Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199804 Italy Sicily

Wednesday 1 April  1998    We both still stink and take another shower before leaving the car park.  Back at Milazzo beach we wash all the clothes to try and rid the van of the sulphur smell.  The weather has definitely changed and we enjoy a full day sunbathing in hot weather.
MILAZZO BEACH
Thursday 2 April  Spoke too soon as we wake to cold, rainy, windy weather.  Fortunately we had planned to move on today anyway.  Arrive in Messina around 11.00 in time to catch the Astronomical clock performing the full repertoire at noon.  Traffic and parking pose a problem and I end up leaving Steve and jogging to the campanile.  Steve arrives before me and we both prepare to watch the show.  The lion roars, the cock crows, all the people move etc but not today.  The lion just about manages to yawn before the display grinds to a halt!  Ferry back to mainland Italy and then a fast drive (well 55 m.p.h.) up the toll free A3 Autostrade.  Some very innovative displays of Oranges for sale at the side of the road but no obvious signs of how to get them.  A car transporter has had problems with a low bridge and bashed the top front car.  A flyover has collapsed and we detour onto the old road.  255 miles further and at 7.00pm we park up on a motorway service area level with Paestum where we plan to go in the morning.
PAESTUM
Friday 3 April  A better day and we arrive at the site early.  Most of the temples are covered in scaffolding and we a debating whether to go in or not when a man tells us all the museums and sites in Italy are free until this Sunday.  We visit both the site and museum (normally £8,000 each) but are not over impressed.  On the way in we meet Mel and his Mum Elizabeth from London – touring France and Italy by car.  In the afternoon we join them in their car for a ride up into the mountains.  We find a very quaint little village with the Christmas tree still trimmed up, tiny narrow streets with lots of archways and splendid views.  As we leave we see an old guy laying in the ditch and pull up to check he is OK  He is fine and we guess the other two we see further along are also quite happy lying there (we think the local Vino must have kicked in). Drive further North to Camping Spartacus at Pompeii.  What a shock this area is – very commercialised and all built up.  Check out the site for tomorrow and I end up buying a lovely little photograph size book with pictures of the existing site with transparent reconstruction pictures that slot on top.  This confuses the issue as the book has pictures of Herculaneum as well which we now also want to visit.  These are two of the most expensive sites in Italy at £12,000 each so I think we will be getting good value out of the culture week promotion.
POMPEII – CAMPING SPARTACUS
Saturday 4 April  Up bright an early for an 8.00am start to catch the train to Herculaneum (Ercolano).  Again very reasonable at £2,200 (70p) one way.  The train station is about 15 minutes walk from the site through the town crowded with shoppers at the street markets.  We arrive just after it has opened and spend the first hour almost alone.  What a fantastic place.  When Vesuvius erupted in 79AD the ancient town was buried under the mud and remained there until the 18c.  The mud preserved the bricks and wood of the houses and also encased the population that died whilst trying to flee.  A technique has now been perfected of pouring plaster  into the spaces where the bodies would have been and recreating the figures of humans and pets huddled or contorted  trying to shield themselves from the lava.  Lots of quality frescoes and mosaics make this a fascinating place and we spend over 3 hours browsing.  Train back to Pompeii where we make a quick visit to the Vesuvius museum before retreating to the van to freshen up.  1.15pm and we are entering Pompei.  Much larger than Herculaneum the ruins fared less well as it was nearer the volcano and the hot volcanic cinders burnt a lot of it.  Again magnificent frescoes, mosaics, buildings and recreated corpses.  You can even see furniture in the houses that were carbonated and have been welded in place.  The more recent excavations show everything in place where it was found and this gives you a better idea of the buildings usage – Wine shops, bakeries, grocers, brothels etc. We spend over 5 hours being mesmerised by the whole place and cannot stress strongly enough how fabulous both sites are.  I  think if the weather had not been so very hot we would have stayed just a little longer until they closed at 7.00pm but our feet are worn out.  Foot massages are the order of the day on return to the van in preparation of another hard slog tomorrow.
