Published: July 18th 2005July 18th 2005
Or, at the very least, get mown down by a moped ridden by a family of four, all on mobile phones.
Tuscany was everything you might expect, winding roads, vines and olives, beautiful farmhouses owned by German industrialists, French politicians and posh English novelists. We saw three quaint fortified towns perched on a rocky outcrop in one day (Pienza, Montepulciano and another which escapes me - they all blur together). San Gimignano is beautiful but they hate campervans and wanted us to park two miles away in a coach yard, which soured us somewhat.
The drive down to the Bay of Naples was long but never dull - there's always something happening on an Italian motorway. I saw a conman doing the one with a pea and three little bells at a service station, ripping off gullible travellers in exactly the same way for four centuries.
We had a nice quiet campsite near a beach down a hellish twisty road full of mad Italian drivers (hoot your horn at a blind corner, if you hear another horn in reply, SPEED UP). Went to Herculanum and Pompeii and Positano and Sorrento, and we met up with my parents which was great, Grace was very pleased to see Granny and Grandpa. Had a couple of cracking meals too.
I spent a morning in Naples which is fascinating. It's like a cross between Barcelona, Brixton and Brick Lane. Good shops, coffee, ice cream, markets, secondhand bookshops (they sell books on interpreting your dreams to choose your lottery numbers).
Last Thursday we drove over to Bari to catch a ferry to Dubrovnik. Other campers told us horror stories of gangs of Albanian bandits hijacking vans, but it was just dull, until we got to Bari port. Imagine six big ships, sixty articulated lorries, six hundred cars and vans, six thousand backpackers and pensioners on religious pilgrimages, and absolutely no organisation whatsoever. Apart from one man with a whistle who spoke no languages apart from Bari-dialect Italian (but could blow his whistle REALLY LOUD). Purely by chance and with the help of a teacher from Glasgow, I queued up on foot, filled in boarding passes and payed Embarkation tax for all of us - and got a receipt. Then we queued for an hour in the van, weaving around abandoned vehicles as we approached a checkpoint. Police? Customs? No, they were checking you had the receipt for your embarkation tax. If you didn't, you had to leave your car in the queue, blocking the traffic, and walk back to queue up to pay... 3 euros.
After that there was just the swerving around lorries reversing onto ships as we drove around in the dark trying to find the name of the boat we wanted. Slept well on the Ljublana, despite rough seas and puking religous pensioners.
Dubrovnik, by contrast, is an absolute dream. They privatised everything profitable four years ago so there are loads of cashpoints, mobile phone shops, internet cafes, bars, restaurants, adverts. Everything has been rebuilt and it all works, unlike much of southern Italy. The only crap bit is the food in the supermarkets - lots of meat paste and pickled vegetables, rubbish wizened fruit. No wonder the local girls are thin and tanned but with spots - no five portions a day.
The old town is beautiful, the public transport works so you can get to the beach. Hence thousands of tourists from everywhere in the world. The restaurant touts speak at least six languages and try them all - hello, please, very nice restaurant, etc. They're all pretty similar and pretty good, so we've eaten out too much and punished the budget a bit. You need a lot of cold drinks and ice cream in this heat. Amanda is finally, after forty-two days away, starting to get brown legs!
This bit feels like a traditional holiday rather than travelling, and we need to concentrate to not fall into standard holiday mode - drinking every day, eating out every night. It's going to be hard. No honest. Why do I get the feeling no-one has any sympathy?
Only seven more weeks to go, and from here on we're slowly heading in the direction of home. Up the coast to Split and Trogir.