Monday, 30 April
Well we discovered that the area that we parked on last night was forbidden for motorhomes, but as there were two others there and this is Italy no one bothered of us.
I was still quite tired from the long day yesterday and driving through the congested roads of Sicily, we decided to head off to a campground about 16 km up the coast. In doing so we passed the campground we were looking for last night, not sure why the GPS could not find it, guess that had something to do with the congested streets of Sicily.
Talking of the congested streets of Sicily, driving through the small towns as one drives around the coast, one realises that the largest form of transport for this island should either be a motorbike or at Fiat 500 -- Smart car. Definitely not a motorhome, and if you think you have congested streets where ever you live just drive a motorhome for two hours through the streets of Sicily and you'll be longing to get back to your congestion.
We were heading to a motor camp that had wireless Internet, and Internet, we noted that there was a washing machine also listed and this was good because we were due to wash our clothes.
When I pulled in to the camp, looking at it, I realised the Internet part was just imagination, and I guess I should also look in the listings to see if the camp has a clothes drier. First of all the guy at the motor camp had no idea what wireless Internet was, but it did offer me the use of his personal Internet access, eventually I showed him the listing, he could not understand it, but I guess when he filled in the questionnaire, he checked all the boxes that looked good.
No he did not have a clothes drier but there was plenty of clothes line space to hang out your clothes, I guess they are better dried in the natural air!
We decided to stay here and tomorrow will go on a full day excursion around the island and make decisions as to what else we will do after that. So it is a 5 a.m. rise tomorrow, to walk 20 minutes to the main Road, spend all day in a bus and return at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow night, I guess I can always sleep on the bus like most tourists do.
Tuesday, 1 May
Today was a public holiday here in Sicily, in fact May Day is a public holiday in several European countries including of course the old Soviets.
So we got up early this morning to go on this tour, we had a 20 minute walk to the main Road, and waited a few minutes for the bus, Mount Edna was in clear view with no clouds and a little bit of smoke issuing from the Mountain, but the Sun was not up yet, that’s how early it was, but turning the ISO up to 1600 obtained some nice photos for Luda's collection.
A large two Decker 55 seater bus collected us more or less on time, and proceeded to take us to one of the highest parts in Taormina the city from which the bus was leaving on the tour, so we proceeded round these hairpin bends, it is very interesting travelling like this if you're sitting upstairs in the front above the driver, it gives you a whole new aspect of driving in Sicily.
We collected people as we travelled, the main group was at the bus depot so then we're on our way to the valley of the temples and then on, after a lunch, to a Roman villa filled with mosaics.
The first interesting event on the trip was when we stopped at a restaurant on a layby on the motorway, along with several other buses and many cars for a toilet stop and to perhaps buy food if we wished. It was totally un-organised chaos, people were struggling to get out of the building while people were struggling to get in, the line for the toilet started at the door and whilst the men’s queue move very fast and soon became non-existent, the woman’s queue was basically stationery there so many people packed in around the counter, buying food was as difficult as a woman getting to the toilet.
So are back on the bus again and the guide apologised for the chaos in if anybody was desperate to go they would find a toilet and one other small towns on the way.
So was on to the valley of the temples in area that had at least six temples in more or less a straight line, now a world Heritage site, the first Temple being built by the Greeks about 500 BC, and in front of the temple, was an olive tree that had been carbon dated to about that year and it was still bearing olives, so the trees I saw the other day that I said were hundreds of years old I was correct in my assessment, and remembering their size perhaps as old as 1000.
Yes the temples were interesting, most had been rebuilt around the 16th century, the guide told us of a story where one of the early bishops in Constantinople ordered that all the pagan temples be destroyed which possibly accounts for the original destruction of most of these temples, the only Temple that was not destroyed had been converted to a Christian church.
There were 49 people on the bus from many countries including two others from New Zealand.
We are taken to a restaurant beside the sea they catered for bus tours and we have a passable meal with wine there was not quite so passable.
Then back on the bus for another 90 minutes to see some mosaics that had been dated to about 300 AD but their state of preservation was not brilliant, the building was on a little bit of a slope and from what they say whenever it rained heavily the water flowed right through the mosaic building and consequently a lot were damaged, and a lot were in the process of being restored.
