaves on the trees through some pretty little towns.

Pretty Grado

Pretty Grado

Posted in Italy 2016 | Leave a comment

Croatia, full of surprises

5th October – 12th October

Murphy’s law will always come into play when you least expect it. The border crossing from Slovenia to Croatia was where it struck. We didn’t get our passports out this time, there has never been anyone at the border posts, until today!!! We had to pull over to get them out of the safe and on reaching the border post, the lady just glanced at them, then us and waved us on. Continuing on we stopped at Slunj, a little town where the main attraction was a number of waterfalls, all at different heights cascading down into the river. It was really pretty with moss covered rocks and a small boardwalk that would take you to many more waterfalls further down the river. Driving another 30kms we stopped at the beginning of the Plitvice lakes area for a glimpse of the emerald green waters. Weather permitting we will visit there tomorrow as you need several hours to see all of the lakes. We have found a wildcamp spot about 8kms from the lakes next to an old church ruin so we should have a quiet night.

We woke to -2.5° but clear blue skies which is just what we wanted for our day trip to the Plitvice Lakes. We had a short drive back to the car park from our overnight spot, and once Tilly was settled we headed for the ticket booth. 110 HK each (€14.66 or $21.38) we set off on the first leg which was an hour long walk along a wooden footbridge passed these amazing turquoise lakes. There are 16 lakes in total, all connected by a series of waterfalls and cascades. The mineral rich waters carve new paths through the rock depositing new porous rock in continually changing formations. The footbridges follow the lakes and streams over, under and across the water. The second leg was on a boat which took us across the largest lake where we then continued on foot for another hour and a half reaching the end lake. The scenery along the way was just beautiful. So many different colours of water, depending on the sunlight as well as the trees in the forest which are changing to their autumn colour. We had our lunch before hopping on the bus that takes you back along the road which gives a different view of the lakes and their amazing colours. Another 15 minute walk had us back at the start, 4 hours later. It was a great day and although a bit expensive we thought it was well worth it.

See the waterfalls?

See the waterfalls?

Look at that colour!

Look at that colour!

More of mother natures beauty.

More of mother natures beauty.

Awesome!

Awesome!

Another cold night and some rain on our journey towards Zadar. We drove around 85kms through scenery reminiscent of Spain on a winding road through a very large rocky mountain range that was blue/grey in colour and was barren of trees. We passed a huge river gorge which unfortunately had no road leading down to it, perhaps a tourist attraction opportunity missed? We have found a wildcamp spot right on the water opposite the town of Maslenica, about 25kms from Zadar. There were three abandoned kittens at the waters edge so we put out some tinned sardines and fresh water for them. We spent the remainder of the day admiring the view, watching the fisherman and relaxing.

We do get some great overnight spots.

We do get some great overnight spots.

A warmer night and a lovely view of the sparkling waters when we got up this morning. After breakfast we drove the last 25kms towards Zadar. We parked a couple of kilometres outside of town and walked to the old town which is on a separate island to the mainland. With marble paving throughout, the old town follows the old roman street plan with lots of little alleyways and contains roman ruins and medieval churches. Heavily damaged during WWII as well as by Yugoslavian rockets in 1991, it has been rebuilt and restored, retaining much of its charm. We wandered the streets visiting most of the churches as well as the roman forum. In one of the squares there were several stalls selling local produce and giving away a free lunch of a bowl of pasta with beef and crusty bread so we sat with locals and tourists alike enjoying it. We had a walk along the waterfront and came across the sea organ. Set within perforated stone stairs that descend to the sea a system of pipes and whistles exude a mournful sigh when the movement of the sea pushes air through the pipes, it was quite an eerie sound. We continued our walk around the waterfront area with views to the mountain ranges we passed yesterday and today on our drive.

Zadar old town

Zadar old town

We had a lovely drive in the glorious sunshine along the coast for most of the journey. We passed many little towns that hugged the coast and inlets of aquamarine waters. We stopped at the tiny town of Trogir, formerly a Roman town called Trau whose old town is set within medieval walls. Paved with marble, like Zadar we wandered through the maze like streets to the seaside promenade which is lined with bars and cafes with some very expensive yachts moored at the marina. Buildings of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture make this Dalmatian town worthy of its world heritage listing. From Trogir, we continued along the coast passed more beautiful bays and inlets to another ruin of an ancient roman city called Solin (known as Salona by the romans). We are parked just outside of the archaeological site which we will visit tomorrow.

