Posts tagged driving

Amalfi Coast

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One of my long standing ambitions has been to explore the Amalfi coast.  This goal inspired us to persevere in our struggle with the Italian traffic, and we made our way to Sorrento.  A little preparation made the journey to the area much more bearable. We were able to find a campsite open in the ‘off’ season and avoid all those challengingly low bridges.  Our campsite was tagged onto the end of Sorrento with amazing views of the coastline.

We decided to spend our first day in this area exploring it on foot.  The Italians don’t seem to be overly keen on footpaths, or even pavements, and you have to take your chances on the narrow roads leaping sideways to avoid scooters undertaking three-wheeled Piaggios.  We diverted off the main road onto a walkway, straddled on either side by lime and lemon plantations.  We scrumped some limes for our larder, though our pickings were meagre compared to a retired Italian couple we encountered, dragging bulging plastic packets filled with olives, lemons, limes and pomegranates in their wake.

The coastal road to Amalfi is closed to motorhomes during the day due to the huge volume of traffic and the jaw droopingly narrow squeezes between cliffs and houses.  The coast is easily visited by bus and boat, both run by the municipality and very reasonably priced.  Feeling more adventurous we opted to rent a scooter from Sorrento for the day. Finding a good scooter-spot for Odie proved to be an interesting challenge but soon, like an unwilling sandwich filling, he was wedged firmly between us, sniffing and staring at the passing scenery.

We bumped and weaved our way along the peninsula, through isolated villages to Santa Agata which has stunning views all round.  The road hugs the cliffs and continues on to the beautiful towns of Positano, Praiano and Amalfi.  The towns are mid-way down the cliffs, between the sea and the towering limestone monoliths that stretch into the clouds.

We stopped for a delicious seafood lunch in a restaurant, with tables looking out across one of the bays. It turned out to be a rather expensive treat of seafood pasta and freshly prepared veggies from the proprietor’s garden for only €10 extra (or yous sleeps widda fishes).  After lunch, the clouds descended and rain quickly fell upon our cheap plastic helmets. We weaved our way homewards through mist and fog, our TomTom bleating out alternatively a direction to turn, or a warning about a low battery. With the TomTom off to save the battery we powered on, thinking we had our bearings right, but discovered after a long descent to a small fishing village that we had made a monstrous diversion to a dead end.  I’d usually have been annoyed but strangely the last hour of scooting back through the Italian rain was as much fun as you could possibly hope for. My spirit of adventure was feeling much alive.

Italy: lots to love, lots to hate

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The van is both our home and our transport.  At times I think it is a blessing and at other times a hinderance.  We found ourselves in Cava De Tireni, a town on route to the Amalfi coast.  Roadworks were prolific, and eventually we found ourselves navigating down a very narrow street, abruptly and rather suddenly a 2.5 ton limit sign appeared.  My only option was to turn down one of the little side roads (even narrower than the one we were currently on) and pray!  My prayers went unanswered and in moments I found myself at a junction filled with scaffolding, leaving a very tight squeeze for our wide van.  I thought I had got through ok, but an impatient Italian on my tail was adding to the pressure, and just as I breathed out for the first time in what seemed like an eternity I heard the noise everyone dreads – a nasty long scratching sound followed by a sharp crack.  There was no time to stop and check out the damage though with people tooting behind us.  It turned out to be our vent for the gas which juts out very slightly and caught on some railings. We are left with a damaged vent, scrape along the side (luckily mostly superficial) and a rather less confident driver.

The day did not improve much. After vetoing Cava De Tireni as a stop we opted to make our way into the  mountains which back onto the Amalfi coast.  Motorhomes are only allowed to drive along the Amalfi coast from midnight to 6 am.  This means your only option is to visit from either Salerno or Sorrento during day by bus, scooter or boat.  Salerno is an ugly monstrosity and we definitely did not want to stop there.  The mountains looked like a good stopover on the way to Sorrento.  After a 45 minute drive around some very tight hair pin bends all we got to see was the view back towards Naples and Mt Vesuvius. The agriturismo camper stop was shut for the whole of October.

Another regroup and we thought we would just go to the coast. We ended up in Piano de Sorrento where most of the campsites are shut now as it is no longer summer.  This would not have been a problem except that a railway line traverses the town and though there are a couple of high bridges, most are not suitable for vehicles like ours.   In typical Italian style the road markings were shocking. You never know if a low bridge is coming up until you are right upon it, with no room to turn back the other way. At one point a sign saying “trucks this way” sent us the wrong way down a one way street! After an hour of similar battles in the crazy Italian traffic we decided to cut our losses and head towards Pompei.

Beach break

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We are constantly moving, packing and organising . You would never think that we are on a permanent holiday. Our days somehow fill themselves up with these ‘admin’ tasks. We often find that after a month or so of regular, almost daily journeys we feel run down and need to stop for a few days to recharge our batteries. I find this is particularly true if we are wild camping regularly, and although I feel most at peace when we are on our own in nature, I worry that we will be asked to move on by the locals.

The time had come to put down some roots, at least for a few days, by the beach. We found a great campsite near Vieste, Puglia in the Parco Nazionale del Gargano. The site was a short walk from the sea and had a very relaxed, holiday atmosphere. A couple of other English couples were also staying for a few days and we were able to swap information. The respite from traveling allowed us to catch up on work and chill out with swimming and general holiday activities.

The Adriatic coast is stunning. Verdant forests crowd the hills which drop down to the ever changing blue ocean. Limestone rocks give the area an idyllic landscape, riddled with caves and coves. Vieste was our closest town, but unfortunately in our laziness we didn’t visit except for a hair raising journey out of town. It looks like a perfect holiday town, full of bars, restaurants and endless sandy beaches dotted with palm trees.

Calais to Tours

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After an unevenful ferry crossing from Dover to Calais we have settled into driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. It only takes a couple of near misses to get used to doing things the ‘right’ way round and now we are religious about checking our blindspot. We were apprehensive about driving a RHD in Europe but it is surprisingly easy although having a passenger helps when you pull out and to deal with ticket booths.

We spent the day driving and driving, trying to get to Spain as quickly as possible for the wedding. We covered an impressive 500km, that’s impressive as we are now in a 10 year old transit with almost 3.5 tonnes behind it.

Our first night was in an aire, a free camp site for motorhomes. This had a lovely setting by a park. David went for a little wander and followed a path into some woodland only to discover little treats littering the ground! Clearly some campers don’t have an onboard loo.

Aires are wonderful stop overs for people on a budget:

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