Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200110 Italy

Monday 1 October 2001  Start with a dull but humid day.  Check out the interesting fortified town with a castle at Gradara, well we do but the lads stay in the van.  Get a very good parking spot in Pesaro right beside the beach enabling us to make the most of the sun. 
Tuesday 2 October  It’s sunny as soon as we wake up.  Problems in Senigallia trying to find the supermarket and also motorhome parking.  Along this stretch of coast the railway line runs between the main road and the sea.  Often we can’t get from the main road to the sea as the bridges under the track are too low also all the parking spots by the beach would be very noisy with trains running all night.   The special motorhome parking is little better being at the side of the main road but at least we can fill up and dump there.  After a shop at Lidl we hit the beach.  First the pebbly beach south of the town and then up to the main town sandy beach.  All have a swim in the sea and the lads a bit of sport.  David nicknames Mick "Robin Red Breast" when his chest gets burnt.  Mick kindly insists on taking us out for a meal.  At the Chinese opposite the motorhome parking place  they have very fancy glass tables which are also fish tanks.  It seems strange finding the staff unable to speak English in a Chinese restaurant and we struggle a little with the menu. Return after a good meal for cards and a few drinks.
Wednesday 3 October  Back to the town sandy beach where it is very hot but with a cooling on shore breeze.  Despite offers of sun cream Mick has bright red legs by mid afternoon and has to wear his track suit bottoms.  Think finances must be running low as they only go out for a quick drink in the evening then return to drink and play cards with us.  Reckon they have done a fair bit of exploring the different towns in search of "Tabacchi’s" for cigarettes and phone cards, telephones which work and bars. 
Thursday 4 October  Last visit for the lads to the beach and it seems to be hotter than ever.  Mid day we return to the parking for them to shower and pack up.  It was lovely to see David again and have him travel with us.  Things will seem very quiet (and tidy) once they have left but we certainly won’t be missing the noise from Mick shouting out in his sleep each night nor the smell from the damp trainers and socks.  Their flight is shown as being on time and parking is very poor at Ancona airport so having seen them checked in we say our farewells after 9 days and 310 miles together.  Continue down the coast trying to find a parking spot but end up in Ancona.  Visit the docks to gather ferry information and get chatting to one of the port staff Scottish Kenny who thought he had seen us earlier in the day.  From what he describes it sounds like our friends Barry & Margaret were here in their motorhome which is similar to ours.  Kenny says we can park at the port for the night and tells us of the few interesting things to visit in the old historical part of Ancona.  It’s a steep climb up the hill behind the port but there is a fine view and a nice cathedral.  See lots of derelict old buildings and very little else of interest.  Rain thunder and lightening in the night – well David did say he was taking the good weather back with him.
Friday 5 October  Plough our way through bad traffic in Ancona to look at the Passetto.  Here there is a Monument ai Cadufi with impressive twin staircases descending in front of it down the cliffs to the ocean. Start to follow the cliff road known as the Riviera del Conero.  First turn off is to Portonovo where we park behind the pebbly beach.  Make lots of exploratory walks until the haze burns off and we can sit out and enjoy the sun. It’s pretty dead until lunch time when the car park fills up and almost every seat in the restaurant is taken.  Same thing happens in the evening. 
Saturday 6 October  In Sirolo parking is difficult and it’s a long walk down to the sea.  Reach the end of the cliff top drive which was pleasant but not outstanding.  Down at sea level in Numana and Marcelli the special motorhome parking areas are closed so we ignore the "No Campers" sign and settle by the sandy and shingle beach just north of Porto Recanati.  Steve is ecstatic when England get through to the world cup with the crucial goal scored by David Beckham 3 minutes into added time.  We have been joined by 3 German motorhomes and Steve wonders round with the radio hoping someone will ask the score as Germany only drew and have to go into the play off.  Whilst trying to find football highlights on TV we pick up the mini bike racing event which we saw last Sunday but can’t spot ourselves in the crowd.