POMPEII – CAMPING SPARTACUS 2
Sunday 5 April  Another glorious day and another early start.  Train into Naples (£4,000) and then Metro (90 minute ticket for Metro, Busses and Funiculars is just £1,500/50p) to the archaeological museum.  An exceptional place with most of the displays coming from Pompei and Herculaneum.  When the sites were first excavated the frescoes, mosaics and statues were removed as the methods of preservation were not good enough for them to be left.  Huge marble statues, hundreds of frescoes and mosaics impress us.  Smaller items including the armour of the Gladiators and kitchenware also prove interesting as they have been so well preserved.  The Villa Communale down by the bay seems to be the "in" place for locals at weekends.  Body builders pose, Scooters tootle past and Rollers Bladers complete the California type scene.  We visit the Villa Pignatelli and the Aquarium before starting our walk past the major sights.  The Palace, Theatre and Castle in the harbour district followed by an area of around 1 square mile in the old town containing over 30 churches. Ambling round these dark gloomy streets you get a sense of how Naples gets it’s bad reputation but we feel safe and are amazed at how the churches pop up in amongst the houses in the most unlikely places. Everything is so cramped that you can be in a Piazza with three churches and not be able to stand back far enough to see any one in it’s entirety. A small shop is advertising wine from the barrel and we buy a litre for 70p. Next we see a line of people queuing for 1 foot long (sorry 30cm) French sticks with various fillings that are then microwaved.  Steve has Spicy meat and I have Double Egg & chips and realise that the locals know what value is at 80p each. Who says it is expensive to eat in Naples. We sit in a doorway and enjoy our feast until the security dog comes and barks at us from the inside.  Return footsore and weary but far more impressed with Naples than we had anticipated.  Get chatting to an American family – Steve and Sam Rounds with daughter Ruth.  They have driven down from Bonn where he works at the American Embassy.  End up having drinks back in our van and they stay until 10pm.  So much for our early night!
POMPEII – CAMPING SPARTACUS 3
Monday 6 April  Happy 21st Birthday Claire, our thoughts are with you today.  We make an early start and catch the 7.47am train to Sorrento (£2,100).  There are loads of school kids on board and all the ones near us are rolling and then smoking joints, think we will be high by the time we arrive.  Change onto the coach to take us along the coast to Amalfi (£3,700).  This is the most spectacular corniche road in Italy and Steve is very glad not to be driving (He says that if he had been he would have sweaty bo—cks and sh–y pants by the end!).  A hair raising trip along very narrow winding roads but with breath taking views down to the rocky shore below.    Lots of famous people have Villas here including Roger Moore and Sophie Loren.  The coaches tank along and blast their air horns at the bends and just hope the cars will stop.  We have a few close shaves squeezing past buses –  much too close for comfort had we been in our van.  Enjoy  the trip so much we change onto a local bus and continue up into the mountains to Ravello (£1,700).  This is a pretty village high above Amalfi and the route is strewn terraces full of Lemon trees.  There is a big market in a local liqueur, soap, cologne, freshly squeezed juice in Slush Puppy and numerous other things made out of the enormous Lemons.  The main reason for coming here is the view but the weather is not so great today and our view is masked by clouds so after a stroll around we go back to admire the fantastic Cathedral in Amalfi. The entrance is from the main square up loads of steps.  The gold mosaic shows the twelve apostles and the facade is studded with huge multi coloured stones.  The disciple St Andrew is buried here and most of the pictures in the church depict him.  We had planned to take a boat back along the coast to Capri but the sea is choppy and the boats not running so it is the "switchback hang onto your seats" coach journey again.  From Sorrento we catch the Jet boat (£10,000) to Capri..  The funicular (£1,500) then takes you up to the main town.  We choose to take a circular walk down to the South coast and then around the Eastern end of the Island.  Again many famous people have or had Villas here including Gracie Fields and DH Lawrence and we try to guess which ones belong to the stars.  I didn’t realise how hilly our proposed route was and we arrive back cream crackered again from climbing up and down hundreds of steps and just in time to catch the last trip back to Sorrento.  The ferry (£5,500) leaves at 18.45 and gets us back to Sorrrento at 19.35 giving us time to stroll around and stop for a meal before catching the last train back to Pompei.  We celebrate Claire’s Birthday in style – I have Spaghetti Amatriciana and Steve has mixed Hors D’oeuvres followed by Mussels in Black Pepper sauce.
