Week 20-26th March 2017
Our Monday by Lago Trasimeno started cloudy and a bit grey, but with no rain forecast we set off on a cycle, our first again for an age not wishing to dice with the traffic on most of Italy’s city roads. We were hoping for a cycle path around this lake, Italy’s 4th largest but the actual track and even the road only hugged it for so long and so on our coffee stop we realised that most of the cycle would be on country roads just as bumpy as the main roads and neither of us were sure our bums would hold up to the battering let alone the bikes. So along with the fact that if we went back after just 20k’s we could actually get to Assisi that afternoon and get that ‘ticked’ off the list leaving us with the Tuesday to get to Ancona, buy the ferry tickets, do a shop and have a nice exit lunch before the 12 hour night sailing. For the last stages of Italy in Tuscany and Florence we have become the ultimate tick tourists- get there, whiz around, take the photo and on the next place. In all honestly that’s absolutely unfair to this beautiful area and it’s amazing cities but in defence on our side the cost in Italy has been high and we can only spend so much on entrance fees, food and drink plus we really need to be on that Tuesday night ferry to keep on track for our journey home and to do justice to the other countries on route.
Assisi was however absolutely stunning and we had the most lovely demi- aire at the bottom of the town looking directly up to the tumble of stone houses, churches and of course the magnificent Basilica di San Francesco. We did do the basilica justice as we were in the 2 churches for the best part of 3 hours which is easy done given the splendid frescoes depicting the life of St Francis. After a quick Aperol in one of the squares we rolled back down the hill to NiKi where I made my new star dish- meatballs in a tomato sauce served on a bed of spaghetti.
Lidl sausages or rather Lidl Italian sausages are great for making meatballs as the skin is thin so you can just whoosh them into balls with some seasoning, onion etc and then create a tomato sauce for them to sit on with whatever you have left in the store cupboard. Going forward we need to see if the sausages are the same in other Lidl’s Europe over, but we’ll cross that dilemma as and when.
The Tuesday began in glorious sunshine and we had our breakfast outside on a bench with fellow travellers David and Jan. We were all reluctant to leave this glorious spot and weather but we each had to start our journeys and ours to the ferry port of Ancona was just over the 2 hours and we had no plan B if there was no space on the ferry. As we arrived around early afternoon in the as norm chaotic port area we were both relieved that our time dicing with death on Italian roads and with Italians drivers was nearly over. We only had the walk into the old town for lunch for them to still get us and it might have been this sense of relief that caused us to do a very strange and potentially disastrous thing. When parking up in the port holding area before the ticket office opened at 4 were a lovely couple in 2 lovely vans and they too were going to Croatia on the evening boat but had their tickets. Being ever more practical and
long term motorhomers they, another Karen plus Paul were having lunch in-van and preparing for the evening crossing. So after a quick chat we ran off towards the old town for our last Italian dinner. After a truly wonderful lunch in a restaurant called Osteria del Pozzo where at last we found a menu del dai Italian style we headed back to the port. As we neared the parking area it occurred to us both, that one of the English vans was now parked very very close to the passenger side of our van whereas before lunch they were parked together on the other side. Silence befell us as we neared, both realising that something really wasn’t quite as it should be, what had happened!!. As we got closer, Paul half grinning but not quite fully laughing said “Do you always leave your windows open and the van unlocked when you go off??” Oops and Oh dear really didn’t cut much mustard as a response to our stupidity especially as the passports were on full show along with other ‘very helpful to burglar’ documents. So by parking one van within inches of the blindside of NiKi and with them then in the other van on the driver side they were thankfully able to protect the van and our belongings. A very, very big OOPS and thank you to Karen and Paul. A very pleasant crossing was spent with our saviours in a very Carry On fashion as we all ducked and dived around the cabin deck trying to avoid the cabin commandant in an effort to each save one set of cabin fees. She still nearly got us at the end as well as she then turned into the customs commandant but my various elaborate hair styles fooled her.
Split, Croatia –what a difference immediately to that of our arrival here to that of Italy. Maybe we are still being unfair but the differences even after just 4 days seem to spring out at you. A much troubled country in the past but the warmth, friendless and hospitality jump out at you straight away. No one looking at you and trying to judge how much more they can charge, way less rubbish and graffiti are just the simpler things. I won’t say better roads at this stage as we are only some 20Ks from the port and the road outside the campsite is up and being repaired at the moment.
And oddly unlike Spain and Italy they have already abandoned 3 layers of clothing and are just down to 1 coat and scarf so we are no longer getting all the ‘aren’t you cold, bloody stupid foreigner’ stares either. In fact on a walk or rather a sea rock climb the other morning there were naked people sun bathing and they weren’t German or Scandinavians-still a bit ‘walnut whipish’ on the man front but nevertheless undressed!
Spilt is a lovely old town with a historic centre that is still lived in by locals with schools, shops, and restaurants all cohabiting quite happily with the tourists and travellers. Our campsite is right on a lovely bay and NiKi after 4 moves (in 2 hours) is parked in front beach row position. A point to note here for future reference is that wild or freedom camping is not allowed at all in Croatia and so we will be staying on campsites the whole time here, but they are for the best part reasonably priced and well equipped. We have reverted back to old habits such is our happiness at being somewhere we can afford and we have eaten out more than in and each meal has been delicious- a mix of seafood, fish, pasta, meat all very Mediterranean. What has also surprised us is the ‘uber’ coolness of this city and thus far we are both in full agreement that it would give Italy a good race on the style front. We are both looking forward to our journey up and through Croatia with lifted spirits which we both found hard to raise in Italy. We were reconciled in the end with Italy after Rome and Tuscany and we will return but for now the love affair with Croatia has begun.
Footnote: Our thoughts and best wishes are also with our home city of London after the cowardly attack there this week. Continue following us as we make take the long way home to this wonderful, simply the best city.
Our Route This Week