As we left France they managed to take a spectacular last few Euro’s from us for the privilege, the main one being €61.20 to drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel. To be fair it did save a huge chunk of driving. Being slightly tunnel phobic I was a bit nervous and so with it being David’s drive day, I just put my head down and wrote up my diary for the last week which had been sadly neglected. My actual review of the tunnel on the tunnel scalometer is a 9. Given its length and importance in linking the two counties it’s well maintained, speed and distance regulated, and it then jettisons you out into the lovely mountainous ski resorts of Italy.
Our overall aim of Italy was to get down and out of it quickly and into the warmer climes of Greece, but somehow Italy managed to hold onto us for the full week with two of David’s school friends being in town-different towns at that. We therefore of course changed the route and timings to accommodate making sure we met up with them both.
Parma drew us in as our first city stop an onto a lovely small Aire just outside the city centre. After a day of driving, we despite our hosts best intentions for us to catch the bus walked the four kilometres into the city centre, famous as we all know for the ham and cheese. But apparently, it’s also known for giving us the super Lamborghini car and composer Verdi. We saw none of the supercars, but did see an awful lot of bicycles as the centre is small. Coming from London are well use to seeing this popular mode of transport and are used to some of the cyclist’s erratic behaviour, but never have we seen so many, or should we say the majority of them cycling at night without any lights or high vis clothing. After shouting at the first few we realised this was completely the norm and then just crossed are fingers they wouldn’t be hit or hit us. We ate at a LP recommended restaurant which was full at 7pm on a Monday night and not just with tourists. The local house speciality was horse meat hash and horse tartare. We both love to try all things local and will leave it unsaid as to whether we had either dish.
Our first meet up was in Florence, which we loved from our previous visit in a motorhome and so weren’t unhappy to return. It as then the real Italian nightmare began as we drove the 118 miles, paying the tolls for the supposed motorways. Buster then bounced and shook his way along and even with his excellent suspension we both grimaced at the constant bumping as we motored along.
My tunnel phobia worsened as we sped through the many mountain tunnels, thankfully lit but still none of them confidence instilling. I just shut my eyes and hoped for the best, driving or not!
The next two days spent with Mark were fab. He is now resident in Florence, but still new to the city and so meeting up with another old school friend Lucy who is now an old hand Florencian will be extremely helpful for him and was fun for us to catch up on the night as well.
We then all headed to Rome for our next catch up, with David and I bouncing our way by road into the city and Mark making his way by the luxury of the high speed train for us all to share the delights of Rome and having a fab time.
We left our friends on the Friday morning and headed further south making our way across the spine of Italy and somehow again with the mountains my drive seemed to take in the most tunnels before we reached the lovely port town of Termoli on the lower east coastal side of Italy in the early evening. The drive besides the tunnel wasn’t uneventful with the amazing and completely unscripted driving of Italians. I was side-swiped by an Italian lorry on the Rome equivalent of the M25 who was not going to give an inch as he just pulled across me causing me to brake heavily and the other lorry driver who overtook before cutting back in so close that again I had to brake heavily. I did manage to cut up one lorry driver on a slip road but had to back down as his trailer loomed so close to the side of us causing David to shriek and me to chicken out.
We left after one lovely night parked in the port area of Termoli where as soon as we parked up on the Friday, we headed to the port beach bar restaurant no more than 25 meters away and had two beers, one Aperol spritz and Aperitivo (tapa) for the princely sum of €9. This included lovely green olives which I discreetly ‘half-inched’ before using them in our night’s dinner of chicken tagine. Which although slightly luminous yellow due to the overuse of saffron on my part was delicious.
Lecce was what we thought was to be our final stop before heading to the ferry and crossing into Greece, but after arriving in the most truly amazing baroque town and doing all the normal tourists visits we decided that the bed time parking spot for Buster in a busy bus terminus wasn’t for us for 2 nights. We also had a lovely meal at an again recommended local restaurant on the Saturday evening where we took centre stage in entertainment for the many locals as we and them ate the very typical local cuisine. Unfortunately, again for us this was mainly horsemeat-this time as horse meatballs, steak or burger. The local twirly pasta which came with tomato and very regional cheese again was particularly dull I though and I wished I did have that bottle of tabasco in my bag to liven it up. However, Italy redeemed itself on the Sunday in the coastal town of Gallipoli with a lovely seafood/fish lunch where again although we were the only locals, we didn’t seem to be the centre of entertainment.
So, as we leave France and Italy, it has taken its toll on the van and us budget wise (we do budget honestly!) The van mainly with various bits and bobs shaking loose, cupboards and drawers re-arranging themselves for better or worse, and spectacularly breaking three out of our four mugs and one of my best sherry glasses with the dreadful Italian roads and driving, but after four weeks on the road despite a few minor disputes motorhoming life hasn’t yet taken its toll on us!
The jury is still out for us on Italy, we still neither love it or hate it but we do know we are ‘Carbed’ out and looking forward to lots of lovely Greek salads, lamb and fish.
Top Tips of The Week
Don’t l blame the Italian roads for having broken the just washed breakfast mugs and glasses stood on the side by closing cooker lid on them. We are now sharing one mug until we find the right mugs.
If you want to look like a local don’t wear your cycle helmets when riding through Italian towns.