After two months we have left Sicily and made our way back to the mainland of Europe. We are now starting our long slow drive Northwards towards Norway with an expected arrival date into Oslo at the beginning of June. We plan to finish off here in Italy by following in the footsteps of the Grand Tour taking in the major sights except for Rome where we have been many times. The days and the driving times are now getting longer and as a consequence the time and inclination to keep writing in-depth blogs of what we do and where we have been is diminishing with every day. Most of the stuff we have planned is in any guide book and so we do not aim to regurgitate what some poor sop has spent hours making up from the safety of a bed-sit in London, New York or Melbourne. We are messing about in Western Europe, not Africa, we are going on a well-trodden path travelled by thousands of lorries every day delivering food and fun to the over-bellied populace. If we see anything amusing or poor value for money we will tell you but if you want to know what happened at Pompei for example then use Google, lonely Planet does and they make a fortune from selling the information on. Obviously the world-class photography will continue. I can’t believe I just wrote that. I think I am trying to say it will be a bit more personal and less factual.
Welcome to Mainland Europe
Our last few hours in Sicily
Our WiFi has been playing up again and so it was up early and into Messina to deal with the Vagaries of TIM, the state-owned and all-round completely useless phone company that provides our internet here in Italy. Our latest problem was the router would only connect to 2G and not the 4G we pay for. Into the shop I bound, collect my ticket and wait, and wait, and wait. Finally a non-productive operative calls me forward and I explain the problem. The response is the router has a virus and know they have cleared it but unfortunately it used all our data. So that will be €25 please. Before the virus I had to pay €10 because there IT systems had a failure and destroyed my credit. So, if you are a traveller and you are coming to Italy and staying longer than a month then do not consider using TIM; they are absolutely hopeless.
So €25 lighter we got back on the road and headed on to the ferry. It appears to be much better organised on the Sicilian side than the chaos we experienced in coming over. We were at the front and so we were first off the boat and on the motorway (It’s free as far as Salerno) and on towards our overnight stop at Tropea.
Our first problem was the road via Mileto to Tropea is closed, it looks like it has been closed for a long time. This resulted in a 40Km detour, which in these parts is an hour of driving and we pulled into Tropea at about 4pm.
Tropea 10/03 – 11/03/2016
This place has captivating prettiness in spades and fits very snugly in the ‘beautiful seaside towns of Europe’ envelope. It is gorgeous with dramatic cliffs, icing-sugar-soft sandy beaches and a town atop the cliffs full of piazzas and interconnecting lanes. The town is looked after by its patron saint; Our lady of Romania. She is credited with protecting the town from earthquakes that fracture this region with great frequency as well as keeping the town safe from the bombs that dropped upon it during WW II but failed to explode. The unexploded munitions now sit in the Cathedral as well a 14th Century picture of the lady herself. The Pictures:
Our Lady with a rather small man as her lover
This area is also famous for a couple of foodie items; its red onions are so famous that all quality red onions in Italy are known as Tropea’ and Tartufo, a death-by-chocolate gelato ball. We bought both and we can say they are worthy of their reputation. A picture of a Pistachio Tartufo.
We parked in a car-park on the foot of Santa Maria dell’Isola, a medieval church that sits on its own island, although centuries of silt have now joined it to the mainland. If you come here in the summer then there are plenty of campsites to be ripped-off in. So that is enough about Tropea and we will leave you with the pictures.
Just down from the main Square
The Main Piazza in the Rain
Santa Maria with us parked in the trees
The main beach, the town and the Island
From Tropea to Maratea
The first part of the journey northwards as far as Pizzo is pleasant enough and a journey we have done before and described in a previous blog. We then got back on the motorway for about 40 klicks before joining the SS18 for the coastal journey towards Maratea. The towns on the stretch of road between Pizzo and Dimante are the arse of the world with Paola being twenty miles up it. There is not a single place that would not benefit from knocking down and starting again. Then there is the poor souls who live here. Imagine how lucky you are to be born in Italy where life is to dress smartly, to promenade in the evenings, to understand great design, to eat great food, chase pretty girls and then be told, for you Luigi you are not having any of it because you are one of the unlucky ones who live in Paola and wear a tracksuit and hang around street corners while eating burgers, for you Luigi you are going to live in Scunthorpe with a bit of sunshine. Life is unfair.
The final bit of the journey is not too bad and here are a couple of pics.
The Island off of Diamante
Maratea 11/03 -12/03/2016
Tonight we stayed on a remote beach on the site of a former beach bar and had a very pleasant night’s sleep after the heavens had opened during the late afternoon/ early evening. Tracy excelled herself making an excellent fish and chips accompanied by a cheeky white and an early night.
The journey between Maratea and Sapri is known locally as a mini Amalfi coast with the narrow road hugging the cliffs as it winds its way Northwards. Our first stop was the marina of Maratea. Well it would have been if we had a smaller van. With a height restriction of 2.50m to get under the railway line we were left with a fifteen-point turn to get out and join the main road. We had better luck in visiting Porto di Maratea just along the road. The road down is steep and windy but possible in a motorhome. What greets you is an Italian Port giving a mighty, fine example of a Cornish Fishing Village, you could imagine Doc Martin bounding along in a grumpy mood. Unlike Cornwall the village is looked over by a 21m high Jesus that sits on top of the cliffs of Maratea Inferior.
Tortora, We camped on that beach
Looking South towards Diamante
Port Issac or Maratea
The next stop was a little further North just before Acquafredda where we came across a permanent nativity set out in such a way that it would be possible to view from both the road and the railway line situated lower down the cliff.
Looking North at Acquafredda
Acquafredda was as far as we got. The rain the previous night’s rain had caused a landslide and the road was blocked forcing us to turn back as far as Maratea to take the road inland and on to the motorway. This we did and for the second day in a row we have encountered a second detour of considerable length. The weather was quite foul as we crossed the Diano National park with heavy rain and driving rain making progress slow. We got into Agripoli as the sun was beginning to set. Exhausted we had a take-away Pizza from an establishment called Moris and to date was the best Pizza we have had in this Pizza-Mad country.
South from Acquafredda
Agripoli to Salerno 13/03/2016
Our first decision to make on leaving Agripoli was to see if we wanted to do €20 seeing the Greek Temples of Paestum. After driving alongside and having a peek from the road the answer was a resounding no. We have seen enough Temples now to last us a lifetime. We have nothing against the Temples of Paestum, far from it, they are some of the finest Greek Temples we have seen, but €20 is 6 bottles of wine and a kebab for Tracy.
The area around Agripoli is known worldwide as one of the officially designated areas from where Buffalo Mozzarella originates. If like me you thought you would see herds of Buffalo roaming the range with Native Americans on horse-back tending their every need then like me you will be disappointed. There is not a free-range, cloven-hoofed beast in sight. They all appear to be cooped-up in enormous sheds being fed while locked in a stall. Think of that next time you spend a fortune on some.
What is probably less know about this area is that it is now just one endless brothel. Looking on a map one thinks that looks like a nice drove up the coast. Well the drive from Laura to Magazzeno is gut-wrenching dire. The whole place has been left to rot and all that is left are some shanty towns where North African men live and for their pleasure there is some very unattractive female wrestlers who perform sexual favours for a fee. Our dash-cam did film it and I was going to put it on the blog but then I thought it wrong to exploit other people’s misery. It looks like there has been a concerted effort to move anyone who looks like a migrant out away from the money of Salerno and Amalfi and into a wasteland where they can do what they want and where no one cares.
Salerno on the other hand is a rather pleasant place. And more on that later
Love to All