Mamma Mia


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Europe » Italy
March 4th 2011
Published: March 4th 2011
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SORRY THIS IS SO LONG - IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE WE'VE FOUND INTERNET........

February
Sun 20 – Leaving Buxy, we headed further south on lovely country roads (mostly on the Route des Grands Crus) with no traffic at all. The views would be even better with some blue skies and sunshine! Stopped for lunch in a little cafe/bar and a look around the charming town of Tourus before heading for our overnight spot in Poncin.

Mon 21 – A rural route, with potentially great views (where’s the sun?) eventually took us to Annecy which is surrounded by spectacular mountains, built on the banks of a huge lake and has a canal running through it. We strolled through the old quarter, with its arcaded houses and warren of passages (parts of which date back to 12th century) especially enjoying the Palais de l’Isle (fort/mint/court and latterly a prison), the Chateau (castle) and a delicious lunch of Galettes (savoury pancakes)...........all enhanced by sunshine and blue skies!

Onwards, skirting the lake with Mont Blanc majestically bathed in sunshine we climbed and climbed, with snow here and there and finally reached Chambery. At some points, with all the hair-pin bends, our TomTom screen looked as if someone had scribbled on it! Needless to say this resulted in our cupboard contents being well shuffled – to avoid being concussed by a tin of prunes, open cupboards carefully! After a supermarket shop we found an overnight spot in Chambery by the tennis courts.

Tue 22 – We decided to give looking around Chambery a miss – too busy/big and too many speed bumps! Headed for the Alps, stopping at a market in Aiguebelle with its mountainous backdrop. Onwards through the 13km Frejus Tunnel to Italy at a vast cost of 48.70 Euros – the first time we’ve paid for roads – we do not use motorways. There doesn’t seem to be much snow around and whilst we enjoyed some great scenery getting here, with a fair amount of clearish skies and sunshine, the weather has closed in – very misty. This is a shame as our overnight spot (freecamping half way up a mountain) would have stunning views. The only two Italians we’ve spoken to (about finding an Aires site) both spoke fluent French, which means we have a bit longer to swat up on our Italian – Ciao!

Wed 23 – Wow! Clear blue skies and sunshine! What a wonderful wake up (albeit 9.20am – we do sleep well). After a pre-breakfast walk around to admire the views, we carried on towards Asti (as in Spumante!) We had to skirt Turin and were doing very well when a ‘diversion’ due to road-works ran out of signs and we found ourselves negotiating through Europe’s biggest open-air market! A tense 15 minutes ensued, brushing against stalls selling over-sized bras and girdles, quantities of handmade baskets and freshly hung rabbits. Negotiating impossibly narrow avenues, with ‘Italian’ parking (ie: pull up anywhere) and much to the delight of the locals – we felt as if we were in the ‘Pope-mobile’ – we emerged unscathed the other side! In negotiating our way out of the city, we encountered the inevitable ‘Gals’ at the roadside, selling their wares – complete with their own comfortable chairs and dressed in next-to-nothing!! A stop for lunch just out of Turin ( wonderful bread, meats & cheese AGAIN!) we carried in to Asti.

After a slow start trying to find the hub of Asti-life, we enjoyed a couple of hours seeing the usual sights of cathedrals with wonderfully ornate interiors and equally amazing palaces. We finally carried on looking for an overnight spot. Choosing a cross-country route we found a tiny village with a perfect place to park with superb views. Having parked up, we discovered we have a problem with our leisure battery – it doesn’t seem to be charging (warning lights flashing). We therefore spent the evening (inc. cooking our supper)with only light from our wind-up lantern, whose glow only lasts 3-4 mins before needing another wind! And NO heating. We’ll have to sort the problem out tomorrow.

Thu 24 – Freezing cold start, double thermal undies and away. Heading west across country enjoying lovely scenery but also looking for an Aires site with electrical hook-up to re-charge leisure battery (heating on every night + re-charging computer seems too much for self recharge).

Though glorious wine county to an Aires at Novi Ligure – crap town and no hook-up. Onwards, rather ambitiously across mountains up/down, zig & zag through tiny rural villages with old narrow streets, big churches and magnificent views in generally sunny weather. Explored another Aires in Varzi – no luck, so asked in desperation at an Esso garage come Pizzaria! The wonderful Senora ‘capisced’ our Italian and allowed up to hook up around the back into the kitchen! Being forced to re-charge for at least two hours there was nothing for it but to eat Pizza and drink wine/beer!! After ‘mille grazie’ we set off again up and over the Passeo dell Penice (1,350m) with a clear road but deep snow either side, finally descending into the valley to the town of Bobbio, where we’ve parked up for the night. With parts of the town dating from 7th century, we’re looking forward to exploring tomorrow.

Fri 25 – the 2 hour hook-up yesterday didn’t do the trick– we had an evening of heat/light ‘til 10.30pm when ‘warning’ flashed again - (either it needs a lot longer than 2 hours or a new battery is required). Toasty-warm bed but freezing breakfast! A brisk walk around the town of Bobbio – a lovely and lively place warmed us up.