We were the first to be dropped off when we got back to Taormina and about 7 p.m. having completed about 630 km.
Comments on the Temples! I was more impressed by the ancient Temples in Turkey around the Aegean Sea that were built out of marble, were as these Temples were built out of sandstone, marble looks much more impressive in a Temple. One good point about the tour was that it took us over a lot Sicily and we are able to get an overall impression one side of the island, but we have made the decision to return to Sicily and the hilltop villages of central Italy with a motorbike.
Wednesday, 2 May
We packed up and left camp and headed towards Mount Etna, we went out on the Road that the double-decker bus returned us to the camp ground on, it's funny, but on a double-decker bus the roads looked a lot narrower, but they were just wide enough for me!
When we reached the village called Zafferana Etnea only the top of the Mountain was covered in cloud so we proceeded the 25 km up around the Mountain on what we now call a good Italy Mountain Road, as we're going up the Mountain we passed about a dozen buses coming down the Mountain, on some of the hairpin bends they have definite right of way because of the weight and size, they do need the whole Road to manoeuvre their way around.
At the top a lot of restaurants, gift shops, that's a parking for buses, cars and motor homes. There was also some electric plugs in the motorhome section where we could if we wished obtain power.
There was a gondola going further on up the Mountain, from the 2000 m height that we had driven to on up to 2500 m. That cost €51 for the both of us to be taken up into the clouds to see a restaurant, gift shop, dirty snow. We could of, if we wished gone on further up the Mountain in a Jeep or four-wheel-drive Unimog, there we would have seen one of the craters, and as the brochure said “ and incomparable panorama extending out over the Adriatic Sea” of course being cloudy like was today I guess that would not apply.
After that it was back on down the Mountain the way we came, back onto the tollway to head to the port of Messina where after being lost several times at the motorway exit and one part heading back towards the tollway the way we had come, we finally reached the port in time to be the third to last vehicle to board before sailing.
Upon arriving back in Italy we avoided the motorway that stressed us out on our inward journey and this time went around of the seaside on a road hugging the cliff face until we reached the beautiful seaside village of Scilla where we spied another motor home parked in a car park overlooking the sea, we made our way to the spot finding that it was a spot that motorhomes could not park, the German that was driving the other motorhome indicated he was staying the night so we decided to join them.
Thursday, 3 May
This morning we had another two motorhomes spending the night beside the beach, with no disturbance from the authorities!
We set off at 9 a.m. travelling North, along the coastal road which meant going through villages, round the side of a hill, for ever edging upwards until we reached 600 m, with an average speed of about 20 km per hour, very interesting travel and all we did slightly over 200 kilometres today in about five hours.
Luda was busy shooting through the windscreen and through the passengers window, and after eliminations ended up with a hundred photographs of the day which averages out at one photo every 2 km!
Were still seeing lots of Fiat 500 ‘s on the road, on an average day we are still seeing six to 12 of these little beauties. We regularly drive past wreckers yards, although they do look more like car dumps with masses of cars piled up on top of each other, quite fortune sitting there in steel full recovery one would think.
Within travelling on the highway with the name SS18 and we are often in sight of the motorway which is the A3 which is a marvellous piece of engineering with its tremendous bridges over the valleys.
Ours just wanders around the coast, going through villages where we witness constantly atrocious driving, by our standards, people having a good gossip in the middle of the road, cars parked on the wrong side of the road so they can talk to friends, cars parked at an angle because that's all the space there is, cars packing out into the traffic on the wrong side of the road, and always has not done by the men in exclusively, but the woman behind the wheels of their cars fear no one. Yes it's much more interesting than motorway driving.
Shortly after our allocated 200 km we found a motor camp with beach access, most of the motorhomes here are from Germany, they are definitely Europe's greatest travellers.
Was spending the night near Cirella with currently a lot of the noise from the highway, which hopefully will die down to night.