Sunday 7 October  Loreto is one of Italy’s most popular pilgrimage sites.  The story goes that in 1292 a band of angels flew the house of Mary from Nazareth to Croatia then later across the Adriatic to Loreto.  In reality it was probably shipped here as scientific evidence agrees the stone is the correct type and age for the rest to be true.  The house is now encased in a marble cuboid within the impressive basilica. There’s a mass in progress with lots of nurses standing round to aid the infirm.  The rear of the basilica is also impressive and in the park we find a type of nativity scene set up telling the story of the houses transportation.  Around the outside of the main church are many unusual modern chapels.  Put this together with a hill top location giving magnificent views and it makes an interesting place to visit.  Nearby Racanati offers free motorhome parking with water and electricity.  Arrive to find German Rolf and Erica in an American motorhome with the same E350 truck as ours.  In Europe these trucks are rare and they are surprised because we are the second one here within a week.  Last week Margaret and Barry were also here, small world.  Make the most of the water to wash all the bedding used by the boys and fumigate the van.  Keep thinking they must have left a dead sock behind judging by the smell. Late afternoon the town car parks fill up and we learn there is a wine festival.  The town square is decked with bunches of balloons tied up to look like grapes.  Sample free wine and grapes and listen to groups playing and watch the parade of the Grape Queen, church procession and a band.  Return to catch news of America bombing Afghanistan with Britain’s support.  Sounds like we are being attacked when conkers start dropping off the trees onto the van roof.
Monday 8 October  Nephew Bobby Spooner’s 13th birthday and he gets a special mention as he asked before why his birthday wasn’t mention in the diary. A mid day we follow Rolf and Erica down to Porto Recanati to stay on the special camper parking spot which is closed.  It belongs to the Camping Club of Recanati which also owns the site in Racanati and someone is going to open up for us.  Vittorio speaks good English having spent time in England on RAF bases.  He says that if we want to return to the site we can phone him for the key.  It’s a pleasant spot but with a road separating us from the beach on one side and the railway at the other it may not be too quiet.  There’s a herb garden, water and dumping facilities, sinks, BBQ, tables and electricity.  Vittorio says that if other motorhomes see us and want to stay they can but without electricity.  Steve and I set out to explore Port Racanati which has a nice promenade along the seafront and an interesting main street with a castle in the main square.  When we return there are 2 French motorhomes and one British one. Oz and Julie from Grimsby have taken a year out to travel and join us at the BBQ for drinks whilst we are cooking food with Rolf and Erica.  It’s a pleasant warm evening and after Rolf and Eric go to bed early we stay up chatting and drinking and retire just before midnight.
PORTO RECANATI – 7 MILES (Tel Vittorio 071 9799462 Mob 3492599063)
[10,000 ITL (£3.35)]
Tuesday 9 October  Sleep very well hearing few trains in the night.  Erica wakes us at 7.30am for Steve to go with her for the fresh fish.  On the edge of town the fishermen sell the fish directly from their boats and they pay 15,000 ITL (£5) for 3 large fish and numerous small ones.  Clear up lots of empty wine and beer bottles from round the BBQ area which may explain why we didn’t hear many trains in the night. Brief visit to the beach for an afternoon swim but the cool breeze drives us back to the site where it is very hot.  Evening fish BBQ.
Wednesday 10  October  Dull morning.  But after a brief spot of rain it brightens up and we have a sunny afternoon.  Erica cooks a sardine based spaghetti and we are joined by their friends Mohammed from Morocco and Italian Mario
Thursday 11 October  Wake to clear blue skies and abandon our plan to move on.  Erica and Rolf lend us their bikes to check out the local market with 3 streets full of stalls selling mainly clothing.  Afternoon visit to the beach for a cooling swim. 
Friday 12 October  Another bright sunny morning and we set out to explore down the coast.  Civitanova Marche has a lovely beach at the North end, soft sand, shallow and calm sea.  Encounter the same problem as before with the train separating the main road from the sea and most bridges too low for us to get under. Police stop the traffic for a funeral procession which is all on foot and led by many people holding huge flora wreaths.   Lido di Fermo campsites and motorhome parking are closed so we stop on a normal car park behind the beach in adjoining Porto San Giorgio.  Turns out to be a super spot with a shady park of pine trees next to us in which is a childrens playground.  A soft sandy beach sprawling for miles with playgrounds dotted along and all the beach booths shut for the season.  While away a good few hours on the beach and hope that the weather holds for another couple of weeks so we can re visit with Claire and family.