The day deteriorated as it went on – Baz got soaked from diesel splash-back, we drove from town to town looking for an overnight stop with hook-up (misleading info in our in our books). Thought we’d cracked it in ???? - NO. In frustration we spent ages at a hotel reception explaining our problem – the receptionist finally phoned the police and told us a policeman would come to the hotel (in 10 minutes) to show us where we could hook-up. After 20 mins we queried our wait.....’Oh sorry, the police phoned back and said there is no available electricity in the town’ (was she going to bother to tell us?!). We pissed around trying another site then made the decision to at least head for a year-round campsite (90+ miles). Stopping at a weird shop to buy some supper, where the owner gave us loads of free tasters to help us make up our minds, we parked up for the night in a supermarket carpark. We’d hoped with all that driving, we’d at least have light/heating for the evening......wrong! The warning light flashed straight away – so another cold evening in the dark! Romantic?!

Sat 26 – Supermarket shop (with ghastly Italian musak from crackling speakers) and off to Montecreto camp-site. A mixture of scenery from undulating hills dotted with ancient villages, wine estates and vinyards......to unattractive industrial areas. The last bit of our journey was very rural with TomTom taking us along very narrow, twisty , perpendicular virtual footpaths to finally reach the campsite at about 3pm. Hooked up to the blessed electricity, a load in the washing machine and wonderful showers – we are mucho contento! We had a great walk through the small town and way up to a church in warm sunshine with magnifico views. Snow is forecast overnight!

Sun 27 – What a day! Having had to dig ourselves out of the campsite snow and slithered down the steep exit, we gingerly crept along snowy roads and were doing fine ‘til the first incline – cleared under the front wheels/chocked the back wheels and we managed another couple of miles. Stuck again, tried same procedure and managed another 6 foot! Time to call for assistance – efficient call to AA/Insurance – waited 20 mins – Italian chap arrives in a small Fiat car! - with much gesticulating and ninety-miles-an-hour Italian, it transpires that the snow plough was about 40 minutes away which would tow us into the next town. Nothing for it but to put the kettle on! Snow plough arrived (a Lamborghini!) and a hairy ride around the hairpins as well as a near crash into his rear when he stopped, got us to the town. A local hotel suggested our best route to more major roads and off we set.

Let’s just say it was an exhilarating journey, with snow still falling on the challenging roads – even the main road we finally reached included going through the ??? pass................the scenery was beautiful – a winter wonderland!
As we neared Florence on a straightforward route with light Sunday traffic, the snow had turned to rain. We checked into our very central campsite, set amongst olive trees, with potentially glorious views over Florence and the Duomo at about 4pm – their bloody wi-fi signal is not working Sadly, since it’s still tipping it down, we’re house Hymer-bound........yet warm/cosy with good food and drink. We’ll get the bus in to the city tomorrow and hope for better weather.

Mon 28 – A fantastic day! Good weather – even some sunshine and blue skies! We walked into Florence (20 mins downhill) checked out the Pitti Palace and Santo Spirito Church before crossing the Ponte Vecchio and into the hub of Florence with the Cathedral/Duomo/bell tower (which Baz climbed), Dante’s house, Palazzo Vecchio and so on, and so on .......all magic! A real Italian mixture of Lambrettas, Gelaterias, Pannini, Pasta, Vino, Gucci/Versace, leather goods and so on. Sipped coffee in the shadow of David’s statue in the Piazza della Signoria – lunched beside the Baptistery and carried on ‘til about 5pm when we caught a bus back to the campsite. After a bit of R & R we took the bus back into town for a fantastic meal at El Giadanos (affiliated to the campsite) and enjoyed a superb 3 course meal with wine for 12 euros each! Returned by bus at 11.15ish for a well deserved sleep...great day.

Tue 1 March – Spent some time mucking about trying to a) find somewhere to have our battery problem looked at and b) find somewhere to access Internet – we failed at both. Decided to press on, we reluctantly took the motorway to speed us up to Perugia. However the Tuscan, then Umbrian countryside was impressive. On reaching Perugia, we drove in, round and out! – it may have a charming ‘old quarter’ but it wasn’t for us, traffic everywhere....so onwards to Assisi.

Assisi is fantastic! You can see it spread out on the hill as you approach. We parked at one end and walked right through to the other. This magical place only had a few locals, nuns and monks ambling around – we imagine it would be different in ‘the season’. Time has stood completely still. We meandered through the ancient streets right up to the Rocca Maggiore fortress that was re-built in 1356!........ and on to the Basilica of St Francis – a double church, one built on top of the other – the lower one with the tomb of St Francis ......ancient frescos galore and the lower church being one of ‘the finest churches in the world’ – simply amazing. With stops for coffee then vino, we walked back to Hymie and descended into the valley to park up for an overnight stay in the town of Saint Maria degli Angeli – with the now illuminated town of Assisi in view.