We spent most of the morning visiting the ruins of the ancient city of Salona which was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia from the time Julius Caesar elevated it to the status of colony. It held out against the barbarians and was only evacuated in AD614 when the inhabitants fled to Split and neighbouring islands in the face of Avar and Slav attacks. In the complex, there were burial places for early Christian matyrs before the legalisation of Christianity, excavated remains of a cemetery and the 5th century basilica. A covered aqueduct ran along the inside base of the walls along with several cathedrals, public baths and a 2nd century amphitheater which was destroyed in the 17th century by the Venetians to stop it from being used as a refuge by Turkish raiders. At the east gate, grooves can be seen in the stone road left by the ancient chariots. An amazing place, it was quite a morning. There were several archeological sites being worked on throughout the area with one at the entrance to the car park uncovering a broken Roman coin while we were watching them work. We asked a gentleman on the street about buses into Split, so with the timetable, cost and bus number, Split is our destination for tomorrow.

The

The amphitheater of Salona with Split in the background

After a non eventful 20 minute journey on the bus, we were in the city of Split, Croatia’s second largest. A short walk had us arriving in the old town where the main tourist attraction, Diocletian’s palace is one of the most imposing Roman ruins in existence. Walking through the first gate took our breath away with the size and beauty of the surrounding buildings. A rectangular fortress built as his retirement palace in the late 2nd century, it housed the imperial residence, mausoleum and several temples. Being a major tourist attraction, everything cost money to get into, the basement halls, the cathedral, Temple of Jupiter however we did get in to see the crypt as well as the tunnel that led to the basement halls. We were more than happy to just wander the web of marble paved streets (with our walking map) and reading the history of Split on the information boards dotted around the old town and admiring the beautiful old buildings. Three of the palace gates are still standing thanks to a lot of restoration work. One side of the fortress wall faces the waterfront and the promenade that runs parallel is full of restaurants and cafes. Not the busy tourist season but there were still a lot of people visiting and a lovely place to roam. Several scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed in the old town and the surrounding coastal mountains, so as well as the usual souvenirs, there was Game of Thrones paraphernalia to buy, for those inclined. Can’t wait for Dubrovnik!

Inside the walls of Diocletian's palace

Inside the walls of Diocletian’s palace

One of the three gates

One of the three gates

We had a big drive today in the glorious sunshine. The first 100kms was around the coast passed many lovely villages and towns with the crystal clear aquamarine waters of the Adriatic Sea shimmering in the sun. We headed inland for awhile and around the area of Rogotin canals for agriculture have been designed to irrigate the hundreds of acres of fruit trees, olive trees and vegetables with makeshift stalls lining the road selling the produce. A little further on we hit the border of Bosnia where the gentleman in the border post took note of Tilly’s number plate and waved us on. We did have concerns about going through Bosnia but only because our insurance didn’t cover the country. We figured after travelling almost 20000 miles to date, to have an accident in the 10kms we needed to travel to cross Bosnia back into Croatia, we would take the risk. Back on Croatian soil, the road headed back to the coast, passed more villages and towns. We had glimpses of Dubrovnik in the distance and have parked about 15kms away at Orašac. We had a walk down to the beach to stretch our legs however it was too windy for a swim although the water temperature was quite warm. Tomorrow we hop on the bus bound for Dubrovnik.

13th October – 19th October

Another sunny day greeted us for our trip to Dubrovnik. Our bus arrived on time and took us along the coast to the Port of Dubrovnik where two cruise ships were moored. From there it was on another bus to the old town. With our tourist walking map in hand (and the sites of filming for Game of Thrones highlighted) we set off for our walk around the city walls. As with Split, everything costs but you can’t come to a place like this and not complete the city wall walk, 120HK each (€15.99 or $23.53). Built between the 13th and 16th centuries, they enclose the entire city in a protective veil over 2km long and up to 25m high with two round and 14 square towers, two corner fortifications and a large fortress with great views over the old town and the endless shimmer of the peaceful Adriatic. Shelled by the Yugoslav army in 1991, residents cleared the rubble and set about repairing the damage with amazing results. When we had finished the wall walk, we spent the next few hours wandering the rabbit warren of marble streets with their baroque buildings, restaurants and souvenir shops all doing good business with the thousands of tourists visiting. We had our lunch sitting on the edge of the main fountain before continuing our walk around, passing too many sights to mention. Back on the bus and home again from what was an enjoyable but expensive day.

A section of the wall in Dubrovnik-glad it wasn't peak tourist season

A section of the wall in Dubrovnik-glad it wasn’t peak tourist season

Within the walls of Dubrovnik's old town

Within the walls of Dubrovnik’s old town

More of the wall

More of the wall

Cersai's walk of shame (Game of thrones scene)

Cersai’s walk of shame (Game of thrones scene)