POMPEII – CAMPING SPARTACUS 4
Tuesday 7 April  We plan to leave today so I get up early to prepare but cut my big toe rather badly which leaves me hobbling around. The sky is cloud free and by 10.00am it hot and so we change our minds.  Enjoy a nice leisurely day sitting sunbathing and sorting our washing out. A nice change as I feel we have been on the "fast track" since we arrived in Sicily 3 weeks ago.  We definitely intend to slow down after our visit to Rome.
POMPEII – CAMPING SPARTACUS 5
Wednesday 8 April  Pay a toll on joining the motorway at Pompei (£2,000) and again to come off at Caserta (£1,700) to visit the Palace.  As we leave the motorway we see signs for Carrefour so detour to do a good shop.  The Palace (£8,000) is a little disappointing but the baroque park (£4,000) is fantastic.  A 3km walk through the formal gardens takes us past lots of fountains with mythological creatures and to the grandiose Cascata di Diana.  Water falls 250 feet from the Carolina aqueduct over natural rocks then onto statues of Actaeon transformed into a stag and devoured by his dogs for watching the goddess at her bath. We sit on the grass in the hot sun and enjoy a picnic of freshly roasted chicken and crusty bread.  Catch the bus (£1,500) back as my big toe is throbbing.  We don’t want to get too near to Rome tonight as Steve believes the Italian cup final is being played there tonight and the traffic will be bad.  Spend the night at the motorway services about 40 miles south – a lonely motorhome in amongst the lorries.
MOTORWAY 40 miles S ROME
Thursday 9 April    Awake to find ourselves surrounded by over 20 other motorhomes.  Steve panics that they are all heading to the same campsite as us in Rome and so we make a quick getaway. Pay a final toll (£14,500) and then join the "Grande Raccordo Anulare" – Rome’s version of the M25 ring road or Rome’s largest car park depending on the time of day.  Camping Flaminio is the nearest site to the city, very busy and one of the most expensive sites (£39,000/£13) but very convenient.  The bus and train stop nearby and by connecting  them with trams and metro we can reach most places in the city quite quickly.  Again a cheap public transport system with 75 minute tickets for £1,500 and a full days travel for £6,000.  Take the train and then the metro and check out the location of the hotels Pete & Carol, Paul & Elaine will be staying.  Steve gets chatting to the receptionist and learns that the cup final was played in Milan last night and Inter Milan beat Lazio 1-0 and the next game is to be played in Rome.   Decide to take a short walk to do a recce on opening times and special events for Easter weekend.  We stumble upon the Trevi fountain which is magnificent and exceed all expectations.  As I have said  before the Italians are superb with fountains and statues – and motorway bridges and tunnels. Rome driving combines all our worst previous experiences of  Italian motorists.  Terrible at driving and parking a fact made worse as the Police seem only to book anyone for double, triple parking etc when it causes a major problem and in general turn a blind eye.  The traffic lights work in reverse here with red appearing to mean go and green stop as everyone has already blocked the road.  Exiting a motorway involves staying in the outside lane until  the last moment, not indicating, swerving across and then pushing alongside any other cars queuing up to leave!  To cross at a pedestrian crossing don’t look (or appear not to look) then  confidently step off the kerb and walk – any hesitation at all and the cars get in first.
ROME – CAMPING FLAMINIO
Friday 10 April   A morning sunbathing and idling and then around 4.00 we catch the train into town.  A nice leisurely stroll takes us to Paul & Elaine’s by 7.30 for our 8.00 rendezvous.  9.00pm and still no sign but as we are debating if the sofas in the foyer are good enough for a night’s sleep or if we should pretend to be them and take their room they appear.  Again it’s good to see our friends and after a quick change we meet up at Pete & Carol’s hotel.  Pete’s priority is food so we head for a Trattoria that we spotted earlier.  The heavens open up and we get soaked in a torrential downpour and arrive looking liked drowned rats.  We are horrified but they say at least it is warmer than in England with the snow.  Enjoy a noisy boozy meal with non stop chatter and laughs – there is so much to catch up on since we saw them all last September.  They have had a pre trip planning meeting and Paul is in charge of the weekend’s itinerary which lets me off the hook for a change.  The last connecting buses back to the campsite leave around 11.15pm so we disperse and agree and morning meeting by the Vatican at 9.00am.  I spend the bus journey trying to look through the bags of goodies brought from England and end up staying up until 1.30 reading all the letters which we love to receive.