Wed 2 – Our overnight spot in a huge empty carpark (with motorhome signs) had required going through a ticket barrier – the exit barrier was open and the nearby pay-desk was unmanned. It transpired none of the Aires (water/electricity etc) was working. Just before we were ready to leave in the morning, an employee appeared at the pay-desk and as we went to drive out, he stood in front of the van going crazy, as Italian do! Baz got out to explain in English why we were not paying, giving me the wink to drive through – the Signor was not a happy chappy and from then on every police car I saw or heard made me think we’d end up in an Italian clink!

The rest of the day had its ‘moments’ too! Firstly TomTom directed us on to minor roads where we finally met a sign saying ‘no entry’ without chains on tyres...........what the hell! The sun was shining and it didn’t look too bad. Up and up and finally over an extremely snowy pass, only to find when we eventually joined the main road again, the snow was just as thick – although the roads mainly clear.

We had an extraordinary drive in the direction ENE to the coast – all through heavily snowed countryside and tiny towns. Only within 20 miles of Civitanova, on the coast, had the snow ceased – replaced by rain!

Civitanova was ghastly – we only stopped to do a supermarket shop and look for Internet (none), so we just carried on down the coast.

We soon became aware of massive recent flooding – they must have had it really badly – lots of mud-sweeping and road closures and totally flooded underpasses. As it began to get dark, we headed for the hills (signs of landslides) and up to the pretty town of Atri. Parked up and then went for a pre-dinner stroll in the cold and drizzle.

Thu 3 – Decided to resort to a burst of motorway rather than plod through the never ending chain of ugly coastal towns – particularly as it was still raining. We whizzed 100 miles down to Lesina, then chose to circumnavigate the Gargano peninsular – the spur just above the ankle of Italy’s boot – a testing route, alternating between sea-level and mountains but well worth it. By this time the skies had cleared, making the views of coastline and inland, with clustered towns, even better.

Finally arrived at an empty BUT OPEN campsite just south of Manfredonia (with Baz singing Doo wah diddy!) at about 5.30pm. Perfect – right beside a beautiful beach, great facilities including free (and easy) Internet – for only 11 euros per night. We are the only people here, so our Italian welcome was very warm - duo very contente people.

We’ll probably stay here a couple of nights, as Bari is not far away and our ferry crossing to Patras is at 12 noon on Sunday.

Fri 4 – Lazy day, long walk on deserted beach, chores, Internetting etc. We were invited for coffee (served very strong, black & sweet in thimbles!) by the only other people here – an Italian couple, he lived in Sydney for 5 years in the late 60’s. We’ve extended a return invitation for a drink later.

Our Route (overnight stops in capital letters)
Since Buxy on Sat 19 Feb: Sennecey-le-Grand; Tourus; Bourg-en-Bresse; PONCIN;
Nantua; Frangy; Belegard-sur-Valserine; Annecy; Le Pont; Le Feclaz; CHAMBERY;
Aiguebelle; St-Jean-de-Maurienne; Modane; Tunnel de Frejus to ITALY.....; Ouix; Susa; BORGATE TA CRESTO near Sant’Antonio Di Susa;
Avigliana; Turin; Chieri; Villa Franche; Asti; Nizza; Monferrato; CASSALOTTO;
Novi Ligure; San Sabastiano Curone; Varzi; over the Passeo dell Penice; BOBBIO;
Travo; Piacenza; Fidenza; Soragna; Parma; Monticelli Terme; BIBBIANO;
Albinera; Sassuolo; Maranello; Serramazzoni; Pavullo nel Frignana; MONTECRETO;
Sestola; Fanano; Porretta Terme; Pistoia; Prato; FLORENCE;
Rome motorway turned off near Arezzo; around lake to Passignano sul Trasimeno; Magiore; Perugia; Assisi; SAINT MARIA DEGLI ANGELI;
Foligno; Colfiorito; Muccia; Tolentino; Civitanova Marche; Pedaso; Grottammare; Tortorto Lido; Pineto; ATRI; Pescara; motorway to Lesina; Cagano Varano; Rodi Garganico; Peschici; Vieste; Baia delle Zagane; MANFREDONIA;



Additional photos below
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5th March 2011

Dear Beaut, your trip sounds phantastic but oviously cold/rainy. Whish you much luck for your ferry crossing. How long will it take? Love und kuss kuss Tini
5th March 2011

Lucky yous!
It all sounds lovely and the pictures are great!
7th March 2011

Ciao!
Another good read! Funny how different people are abroad. Like the receptionst at the hotel not telling you the police now were not coming! I do have a question. You have only mentioned one shower so far on the 25th Feb, is that it? (you dirty bastards!) Can't believe the snow has been so bad so much so you needed help from a snow plough! Nice bag you are holding Mum in pic 9! Glad your having fun - speak soon x

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