Saturday 13 October  Knowing that petrol stations shut at lunch time and don’t open on Sunday we tank up.  Unknowingly the price shown at the front of the forecourt is for self service and we end up paying 40 ITL more when the attendant serves us.  San Benedetto Del Tronto is a large seaside resort with palms all along the promenade.  At the southern end of town we find a car park right beside the beach where the Police say we stay overnight.  It’s very windy and we make a coral out of windbreaks to enjoy the hot sun.  Entertainment is provided by regular windsurfers and even more surfers with parachutes enabling them to take off and do stunts over the water. Speak to Claire on the phone and like me Daniel has started to count how many more sleeps before they come. 
Sunday 14 October  Hot still day to start so Steve goes snorkelling around the rocks and collects mussels for lunch.  Breeze gets up mid morning but subsides in the afternoon.  Entertainment as yesterday plus motorised parachutes flying over and horses on the beach.    
Monday 15 October  Wake up call first with the bin men and then the street cleaners.  Fortunately it is a lovely morning and hotter than ever with no wind so we don’t mind.  Early morning a dredger appears directly in front of us and begins to re build the stony breakwater just off shore. 
Tuesday 16 October  Woken at 7.00am by the return of the dredger.  In Ascoli Piceno we park by the football stadium and ask directions to town from a mechanic. As soon as he has finished repairing work he offers us a ride in.  Impressive duomo with chandeliers and good frescoes. Little else of special in the city.  Head into the Sibillini mountain ranges with winding steep roads which only seem worthwhile if we get to see something really impressive en route – we don’t.  Park late afternoon by the hill town of Sarnano.  In the old town many medieval houses have been almost over renovated making it look too modern.  The spa area in the valley is sparse and dilapidated and we fell the town is pleasant but not outstanding.  However we find a hardware store with an elderly lady who speaks excellent English having lived in America.  Manage to buy some lights for in the van and plastic to make an awning for when we have visitors.  The strange thing is that the plastic is sold at 4000 ITL (£1.35) kilo.  We buy 8m x 2m wide which weighs in at 3 kilos and costs 12000 ITL (£4).  A bad night with one of the three churches on the hill striking bells for every hour and the quarters.
Wednesday 17 October  Come 7.00am all three churches seem to come out in competition with a mass cacophony of bells loud enough to wake the dead including Steve.  Tolentino has easy parking a short walk from town where again the only outstanding feature is the duomo with nice cloisters.  Maybe this region is little known to tourists as the more outstanding things in Italy are in the other parts?  Abbadia di Fiastra makes a good lunch stop and it is so peaceful that Steve takes a siesta whilst I follow the nature walk.  The abbey itself is being renovated but is built with the unusual salmon pink rock from this area.  Final stop the hill town of Montelupone said to be continuously on the verge of collapse.  Notice cranes and scaffolding as we arrive and are pleased to find the well signed motorhome parking well away from the steep sides of the old town. Wait with bated breath for 4.00pm to see if we are going to be disturbed by church bells but nothing happens.  Maybe they’ve silenced them for fear of starting a landslide. The medieval centre is in a sad state of repair with many buildings in mid collapse and due to a haze we miss the superb view you should get from here to the coast. 
Thursday 18 October  Back to Recanati which should be 8 km but ends up being 11 miles due to the abysmal lack of sign posts at junctions.  Begin washing bedding and preparing the van for our visitors.
Friday 19 October  Shop at Lidl then return to Port Recanati.  Mid afternoon an American motorhome identical to Margaret and Barry’s pulls up.  Ian and Nina with their boys Louis 3 and Sam 2 are taking a year out to tour Europe.  Today Nina’s brother is arriving at Ancona so unfortunately we only have time for a brief chat but they may return tomorrow. Receive a text early evening to say Natty is sick with croup but the doctor has give her some penicillin and they are still coming.