ROME – CAMPING FLAMINIO 2
Saturday 11 April  First stop the queue for the Vatican Museum (£15,000) which although long is constantly on the move.  We enter and choose the C/three & half hour tour.  It is a huge place with over 4km of corridors connecting the various areas.   The only way to see the famous Sistine chapel is to visit the museum and do at least the A/short tour.  Start off together but Pete takes the lead followed closely by me, Steve, Carol & Elaine fall behind with Paul bringing up the rear. There is so much packed into the corridors and halls that you start to loose interest despite the fact that there are some wonderful things.  Once into the system you have to carry on with the route all the way through with the Sistine chapel near the end of the tour.  For most of us the highlight is the ceiling in the "Map corridor" with the Sistine chapel being a bit of a let down (Carol & Elaine were stand inside it debating where they are!).  Pete races ahead with the thought of a jug of Red wine to spur him on and it is a close finish a couple of hours later.  St Peter’s square is being prepared for the Easter Sunday Papal blessing and the basilica is shrouded in scaffolding but non the less impressive inside.  The group decision is to walk back to the other bank of the River Tiber and stop somewhere for coffee but it takes us quite a long time and we end up stopping for lunch.  Steve finds a nice Pizzeria up a side alley and Pete is in seventh heaven with the Italian food and wine – we are all just as pleased but it is not quite as noticeable.  Head towards Piazza Navona with the beautiful fountains and Pete studies the menus (think he must be going to write a book about eating in Rome).   Ice cream stop en route to the Pantheon.  Continue on foot to the Trevi fountain and throw the obligatory coins (1 to return to Rome, 2 for eternal love and 3 for divorce).  We threw 2, Paul & Elaine 1 and Carol was busy hunting for 3 but had to settle for 1.  Back to the area of the Hotels (with a brief stop in a bar en route) for a quick freshen up before our evening meal.  The heavens open up again with the accompaniment of thunder and lightening.  Visit a nice Restaurant near Pete & Carol’s hotel and enjoy the usual merriment.  My stomach is starting to hurt from so much non stop laughter.
ROME – CAMPING FLAMINIO 3
Sunday 12 April   Happy Easter.  We are woken early with heavy rain which turns into hail stones, thunder and lightening.  I give up trying to sleep and work on the computer.  Meet up at Paul & Elaine’s hotel and set out walking down to the Coliseum (£10,000).  Spectacular inside as so much can still be seen, probably the best one we have been in.  Up through the Roman Forum to the main square where we are stunned by the number of motorhomes parked up.  Lunch at Ciao (a kind of Italian fast food restaurant specialising in Pizza).  Pete now decides that this has taken over as the best Pizza he has ever eaten. As usual our walking involves a lot of banter and lots of pauses for Pete to peruse menus.  Do a lot more walking and return to the Hotel area to select a restaurant for tonight.  This takes well over an hour and still leaves us with about 3 to choose from.  Regroup at 7.00pm for the final decision and settle in for our "Last Supper".  It’s a small wonder we are not thrown out.  The volume and frequency of laughter increase with every bottle of wine.  We totally crack up when Pete comes to order dessert and asks "do you have a house tart?".  Tears stream down our faces and we have great difficulty regaining control of ourselves.  Reluctantly leave around 10.00 as we had problems getting buses this morning due to the limited Sunday service and don’t want to be stranded tonight.  I think it will take me a few days for the stitch in my stomach to heal from so much laughing.   We are both shattered from getting very little sleep for the last few days and starting with colds from getting wet the other night but can live for a good while recollecting the anecdotes of the last few days and keep finding ourselves grinning to ourselves on the bus back.
