Published: June 7th 2011June 7th 2011
Tuesday 17th May
The original plan, many many moons ago was to get on a ferry from Bari in eastern Italy and cross the Adriatic sea to Croatia, but with the ferry booking website not working and no one ever answering the telephone I've had to scrap that plan and we now have to drive north instead. A bit disappointing as we no longer get to visit Montenegro, Bosnia or southern Croatia, but missing out on those means we get to take in some of Italy that we never intended.
Leaving Pompeii and the west coast behind we headed into the hills of central Italy and for the east coast town of Manfredonia. At first the roads cut through the Campania valleys with soaring high peaks on either side until we levelled off through olive and poppy filled fields into the relatively flat surroundings of Puglia.
Having not done any research on the east coast we decided to pin point a few stop over spots and make our way north quite quickly, Manfredonia being the first stop.
The site at Manfredonia didn't have many facilities but being on the beach and a few miles from a famous pilgrimage
site (Monte Sant'Angelo in the Gargano national park) it was fairly busy and a good stop over place. What it lacked in facilities it made up for in friendliness, the owner was pleasant, most people said hello and we chatted to a few people about our travels whilst sat in the wifi area that evening.
The toll road from Puglia follows the coast line north and passed within a few miles of our next stop-over site at Giulianova Lido, so with a long drive ahead we set off early.
Passing through Molise and into Abruzzo, by the towns of Foggia and Pescara and by the still snow covered high peaks of the Appeninnes in the distance, we arrived in town early afternoon, we stocked up with more provisions and arrived on site. A nice place on the beach and with a great pool and with us not planning on doing much that day we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening in the pool.
More relaxing by the pool for most of the day, the only things of note where that the kids decided to do some tidying up of their stuff (no idea what
got into them??) and I cycled into town to get my hair shaved off again.
Back on the coast road and heading north again we hugged the Adriatic passing by Ancona and Fano both in the Le March region before reaching our next stop and another new country, the Republic of San Marino. Quickly settling into the rather nice camp-site we sat under the olive trees and planned a trip into town the following day.
Covering just 61 sq km and mainly atop Monte Titano San Marino's old town is another world heritage site. It's main draw for the tourist is high up on the rock, quite a walk but you can get there by bus or even by cable car. With it's narrow streets packed with restaurants and many many souvenir stalls it was busy the day we visited. The clear views from the castle walls look down to Rimini on the coast and inland over the hilly landscape. There are 2 fortresses on top and a few strange and macabre museums to visit on the walk up, the piazza's offered somewhere nice to take a seat and enjoy the views.
we enjoyed a lovely meal in the local restaurant, yet more pizza!! After the meal on the walk back to the van the camp sites pathways were filled with fire flies lighting up the way.
As mentioned before this new route up through Italy had made me quickly look for new places to visit and one of those I found was Bologna. A good stop over spot en-route to the lakes it offered a city centre camp site and boasted a medieval landscape in a vibrant and attractive city. After a short drive from San Marino we were soon on site and on the bus into town.
Bologna isn't that big and is easily walked around in a few hours. The colonnaded walkways that fill the centre are very attractive and make strolling around very pleasant, they also sheltered us from the blistering sun (30+ degrees) which was a relief.
Another medieval city that once had well-to-do families building towers to out do each other, of Bologna's once 180 towers just 22 still stand today. The Piazza di Porta Ravegnana is where 2 of them stand, the Torre degli Asinelli stands highest at 97.6m tall next to
the smaller Torre Garisenda, both leaning.
Just around the corner in the Piazza Maggiore is where we found most people, sat on the steps of the Basilica de Santo Petronio watching the world go by. A good stop over city and probably worth a longer visit if you like churches as there are quite a lot of them around.
Our route today was going to take us north to Lake Garda but first I'd lined up a good place to stop off for a visit.
South of Modena the small town of Maranello has been home to Ferrari since Enzo moved it there in 1947. The factory where all Ferrari's are built dominates the town with many streets and piazza's named after something associated with the company. The actual factory is off limits but the museum holding the biggest collection of Ferrari's in the world is close by.