Saturday 20 October  Wake to yet another nice morning despite the weather forecast saying rain from yesterday onwards.  Take some video just in case it changes tomorrow and Claire doesn’t believe what it has been like.  Arrive in time to park up and for me to stand on the roof of the van to video their Ryanair flight arriving.  Despite my frantic waving they don’t see me from the plane.  Natasha has red eyes from crying during landing but everyone else is bright and cheery.  Soon back at the site where Nina and Ian have beaten us to it so Daniel and Nat have friends to play with.  Shortly after Oz and Julia roll up making it look like an exclusive camp for British motorhomes which is strange as we have seen so few recently.  Daniel and Natasha have their first visit to the beach.  Daniel loves it and stays behind with Daz until it’s almost dark.  We are parked beside a railway and Daniel enjoys counting the number of carriages as each train passes.  He takes a nasty tumble in the herb garden and we think he may have broken his arm but he improves with time.  Natasha is sick just after she goes to bed so I end up with a load of washing – off to a good start!  Enjoy an evening BBQ which degenerates with the drink consumed to the point where we end up playing bingo with Julia’s toy game.
Sunday 21 October  Rain in the morning so we drive up to Loreto to show them the special church which they are impressed with.  Return and when the rain stops I take Natasha to the playground, Daz escorts Daniel to the beach and Steve and Claire catch up on sleep.  A short spell of rain early evening.  We have made Daniel a bedroom across the front seats where he is very happy but accidentally spills his juice so tonight I get to wash part of  the sleeping bag.
Monday 22 October  Wake to blue skies and sun.  Steve and Daz borrow bikes to fetch fresh fish and return with sole at 4500 ITL (£1.50) each.  By 9.30am Daniel and Natasha are outside in the paddling pool despite the water being pretty cold.  They are soon joined by Louis and Sam who set up a play tent.  Patricia who manages the site offers to help with the fish and having skinned it she tosses it in bread crumbs with garlic and rosemary, drizzles olive oil over then cooks it quickly on the barbecue – delicious.  Afternoon trip to the beach with a chance to use Oz’s windsurfing board.  Claire makes good attempts and Nat gets very brave in the water.  The kids just love it on the beach.  More washing when Natasha is sick in bed again.  At least she is coping well with the croup.
Tuesday 23 October  Another nice sunny day.  Afternoon on the beach with Nat loving the water even more, Daniel happy just to mess around and Claire really getting to grips with the windsurfing and had there been more wind could have sailed far. 
Wednesday 24 October  Rain in the night continues when we get up.  Ian and family leave.  For us it’s time for a trip out.  Visit Lidl (to stock up on the Fink Brau beer at 650 ITL – 22p pint) and other shops then up to Recanati for Claire and Daz to get the feel of a hill town.  Stop to show them the unusual design of cemeteries in Italy. Poor people in Italy are stacked in glorified filing cabinets but the richer families have mini chapels where all the family are laid to rest together.  This one also has the tomb of famous tenor Gigli which is shaped like a pyramid.  Back to Porto Recanati where we do get a brief respite from the rain.
Thursday 25 October  Daz gets up early and takes Natasha to watch the sunrise over the Adriatic.  The site is very muddy after the rain so we head off for a trip down south.  Oz and Julie also set off but we bump into them again when we are exploring the market.  At Porto San Giorgio the car park we stayed on before is now a building site so park in the street.  Leave Daz dozing in the van whilst we enjoy the fine sandy beach.  Nat gets so brave she ends up being knocked over by a wave but looks really cute when we wrap her up in my sarong.  Daniel loves the playground where he makes mud pies and sandcastles.  At San Benedetto we return to our parking spot behind the beach and Claire and Daz go to find a bar in the evening.  Steve falls asleep whilst lying beside Nat and we all end up having an early night.
Friday 26 October  Open the curtains so we can watch the sunrise over the ocean.  After a full cooked breakfast Claire, Daz and Nat set off to explore the town and Daniel stays with us.  Steve swims out to collect mussels but the sea is too rough.  Claire and Daz return and also give it a try but without success so return to sunbathe on the beach.  Natasha is wary of the sea but soon gets her confidence back, Daniel’s just loves it all.  We’ve all noticed this week how much Natasha’s talking has come on with her now stringing words together.  Back to Porto Recanati where Claire says she feels like she is coming home.  Claire and Daz go for an evening stroll whilst we settle the kids to sleep.  Claire says we have no chance and if they are asleep by 7.30pm she will run round the campsite naked.  They are – she doesn’t.  Card session to finish the evening.