Friday, 4 May 2007
As we drive up the coastline is extremely interesting to see the thousands of apartments all shuttered up waiting for summer. And then one drives past the campgrounds and they are almost wall-to-wall covered with caravans with very little space in and around them. Somehow I think that even sardines would find things crowded by the beach in the Italian summer.
It's very obvious that Italy is a very Catholic country when one sees all of the small shrines and the large religious statues as you go through the towns of this country. It is also interesting to see the cathedral like churches that some old hill villages have, it makes one wonder just how they raised the money for such a large church, of course if the nearby village had a large church that in itself would put a different light on the equation as village pride would now enter the proceedings.
Last night camping was the cheapest camping on this trip and what you could call and organised camping facility with toilets, showers and electric hook ups, it cost the princely sum of five Euro.
Today we continue to drive on up the coast staying by the sea as much as we could, that was until we took a wrong turn and ended up driving through the mountains which was an opportunity to see all the villages along the way clinging to the mountainside, we had quite a few stops to record some of these interesting looking villages.
The driving today was no better or worse than it has been since our stay in Italy, could be were getting used to it.
Then we headed back to the coast, and it was such a rugged coastline there were very few opportunities to find a campground, but finally we found a bit of vacant land near a hotel in the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, the village is called Montecorice
As we sit here on the shore we are witnessing quite a heavy surf rolling into shore so it looks like we will sleep with the sound of the surf in the background.
Yesterday we purchased 10 kg of oranges and 5 kg of strawberries for the total cost of €11 which we thought was a very good price, however the locals may have paid considerably less!
Saturday, 5 May
We left our camping spot beside the surf and headed off towards our destination for the day of Sorrento. Programmed Tom Tom, and Tom Tom proceeded to take us up a very narrow Road to our main Road, and presented us with a very tight left-hand turn, which was not possible, so we drove on the backward route to we found a spot we could turn round a few hundred metres down the road.
Our first destination was the city of Salerno and some 40 km before we came to that we drove around the walls and ancient Greek city called Paestum which was founded in 650 BC, taken over by the Romans about 273 BC, sacked by Saracens in the ninth century and finally abandoned in the 16th century. The walls were extremely impressive, most of them were still standing to a height of about 3 m with lots of the top stone slabs laying between the wall and the Road. Paestum is known today for the fine ruins of three large Doric temples, of course we found out most of this when we reached our destination.
Between Paestum and they must be beautiful beaches, as all we seemed to pass on the Road were expensive hotels and camping grounds. There are also lots of car parks which in themselves are quite interesting as they all have a little compartments framed up and covered with sackcloth or something similar to keep the Sun off the cars, and you paid leave your car the for the time you on the beach, of course at this time of the year everything was deserted, and there was lot reconstruction going on to get ready for the summer.
We are wandering through the villages and we know we should have travelled by the motorway but decided to stick to our course by the sea, that was until we entered the city of Salerno and after five or 10 minutes of almost gridlock traffic we saw a sign indicating the motorway and made a hasty exit, well hasty as we could with all the traffic, and I decided to stick to the motorway to we reached our destination.
Was interesting how easy it was to pick up the tourists that walking along the road, if they heard you coming they stopped and hugged the fence, the locals just kept on walking and expected you to drive around them.
Driving by the motorway was all very fine but the motorway does not run to the camp doorstep so again we were through the Italian traffic and I finally gave up on my intended campsite, when I saw one that looked okay about 5 km from my destination.
Sunday, 6 May
Today we went on a boat that was chartered to take a group of people to the island of Capri. We first headed off to the island and high-speed bouncing as it hit the waves, till we got to the island when a slowed down and started showing us the sights.
One of the locations was the blue Grotto, you had to climb out of the large boat into a small rowboat, three people and the rower, first they took you to the paying station where you paid your nine euros, then you had to lie down on the boat as they rowed through the small opening that had a variable opening due to the swell of the sea and then you were inside.
Once inside you had this beautiful blue glow coming from the water, you were encouraged to sing to experience the echoes, then it was lying down on the boat again to escape from the Grotto.
I must explain at this point of time that I had no desire to trust my future to a small rowboat controlled by the race the people that I had been experiencing on the roads of Italy. Luda had no such qualms so I obtained many photos of her climding off the large boat and being rowed towards the opening and her emerging after the experience. There was nothing to photograph in the Grotto but nevertheless Luda enjoyed the experience.