The museum holds the first Ferrari 125 S model from 1947, through to the latest Ferrari SA Aperta special edition and most models in between. There's also the history of the company and a virtual tour of the factory plus the drivers championship history and stories behind famous grand
prix wins, there's memorabilia and trophies and a mock up pit lane and garage.
Having enjoyed our visit but turning down the chance to drive a Testa Rossa (100 euros!!) we were back on the road. On this our 300th day of the trip so far we passed the milestone of 7000 miles just before reaching our camp site, Bella Italia on the SE shore of Lake Garda.
Checking into this very large camp-site we found our way to an almost lakeside pitch giving us great views across the water. To the east we could see Garda and Bardolino and to the west Sirmione, to the north more snow capped mountains started to rise as you headed towards the alps.
The camp site had everything the kids could need so for the next few days we spent our time in the many swimming pools, boating on the shallow lake, using the bar and restaurant facilities, cycling and walking along the lake side pathway and generally taking it easy. After the hectic sightseeing month we'd had it was nice to relax and to actually feel like we were on a summer holiday.
Enough relaxing, on the Thursday we spent the whole
day (nearly 7 hours) at the Aqua park near Garda land, as it was May and a weekday there was hardly anybody around so there were no queues at all, we went on everything many many times, by the end we were all knackered.
Friday night was an experience, remember our hurricane winds back in October? well it wasn't that bad (for us) but it did make the local news, a storm front came across from the hills and for 2 hours (around 10pm) the winds ripped down tents and awnings from most of those camped next to the water, luckily we were just far enough back so no harm done. One minute me and Dan were stood watching the lightening across the water lighting up the lake and mountains, the next thing we were throwing everything inside the van as the winds quickly picked up, by morning it was clear blue skies and red hot again!
After more swimming and then watching the champions league final in the packed multinational bar on the Saturday night we packed up and left the Lake Garda site Sunday morning after 6 lovely days.
Heading away from the lakes and
into the Veneto region we passed by Verona, Vicenza and Padova before checking into camping Malibu in Lido Di Jesolo.
Lido Di Jesolo is a very popular beach destination with many northern Italians heading to it each weekend and during the summer, there are loads of huge camp sites in the area and loads for kids to do in and around the town. Our camp site was at the eastern side of town, it had 2 pools and was directly on a very nice sandy beach which was very busy on the Sunday when we arrived, it also had a nice bar/restaurant.
For the next 4 days we spent our time on the site in the pool or on the adjacent beach, we didn't even venture into town we were that lazy, we also caught up with the family on Skype whilst they enjoyed their bank holiday at home.
Thursday 2nd June
Just 15km up the road from Jesolo at the end of the peninsula is Punta Sabbioni another holiday resort but this is where the holidaymakers catch the ferry to Venice. Leaving the van at a recommended ADS nearby we walked the 5 mins to the small but
busy port and jumped on the ferry straight to St Marks (San Marco).
Built on a swamp to escape the marauding Huns and Goths back in the 5th & 6th centuries Venetians established the lagoon islands by driving wooden pylons down 100ft into the silt. Over the centuries Venice became a major trading city then later the playground for Europe's top artists and the very rich. Today it is still a centre for new arts and music and plans to reduce the flood risks should halt it's slide into the sea.
What to do in Venice? well instead of aimlessly wandering around the labyrinth of canals I decided that we'd follow a walking route advised by the Lonely Planet guidebook. This turned out to be a very good idea, taking in the main sites (San Marco, Rialto Grand Canal etc), venturing into different districts, walking through hidden campo's, crossing many bridges onto the many islands and islets and actually knowing where we were going was a good way to see the place. In all we walked for 6 hours with stops for drinks and more ice creams before having tea just behind San Marco at the Hard Rock cafe (where
The day had started off cloudy and cool which was nice for our walk around but by teatime the hot sunshine had come out again, so after the long walk and a big tea we sat in the shadow of the Campanile (bell tower) on the water front and watched the gondolas, taxis and ferries criss crossing the Grand Canal entrance, transporting the non stop flow of tourists being dropped off and picked up before we jumped back onto our own ferry back to the van and our last sleep in Italy.
We all really liked Venice and it was great to end our 5 week tour of Italy on a high. Next were off to visit a couple more new countries both part of the old Yugoslavia.
Bye for now and take care.
Neil Dan & Harry
There are more photos below