Saturday 27 October  A cold night but after the sun gets up it’s a hot day with clear blue skies and Claire determined to make the most of her last chance at sunbathing.  None of us can let a train pass without starting to count the carriages with Daniel – think we will be doing it even after he has gone.  Last visit to the beach with Natasha not wanting to leave.  Lots of Ciao’s to the beach, campsite, Recanati, Loreto and so on.  Queues at the airport where security checks are holding everyone up and delaying the flight by about 1/2 hour.  Choke back a tear saying Goodbye after an excellent week and 163 miles of travel.  Stand on the van roof to wave to them boarding the plane and then the plane as they taxi.  Don’t know which side they are on but the pilot sees us and gives us a wave!  We’re soon back and in no time have the van clean and tidy and just a pile of washing to sort out later. Can’t believe how much bigger and quieter the van is.
Sunday 28 October  Steve is really struggling with a cold and sore throat and blaming Claire as she was poorly yesterday.   Get stuck into the mountain of washing and make good progress.  Chilly evening.
Monday  29 October  Cold morning but once the clouds clear we have blue skies and sun.  Steve’s still under the weather but manages some cleaning up.  I complete the rest of the washing and get it all dried and put away.  Walk into town for when everything opens at 4.00pm but it doesn’t.  Work out from the bank cash machine slip that Italy also put the clocks back 1 hour yesterday so it’s now just after 3.00pm.  Return to the van to tell Steve then repeat the trip later. 
Tuesday 30 October  Set off just after 8.00am.  Having done the coast run to San Benedetto 3 times and fought away through traffic lights and traffic jams in the towns we opt for the toll motorway.  Recanati to Pineto is about 100 km and costs us as class 6 10,000 ITL (£3.30).  Detour 10km inland to Atri. The route is noted to be especially scenic.  In amongst the hills of olive groves are clay gullies known as "calanchi". Here water has eroded the earth into smooth ripples, wrinkles and folds which look fantastic. Atri causes us a problem being a small hill town where we drive right through the narrow streets of the centre.  Emerge onto the Belvedere which is lined with lots of very interesting modern sculptures and also gives us superb views right down to the coast.  Back on the coast road the railway spoils most camping opportunities.  Lunch stop at Ortona where we park right behind the lovely sandy beach but with the track right next to us.  Down through Vasto which is twinned with Perth in Australia.  The railway veers away from the coast and we find a good spot by the sea at San Salvo Marina.  By 3.30pm the heat has gone out of the sun and there is a definite nip in the air which is why we are heading south fast.  Beautiful sunset with the clouds turning bright pink.
Wednesday 31 October  A 7.00am start and good roads get us to Bari mid morning.  We want to catch the evening Ventouris ferry to Corfu as they are offering 50% discount
according to the Internet.  Not only are they not offering the discount but they have only 1 of their 3 boats operating and the next one to Corfu is Monday.  Superfast are going to Igoumenitsa on the mainland but at a much higher price.  Take the opportunity of checking Poseidon Lines office for the Cyprus ferry information.  They have two ships but one is broken and this just happens to be the one we wanted which offered camping on board and stop overs en route. So no joy at Bari.  Press on to Brindisi passing an area with fields full of beehive shaped stone buildings.  More problems in Brindisi with Blue Star having paperwork problems and not sure if they will be going to Corfu in the morning as they haven’t run for the last 2 days.  Agoudimos Lines sails at 7.00pm to Igoumenitsa and at least we can see the ship!  This does mean though that we will have to pay to get to and also from Corfu.  In dispair I check out the only other operator who offers us Patras but doesn’t recommend the camping on board as the open deck tonight will be full of trucks with live cattle and we would be stunk out!  Non of this instils confidence in the shipping lines so we will definitely not book a return ticket.  In fact if Mum hadn’t been booked to meet us in Cyprus I reckon we would have returned to England and flown back to Australia for the winter.  Through lack of choice we book the Agoudimos Lines crossing at 200,000 ITL (£67) plus 30,000 ITL (£10) port taxes.  To board F/B Penelope we have to reverse up a very steep ramp.  The ships is so full that the last 3 vehicles have to stay on the ramp for the voyage.  One lorry called Happy Tree doesn’t fit on and he is not a Happy Tree.  8.00pm set sail and take a quick look around the ship before settling down for the night as we are "camping on board".  Apart from the noise of the engines you wouldn’t know we were moving as the crossing is so smooth.

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