After that it was on to our destination which was one of the seaside settlements of the island, from which we took the bus that took us to the main shopping centre of Capri. The shops were all very beautiful, they have all the main brands of the world available, I would guess at 100% more than available anywhere else, but then of course the shops were not aimed you or I, but those to whom money is no object, and I am observed many of this type person wandering the streets.
There was an incredible number of tourists being ferried in an out of the shopping area all following guides who were explaining what the people were seeing in their native tongue just in case they did not realise the significance of the sights in front of them.
Around lunchtime, it was time to look for a restaurant, and we entered a square that had four large areas of tables but no we were told this was just for people that want drinks, if we want to eat we had to go to a different direction, so we went to a different direction, found a restaurant and had quite a reasonable meal, reasonable and content and price in spite of what I said above.
Then we wandered around a little bit more, and decided at this point to take a bus back to the landing point, and when we got to the depot we discovered we had a choice of three locations, I knew I wasn't one of the locations so we had a 50% chance of getting the correct location on the first choice, which of course meant we had a 50% chance of getting the wrong location which we did. Was a nice drive to an interesting location, we looked around the little and caught a bus back.
Of course like all roads in Italy, the roads and Capri are very narrow with just enough space for a bus and a normal car to squeeze by at a slower speed, on the assumption they are lined up in the correct manner. Of course the bus driver drives by the horn on each corner and seems to survive every encounter.
Having eliminated all of the variables we caught the correct bus back to landing spot, was time to have a Gelato each and a coffee for Luda and a Diet Coke for myself.
Back on the boat, eventually, it was round the rest of the island with the boat going through a hole in a rock, somewhat similar to the one in Pihia in the North island and then on around showing all the various features of on the island before we headed back to the harbour at Sorrento.
An interesting day out, interesting to see the island that the wartime singer Gracie Fields retired to and where in the 30s the famous Russian writer Maxim Gorkij used to holiday for his health.
Tuesday, 8 May
Today we caught the bus and then the train to the city there was smothered by a volcano and then forgotten about for hundreds of years, I refer of course to Pompei. You like I have probably learned all about this city at school, we learned that they had found bodies that had been killed by the poisonous gas and then covered in ash and the shape was preserved until they were found. We learned that it was perhaps the most complete city from biblical times preserved until today.
Well that is some of the knowledge I went to Pompei with today, and of course for a historical site like this you have to expect crowds, and crowds we got, thank goodness it was not July. We opted to do it by ourselves without a guide and in retrospect that possibly was a mistake because we missed quite a few notable buildings. There were very, very many buildings with the walls almost complete but there were also many that had only 50% or less of the walls remaining. It would be interesting to read just how the ash covered the city, what effect it had on the buildings, what effect it had on the roofs and why some buildings lost half of the walls, of course the city suffered a major earthquake a few years before the eruption so perhaps that may answer a lot of my questions.
One thing to be aware of is that it is a very big city, without modern footpaths, but paving stones so it can be very tiring traipsing through the city, and the crowds of course do not make it any easier. We were there for about five hours, so we did the easy part in took the train back to Sorrento, and then it was a matter of the where exactly do we catch the bus!
Of course we started where we thought we got off the bus, and in the end we decided to stick to that location, bordered the bus which of course proceeded to go in the wrong direction, showing as lots of parts of Sorrento we hadn't seen, and up to that moment had no intention of seeing until of course and reached end of the run, the bus driver indicator we should get on the waiting bus and that eventually took us back to the campsite, although we never did find out exactly where we should have boarded the bus.
We had considered going to Naples tomorrow, but when we looked at the guidebook and saw what was the best they could scratch together on Naples for a tour we decided would possibly be better to go to Amalfi on what they described as the most beautiful coastal route in Italy. We did not fancy going in a bus because you cannot take many photographs through the dirty bus windows. In the end decided to hire a Smart car and drive the route by ourselves, so I ordered the car and was due to arrive at 8:20 a.m. the following morning.