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Europe » Italy » Calabria
June 20th 2014
Published: June 20th 2014
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We have been in Italia for just a week, driving from the Swiss border to Agrigento Sicily, about 2300 kilometers. Some days were long and a bit tiring but mostly we moseyed along the coast when we could. Our impressions are what follows. Hope you enjoy them.

DRIVING:

The autostradas (Italian Motorways…not FREE ways) certainly get you from one place to another faster than other roads but have no personality. Multiple lanes with lots of construction 130 kph speeds that no one follows….the minimum is generally double that….except us who drove max 120 and usually between 100 and 110. We kept the trucks company in the right hand lane.

Safer? You say….Well that depends on your definition of safe. At our speed, we were Mario Andretti targets for those who see themselves as race drivers in the making. This means that when they approach us at 200+kph, they wait till they are less than a car length away, pull out quickly but not all the way into the left lane, stay very close to us and reenter the right hand lane before they are fully by us. It makes for startling moments.

Another driving habit is to try your best to make 3 lanes out of 2. So almost no one stays in 1 lane. Everyone straddles as much as possible. Reminds us of drift driving by oldsters in Florida. This is especially true in roundabouts and on two lane roads.



Well we are now used to it and have even joined in on the fun on occasion. Mike yells out that he is now an official Italian when he beats someone through the roundabout or passes a large truck making oncoming traffic and the truck pull over to make an extra lane. He says YES!!! and drives on with a strange smile.



Food and Wine:



What can we say that you don’t already know. As you can see from the photos, everything is fresh and local. The seafood….fish. octopus, calamari, mussels and clams are to die for in most restaurants. Pastas are always al dente with lots of garlic and real extra virgin olio….so lite green you can almost see the olives. Wonderful! Then of course there is gelato and cappuccino. We have yet to have a bad cappuccino and the best ones were at the roadside restaurants on the autostrada. Who woulda thought? It is what helps keep the speed up.

For the wine…we chose to drink local wine whenever we could. Usually comes to your table in a carafe or bottle with no label. They have been great. Also found some wonderful Nero D’AVOLA and Barossa to drink in our camper. Smooth, warm and delicious.

We have also been making our own lunch/dinner whatever once a day. Prosciutto, fromaggio, fruit, tomatoes etc are just wonderful and available at local roadside stands or in small shops along the way everywhere.



We had originally thought we would eat a large lunch in a restaurant and then chees etc in the evening. Well we have missed the opportunity for lunch as there is an almost religious adherence to siesta. Everything closes around noon or at least by 2 and no one reopens till 7:30 at the earliest. Dinner usually starts at about 8:30 or 9 and lasts a couple hours. Mike likes this and Kate could do without it. Anyway, we have eaten enough this week to gain a couple pounds.



People and Culture;

Even though the folks appear dour at first blush, it ain’t true. They are helpful, warm and friendly once you break through that initial look. Talking with your hands is required even when you are on your cell phone. Expressing yourself with hands and a wonderful musical set of syllables is exciting to watch and listen to. Italian is probably the most musical language we have ever encountered and it only grows in expression as we headed to the south of the country. No wonder the Pavarotti’s of the world come from here.

The south is the poor section while the north is considered upper class. We like the south as it has a wonderful mix of cultural influence (Greek, Roman, muslim). Syracusa Sicily, with its wonderful 6th century amphitheater built by the Greeks before Syracusa beat them in a war, was once the capitol of the known world and Agrigento has Greek temples dating back to the 6th century. The photos tell the story. The south especially Calabria is also the bread basket for the country. Miles of olive orchards, wine grape vineyards, tomato farms, fruit trees and wheat fields.

Sicily is wonderful with busy cities built on the sides of mountains, a view of the sea from almost anywhere and farms throughout the central highlands.

Most interesting experience:

We are writing this as we head back north to Bari to take a ferry to Igoumenitsa northern Greece. Looking to slow down and travel les rapidly, we decided to avoid autopistas as much as possible. We are following the coast road north from the Ferry landing in Villa San Giovanni and we are making ourselves stop early. So today, our GPS gave us a couple camping parks on the Adriatic. This one is called Pizzo Greco and we are overlooking a beautiful coral green and blue sea. Why interesting….cause it is a camping area for nudists…our GPS did not tell us that. We are, after some negotiation not required to join in the “sans clothing” part if we only stay one night. Guess there is always a first time for everything. Our last photo is of the beach, not allowed to photograph the folks.



Basta …ciao bene…we are off to have some wine…..talk with ya’ll from Greece or Albania.


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