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.
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.
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.