On our travels we tend to avoid the toll roads. This is partly due to the fact that our van can only potter along slowly, and partly due to the cost.  However, we have found the ‘normal’ roads in Italy are very slow and traffic-clogged.  We opted to use the toll road to get us back to Abruzzo.  The cost for a three hour drive was only €8 and saved us an hour and a half on journey time. Not bad!

We arrived in Opi, a very traditional Italian town in the heart of Italy’s oldest national park – Pollino.  The town is made for little people. Everything is in miniature; tiny houses with even tinier doorways peep out at the streets.  We found a great wild-camping spot looking over the Opi valley with almost no traffic and no surrounding lights, (something of a novelty in Italy) and woke to find ourselves perched loftily above the clouds. Years of office jobs have properly prepared me with the sense of self-satisfaction that can be gotten from sipping coffee, and munching biscotti like some sort of demigod, hovering in the clouds, while watching irritated worker bees rush past in their Fiats and Peugeots to their nine-to-fives. Bliss!

We spent the next few days trekking and hiking through the mountains and valleys of this idyllic area.  October is probably the best time of year to visit. All the trees were metamorphosing into balls of red, orange and yellow.  The weather was beautiful and, in contrast with an English autumn, the sunlight dazzled, setting the trees on fire.  One downside is that dogs are not allowed climb any mountains due to the presence of chamois, a kind of mountain goat.  We obeyed this to the letter, except for a ridge walk where we ended up being much higher than we were meant to be and encountered a couple of chamois that stood so still we had trouble deciding whether or not they were statues.  A hard climb should always be followed by a hearty lunch, and we made sure we kept to the rule.  There’s nothing like a steak and cherry tomato tagliatelle at the summit of a great mountain! (Ask Odie, he tracked down a couple of stray pieces of steak !) We made a desert of miniature apples (the width of two fingers fully grown) scrumped from wild apple trees.