ROME – CAMPING FLAMINIO 4
Monday 13 April  Leave the site at 11.30.  The weather is awful with lots of heavy rain.  Park up on the edge of Lake Vico amongst dozens of Italian motorhomes.  The weather deteriorates even further to heavy hail.  By early evening we are only one of two vans left and it is quite cold.  Seems like typical Easter Monday weather in England.  I am full of cold so settle for an early night but keep being disturb by heavy rain and hail bouncing on the roof.
LAKE VICO
Tuesday 14 April  At last the rain has stopped but it is cloudy just about warm but certainly not as warm as we would like it to be.  I finally have chance to sort through the photos etc. that Carol brought and get them labelled and in albums and even find the energy to write a couple of letters.  Watch some video in the evening but the generator starts to cough and splutter which we hope is due to the gas tank being low and not another little problem to contend with.
LAKE VICO 2
Wednesday 15 April  Bitterly cold in the night and once again the thermostat needle disappears.  The heating soon warms us up but uses almost all the remaining gas so we decided to push on.  Tank up with LPG and Diesel and drive to Orvieto.  The first views of the hilltop town are stunning.  Highlight of the town is the magnificent facade of the duomo.  Gothic in design with something of everything – gilt mosaic pictures, statues, jewelled twisted pillars, plaques with 3d biblical scenes and lots of other fancy tit bits.  My favourite so far in Italy but my all time number 1 still has to be Gaudi’s creation in Barcelona.  The town itself is also very nice and in places looks like Haworth with lots of narrow steep cobbled streets.  We stumble on a small restaurant/bar "La Bottega del Buon Vino" where last year they discovered a very deep well and remains of civilised dwelling underneath, now open for investigation.  Wish we hadn’t already eaten as it is such a nice small restaurant with lots of character and an interesting and reasonably priced menu.  Pete would have loved it.  Drive on to Todi and begin to notice lots of prostitutes at the sides of the road, nearly all black ladies wearing little more than underwear.  Todi provides us with a nice car park below the town where we can stay the night.   Our walk up into the town reveals little more than the pretty medieval square surrounded by the cathedral and palaces but it is nice to be away from the noise and hustle and bustle of  tourist places. 
TODI
Thursday 16 April    More rain in the night – what a surprise.  At least it is dry when we wake up and drive on.   We bumped into an English couple in a motorhome in Orvieto yesterday morning and again last night in Todi while he was sitting on the church steps painting a postcard.  He does this on a regular basis and sends them as a normal card.  They recommended that we visit Spoleto so plans revised we head east.  Lots of prostitutes en route cluttering up the lay bys.  Nearly all very dark coloured  "ladies" wearing little more than underwear and looking pretty uninviting.  Once again with these small hill towns ample parking is available in large free flat car park at the bottom.  We walk over the famous bridge which started out as an aqueduct and then became an escape route from the town castle.  At the end of the bridge we turn and look back an see the English couple following us over.  We get chatting and wander round the town together.  A very quiet un touristy Umbrian town with lots of narrow streets with arches.  Mike and Julia are visiting Italy for the 3rd time this time for 3 weeks.  They are returning to Spoleto to enjoy a drink in the lovely square overlooking the beautiful facade of the Duomo while Mike paints a postcard.  This is not to be as the main square is being resurfaced and the front of the Duomo shrouded in scaffolding – this bears out our theory that you should never go back anywhere.  Decide to eat together in a restaurant and sample the local cuisine.  Steve has an Umbrian type of mixed grill cooked over the fire and I sample the local rough cut pasta in a sauce with sausage, tomatoes and chilli.  In the afternoon we drive on to Assisi of St Francis fame and also the scene of the local earthquakes.  Easy parking with a few other vans and time for a stroll around the town leaving the big Basilica for tomorrow morning before the tourists arrive.  It is quite distressing to see how much damage the earthquakes have caused.  Most of the churches and many private houses are shored up.  The latest tremor was on 1st April and the first one last September.  We manage to go into the large church of St Claire, a life long friend of St Francis and the patron saint of T.V.  Apparently St Francis was a bit of a lad and when in Jail decided to reform.  A crucifix in this church bowed down to him and showed him the way.  A very unusual chapel underneath holds a casket with Claire’s remains and a model lying on the top.  The church of St Stephen is a bit of a non event tucked away up a backstreet and very small and plain.  A huge area holds portacabins for temporary school and dormitory facilities.  Manage to make it back just before it starts to rain.  