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We had our biggest drive day today since Norway, travelling 350kms towards Zadar. Our first leg had us driving back the same way we came up to Rogotin through two border posts, one going into and one going out of Bosnia. This time we had to show our passports at both ends to the nice men sitting in their little boxes! We headed inland from there through more traditional villages, stopping at Veliki Prolog for lunch which gave us a nice view down the mountain and across to Bosnia. School had finished for the day (classes begin at 7 o’clock) and Dave started talking to some school kids who were waiting for their bus. Next thing I knew, they were all piling inside Tilly for a look. A few of them spoke English, with one girl in particular becoming the spokesperson. We chatted for 10 minutes or so before our camera and their mobile phones came out. After many photos and rounds of “cheese”, phones were put away and we bought out the Oreo biscuits. They all politely had one before we said our farewells, what a great bunch of kids. We stayed on the back roads for another 50 or so kilometres with rocky outcrops and autumn coloured bushes before getting onto the motorway for the remainder of our journey mainly to give Tilly a good long run and also Dave felt like a change of scenery. Just before Zadar we turned off as we are returning to our overnight spot on the water across the bay from Maslenica, where the three stray kittens were. We had glimpses of water on our drive but the majority of the scenery was scrubland with the mountains in the distance. The toll for our 180kms on the motorway was €16,25 which given how far we travelled, we didn’t think it was too bad. We arrived at our wildcamp spot to find that two of the kittens appear to have been taken as there was only one very little timid one here. After putting out some fresh water, we fed it with some cat food we bought, which it ate only when we had walked away.

Cheesy school kids

Cheesy school kids

The plan for today was to have a quiet day, put the awning out and sit in the shade from the sun and research Italy. The weather had other ideas with thunder and lightning off and on for most of the morning and early afternoon. We read and researched for most of the day managing a quick walk for about 20 minutes up the road to a rocky outcrop which gave us a view back to the main road bridge where bungee jumping happens in the summer. The view across the water from there was lovely with a little village off to the right by the waters edge. More wild storms later in the afternoon that lasted over two hours with the loudest thunder we have ever heard kept us indoors however we did get quite a lot of research done so the day wasn’t all wasted.

The difference in the weather today is amazing with a mist over the water and blue skies. We said goodbye to the little kitten with breakfast before we headed off. 16kms along the road we stopped at the Paklenica National park as Dave had read of a gorge walk that we thought we would take a look at. For some reason the 10HK (€1.33) parking fee was waived for today which we took as a good omen. We made our lunch before setting off on what turned out to be a 13km 4 hour hike through the gorge and up to a height of 570 metres. Due to all of the rain yesterday the small river had quite a bit of water in it and the path followed it for most of our hike. The sheer cliff walls along the gorge towered above us and the area is extremely popular with rock climbers of all ages. We decided after our hike we would drive to Senj about 110kms away on the coastal road where again the view was over the shimmering and very calm Adriatic with many islands off the coast, some of which were huge barren chunks of rock, others had small villages tucked into coves dotted around the island.

Gorge walk in Paklenica national park

Gorge walk in Paklenica national park

The coast road again was our company for most of our journey to Pula. We passed many lovely beaches however as we have found in several countries, parking for motorhomes and even cars in some places was non existent. We did however find a lovely spot to stop for lunch which was high on a cliff overlooking the villages below and an island across the bay. From the coast we headed inland with some agriculture and a small forest for scenery. We have travelled quite a distance since Dubrovnik and looking at our calendar it would have been possible to get a ferry to Italy (they stop on 24th October) but if we had done that we would have missed some amazing scenery. We are both a bit tired today due to a very windy night so we will take it easy for the rest of the day and visit Pula tomorrow.

We should have visited Pula yesterday. There was a light rain when we headed into town and by the time we got there, the rain got considerably heavier. Not to let that stop us, we continued on through the puddled streets to the oldest part of the city which follows the ancient Roman plan of streets circling the central citadel. The 1st century Roman Amphitheatre, made entirely from local limestone seating up to 20,000 was in remarkably good condition. It was designed to host gladiatorial contests and is still used today for pop and classical concerts. Next we walked around the Roman walls past 2nd century twin gates to the Roman theatre and the Temple of Augustus. A quick look at the waterfront and we headed back as the skies were getting a lot darker and we had seen pretty much all that we had planned, albeit a lot quicker than normal.

On our travels today, we stopped at the town of Rovinj, a very tidy fishing port. We walked along the harbour passed a cruise ship to the old town which is webbed by steep cobbled streets and piazzas and up to the Cathedral of St Euphemia and when open you can climb the 60m high tower. Still, the view from the courtyard was very nice looking down onto the bay and across the water. Our next destination was to be Poreć but again we were thwarted with not being able to park near town without paying a ridiculous price for parking. Similar to Rovinj we figured we didn’t miss much by not visiting. Further on, we found a lovely wild camp spot 5kms outside of Novigrad overlooking an inlet which feeds out to the Adriatic.

Very tidy fishing port of Rovinj

Very tidy fishing port of Rovinj

Cobbled streets leading to the Cathedral of St Euphemia

Cobbled streets leading up to the Cathedral of St Euphemia

Posted in Croatia 2016 | 1 Comment