ASSISI
Friday 17 April  Rain most of the night and still spitting when we set out.  We have made an early start as the book warns us that the place soon fills up with tourists and it can take a good few hours to do it justice – wrong.  Not a tour bus in sight and only the small lower Church is open the rest having suffered too much damage to be safe to visit. St Francis’s tomb was recently discovered and is now the main display.  Half an hour later we leave but stop in the nearby village to look inside Santa Maria Degli Angeli.  Most unusual – St Francis died here when living with other peasants in nearby caves.  This area has now been incorporated in to the church in the form of a Rose garden.  Within the church is a shrine under an arched tunnel which women were crawling through before praying to his statue.  Lake Trasimeno looks like a good place to stop en route to Sienna and San Feliciano on the shores suits us well.  A small town but with tourist info (there is a Regatta tomorrow at one of the villages on the north shore) PO, shops and all the essentials.  Rain on and off and windy but with some bright spells in between.  This has to be the longest spell of bad weather since we started our life in a motorhome.
LAKE TRASIMENO
Saturday 18 April  Rain in night (think I should just start each day with ditto) but fine enough for us to drive to Passignano to watch the boats.  Park by the harbour and nothing seems to be happening so walk through the town stopping to peruse the Saturday market and stock up on joss sticks.  The tourist office know nothing at all about the Regatta despite it being advertised in a brochure at the place yesterday!  A walk up to the Castle ruins where an old man lives and a trip to one of the three Islands are recommended.  The Castle ruins are a total waste of time and the only sign of the inhabitant are flower tubs and a T.V. aerial.  Have to leg it back before we get soaked in a torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightening.  The rain stops after dinner and we move on to Tuoro the scene of Hannibal’s massacre of thousands of Roman soldiers when he ambushed them and pushed them back into the marshy lake to drown.  An unusual feature at the Campo del Sole are 27 columns sculptured by artists from different countries and standing on the lakeshore in an ever decreasing spiral.  We pass lots of prossies wearing clothes today as it is cold.  Steve says they are wearing jump suits.  Well they are jumping up and down and sort of dancing to keep warm!   By luck we find a special parking spot for motorhomes in Sienna.  Fresh water and dumping facilities are provided and we park amongst over 20 vans from Italy, Germany, France, Holland and Switzerland.
SIENNA
Sunday 19 April   No rain in the night – no that is not an error we actually had a dry night and now a dry morning with clearer skies but some clouds.  It is a steep walk up hill into Sienna but the unusual sloping half circle main square with Palaces makes it worthwhile. Climb over 400 steps to the top of the Torre Grande for a birds eye view.  The Duomo is also spectacular inside and out and most of the streets hold our interest with unusual buildings.  Steve is swayed by the tourist menu outside a Chinese restaurant.  I have Crispy vegetable strips,  Pork and egg fried rice, Chicken with bamboo shoots and a 1/4 litre wine for £12.000 and Steve has Spring rolls, Prawn fried rice, Pork with mushrooms and bamboo shoots and wine for £14,000.   Fantastic value for such a good meal in a very attractive restaurant.  Further ambling reveals underwater springs forming pools under archways and a fake window on a building with a concrete figure of a topless girl peaking out and a large black spider dangling outside – any ideas?  I misread the map and take us on a very long detour back to the car park made much worse when the heavens open up.  Arrive back like drowned rats but an hour later it is sunny.
SIENNA 2
Monday 20 April  Now in Tuscany the book recommends we sample at least one hill town of three categories ranging from touristy to unscathed.  Monteriggioni is unscathed and very small with a complete city wall with towers at intervals.  It is sunny so we stay in the car park and sunbathe for an hour before it clouds over.  Colle Di Val D’Elsa is middle category with pretty winding streets, great views and lots of covered streets.  San Gimignano is definitely touristy.  The coaches fill the car parks and cars are parked on the grass verges leading to the town.  We drive around the edge of the town and off in all directions trying to park.  It looks impossible but the town is so striking with huge tower houses and the guide book makes it sound too good to give up on.  By luck we find a car park on the outskirts with barriers too narrow for us but with  waste ground below where we can park free of charge with great views over the valleys for miles beyond.   Sun again so we sit out until 5.00 and head for the town in the hope that some of the tourists will have left.  What a fantastic place – definitely recommended for a visit for anyone near Florence or Sienna.  Lots of everything – tower houses, churches, palaces, squares, pretty narrow streets, Americans, Germans etc.  Great photo opportunities as the sun casts a lovely golden glow on the pale stone of the buildings.  Spend a couple of hours absorbing everything including an ice cream from the famous shop recommended in all the guide books.  The chocolate is unbelievably chocolatey and I also try the other star flavour with a foreign name  tasting of coffee and cream with alcohol and lots of biscuity bits – yummy.  Back in the van we sit with the blinds up and enjoy watching the lights go on in the villages down the valley whilst eating our meal.
SAN GIMIGNANO
Tuesday 21 April   Warm and sunny morning with clear blue skies  Wow.  Up and away fast before it changes.  Free motorway to Florence and the toll to Sasso Marconi (£8,500).  Heading for a Naturist site we get lost so I ask for directions to the nearby village.  The girl in the bank goes to great trouble drawing me a map and then towards the end asks if we are heading for the convent or the Naturist site as the road forks.  The site is up in the mountains and we come unstuck with the direction when we have to pass under a railway line with a bridge showing 2.5m clearance (we need 3.2m).  Double back and find a railway crossing but this leads to a very narrow bridge.  Squeeze over the bridge and then up winding roads in the mountains.  We begin to see very unusual commemorative shrines and plaques and I read that this is the area where 1800 people were massacred in the war.  Eventually find the site and we are the only visitors.  Beautiful  terraced pitches in the woods where fortunately for us the trees haven’t grown leaves yet.  Finally we can bare to sit out all day in the sun.  The B.B.Q. gets dusted off for our evening meal to complete a nice relaxing day. 
MARZABOTTO – CA’LE SCOPE
Wednesday 22 April  The sun is shining first thing and not a cloud in sight.  Settle down to serious sunbathing and the oil and lotion come into play.  By 4.00pm I am beginning to burn a little in areas not recently exposed and so we decided to go for a walk.  The campsite owner has kindly given us a good map of the area and suggests we walk to the top of the nearby mountain.  Well it may have looked nearby from the campsite but we have to cross two valleys involving up and down walking before actually starting the hill climb to 800 metres.  I loose track of the number of times we talk of turning back but we spur each other on and eventually reach the top where there is an old crucifix with Madonna and child and a newer huge metal one that looks like a pylon gone wrong.  Under the original one is a little cupboard containing pens and a visitors book.  I notice we are the only English visitors since this section of the loose leaf book started in February.  What a fantastic view over many more hills, valleys and small villages.  Our walk down seems a lot quicker and we arrive back at 6.45pm absolutely jiggered.
MARZABOTTO – CA’LE SCOPE 2
Thursday 23 April  Bad news – the clouds are back in force.  An ideal opportunity for catching up on videos, cleaning, letter writing etc.  Apart from the videos it all seems quite an effort which just goes to show how lazy we have become when it only takes half an hour to clean the inside of the van from top to bottom!  Actually I get stuck in and clean the oven as well as doing some clothes washing so a Brownie point for me today.  Manage to hop in and out a bit when we see the occasional bit of blue sky but hope for better things tomorrow.   Having spoken to Ian on the phone yesterday and having being proffered and invite we are now contemplating changing our plans and "popping" to Provence in France to visit him and Cynthia who we met last year in France.  This would also involve a lot of other changes to the itinerary but what the heck.  Will keep you informed as we chop and change our minds.  Another plan came to mind when Steve casually mentioned that he had never been (or can’t remember) to Austria and it might be an idea to take in Salzburg and Innsbruck as well as Vienna.  Oh decisions decisions.
MARZABOTTO – CA’LE SCOPE 3
Friday 24 April  Hot and sunny all day so we sit out and absorb the sun.  An evening meal in the site restaurant proves interesting with all local dishes.  We are sat on a long bench with two other Dutch couples and enjoy good conversation in English of course as their English is a little better than our Dutch!
MARZABOTTO – CA’LE SCOPE 4
Saturday 25 April   Another hot and sunny day so our intentions of leaving early become a late departure at 4.00pm.  Arrive in Bologna just before 6.00pm and on walking into town we find lots of activities to celebrate "Liberation Weekend".  I had thought of Bologna as a big industrial town but the old Historical centre is nothing like that.  We park by the football stadium and walk along the pretty canal tow path to the town.  Wonderful buildings and kilometres of porticoes –  perfect shelter from the winter rain and summer sun. In the main church there is an unusual clock formed by the sun rays coming in through a hole in the roof and shining on a bronze line on the floor marked with the hours.  Raised tombs scattered around the piazzas holding the bones of scholars and even a leaning tower like Pisa.  More Italian Motorhomers’ have joined us on the car park and we feel very safe staying for the night.  For the first time in ages we are so warm that we are considering putting the air conditioner on.
BOLOGNA
Sunday 26 April    An 8.00 start gets us further north to Ferrara by 9.30 where once again we find signs to a campervan friendly parking place with dozens of others already there.  Plan to make a quick visit into town but we are so taken with the place that we stay until 11.30 for the Medieval display at the castle and enjoy the quaint streets and palaces.  Leave at 12.30 but shortly after pull up on the banks of the River Po for our daily dose of sunbathing with lunch.  Evening finds us back in Vicenza ready for our visit to the American garage tomorrow for a service.  Again we find a special motorhome car park and are very amused to see all the Italians calling in on their way home to dump the toilet waste etc.
VICENZA
Monday 27 April    Drop the van at the garage and to pass the time we do a major shop at the nearby hypermarket.  I manage to spend more in the store than the garage can chalk up on their bill and that’s saying something!    Park up for the afternoon in Vicenza hoping to sunbathe but shortly after the rain starts again. We meet an American guy named Rich Richens (think he must have modelled himself on Richie Rich from Bottom)  who lives in a Winnebago motorhome and works on the US Base.  We chat all afternoon and then  go for a meal in the evening which he insists on paying for.  He shows us a good place to park afterwards and we drink and play backgammon until after midnight.
VICENZA  2
Tuesday 28 April  Lots of rain again but we decide to press on with the tour.  Marostica just North has a claim to fame as the home of human chess.  Many years ago to decide who the Princess was to marry her suitors had to play a game of chess.  So the town could view a huge marble chess board was made in the square of the lower town and locals dressed up in costumes as the pieces.  This in re-enacted each September but also world-wide throughout the year.  We went up to the upper Castle for the view and into the lower Castle to see the costumes.   Continuous rain so on to Bassano del Grappa – home of Grappa which we tasted in a museum.  There is also an unusual wooden bridge built to withstand the pressure of the river when it floods and we got a perfect demonstration of this.  Oderzo our stop for the night where I do even more shopping at the very cheap Lidl supermarket (Austria had better be expensive after all this stocking up).  Ten pin bowling around the corner beckons and we get bargain games at £1 a time.  Just about remember how to do it and we both get reasonable scores mine 173, 163 and 125 and Steve 166,163 and 159.
ODERZO
Wednesday 29 April    More rain in the night and now we think our decision to head for Salzburg may have been the wrong one.  Drive to Grado a small town at the end of a causeway just before Trieste.  The approach is just like driving along Florida Keys.  Park with 3 German motorhomes on a grassy headland East of the main town.  Cycle into town and walk back following Steve’s puncture and my chain breaking!  Nice weather from 3.00 onwards.  Steve finds a bar showing football in the evening to watch the Italian cup final.
GRADO
Thursday 30 April   Dry but dull day and so I finally finish putting the photos in order and labelling the album.  It’s a good job we get a few bad days or nothing would get done.  Our evening meal is a bit of a surprise as the roast  beef turns out to be a side a gammon but is still goes down well with the roast potatoes and cauliflower!  It’s getting busy on our "site" with vans arriving up until 1.00am.
GRADO2
 
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