2018/01/11 Italy – East Coast

Thursday 11th January

We have now seen all on our bucket list for Italy so are now heading south towards Brindisi and then to Greece. We have previously spent many weeks in Venice and Rome on other trips so will not be revisiting this trip.

No tollways today and highways are pretty good though it is raining and quite miserable outside.

Our campsite chosen for tonight was in a great location on a Marina and the huge Lake Trasimero (Area Comunale, Castiglione del Lago) but all the spots here were so muddy after the rain, we dared not stay here for fear of getting stuck. Highly recommended if there was no rain.  

Our campsite for tonight: Area Camper Trasimeno, Magione

There were several other campsites around the lake (all were closed as far as our APP was concerned).  We found one where the barriers were open and based on the signs should have closed on 30th September. Seems they leave it open for use during the winter months at no cost.  Good fortune for us as the electricity and other services were left open too. There was one other motorhome there.

Great campsite – edge of lake, level, bituminised, lights, security cameras, fresh water, grey and black emptying and electricity and free of charge

We happily locked up and went for a long walk around the lake and small town. This is mostly a fishing village with a seafood coop and a few small shops, a Marina with small fishing boats and a couple of small yachts, a couple of restaurants and a small number of homes.

Different fishing method to what we have seen at home

It was really cold so on went the electric heater (a luxury for us as we don’t need to connect to power for the batteries). Typically the restaurants here close early afternoon and reopen around 7pm, so dressed for the occasion and walked 50 metres to the Italian restaurant. We were the only ones there and felt guilty. No one could speak English but they had an English menu and again using sign language and Mr Google we had a fun night with a great Tuscany white and lots of seafood. Scrambled home in the rain to a warm Ziggy.

Friday 12th January

Rained again during the night and woke up to another overcast and drizzly day.

We headed towards the east coast and after giving the thumbs down to a few dodgy looking camp sites finally chose a safe but uninteresting place to stay.

Our campsite for tonight: Azienda Agrituristica Speca, Villa Rosa

This was a fruit farm just off the main road and tucked safely away behind large gates and the homestead next door. We were the only ones there. Really great new facilities and with a “once used tennis court” with lights looking very sad and neglected. Think it may be used in the summer months only.

Walked a km or so into the small town of Villa Rosa looking for Internet and phone reception as there was no reception at the campsite.

Found a bar open called “Lucky” (the owner a real Marilyn Monroe fan) with pictures of the star on every spare spot on the wall.  Sat and watched the locals come in and play cards – regular Friday night thing here apparently.

A safe and quiet place to stay but nothing exciting to take photos of.

Saturday 13th January & Sunday 14th January

Back on the tollway for a long drive today. There are hundreds and hundreds of places to stay on the east coast but the ones we saw yesterday were really unkempt and in places that were less than desirable and with no one else staying there, opted to move on further down the boot of Italy.

We travelled about 250 kms on the tollway today and the drive was so spectacular with massive large bridges constructed over the lush green valleys below. No congestion in this part of the country and for the first time, we are seeing agriculture instead of bricks and mortar.

Our last few days on the tollway have been really worth it and not expensive at all – ranging from €3 to €15 for journeys of up to 100kms. At a tollway exit we took the cash only aisle instead of the credit card aisle and inserted our first €50 and waited for the change. We waited and waited and nothing happened and cars queued up behind us so we put on the hazard lights and pressed a “help” button on the machine. Drivers behind started blowing their horns – Italians are not known for being very patient drivers. The attendant came to assist and told us we needed more money. We fed in another €50 note and a little change came back out. This trip cost the Earth at €93.50 and we are still recovering from the shock.  Thought it must have been a special part of the tollway so unhappily we moved on. Back to the highways tomorrow and give the tollways away.

Our campsite for tonight: Camping Lido Salpi, Manfredonia

This campsite is a little heaven compared to others we saw over the last few days. It is set on the beachfront with a magic view across the ocean to the township of Manfredonia around 10kms away and a backdrop of mountains framing the town in the foreground. A fabulous picture on dusk with the sun shining on the mountains.

View from campsite towards Manfredonia

Enjoyed the lolling about at the campsite for what was left of the day and decided to enjoy a meal in its restaurant (reports on our APP gave it a high rating). We arrived to find a large table of 10 German, Swiss and Austrians already there and Garcon (who was the gardener a couple of hours ago) was just taking their orders. Knew it was a long wait but enjoyed talking in German with the large table and sipping the good Italian beer. Was great to see the MasterCard and Visa signs up as we had exhausted most of our cash at the tollway gates. Dinner came about 2 hours later – think the gardener may have been the chef as well as the waiter.

Tried to pay by credit card but was told the lines were down and we had to pay cash. (Trick no 14B to avoid paying taxes, we think). Scrounged around and found enough to pay but after the tollway episode, not happy Jan). The dinner – you guessed it – was just awful. Lessons learned – ask about credit card before you order and never order from the gardener.

Woke up to a new day, better we hope than yesterday, with no rain today so opted to stay another day and recover. Took a long walk along a really pretty beach, sadly littered with so much rubbish that would have been washed in on the incoming tides, but it was just wonderful and relaxing.

Looked at the tollway receipt and with Google translation, worked out why the high price yesterday. Here you take a card on entry at a tollway and then on departure you put the card in and the machine works out how much you need to pay.  On checking the receipt, it includes town of entry and town of departure. Our entry point stated: “invalid reading” – so obviously our ticket, received at the entry point, could not be read and it charged the maximum amount. Why did the attendant not see this ugh!

We tried to phone the tollway help line, but of course it is only in Italian, so no luck there. Spoke to an Italian man here who could speak German (no English) and together we agreed we should stop at the next tollway and show them the ticket and ask for a refund.

Ziggy washing and clothes washing and research on Greece took over the rest of the day and of course we did not eat out tonight and really enjoyed a home cooked meal.

Monday 15th January

Had just enough to pay for the campsite (only around €5 left now) so headed to Manfredonia and the nearest ATM.

With money now in hand headed to the next tollway. They were not authorised to pay refunds and didn’t speak English or German, so we took another ticket and moved on hoping to resolve at the departure point.

Here the attendant was also not authorised to pay refunds and directed us to the next tollway where there was an official tollway office who could help. Long story short – they don’t do cash or credit card refunds, only deposit into a bank account. Took 2 hours (no English spoken) in total to try to do a refund into our Australian bank account- €75+ refund was worth it.  Still not sure if it worked, we will have to wait and see – we were told it would take 2 to 3 months. Lesson learned: if you have any issues regarding excessive tollway fees, put on your hazard lights and stay put at the gates until a service attendant arrives. He should be able to sort out the issue on the spot before you leave the gates – too late once you leave the gates as per the above – so don’t budge.

Our campsite for tonight: Area Comunale, Ostuni

Saw the town from miles away – a mass of white buildings sitting atop a hill and the spire of a magnificent cathedral at the summit. Arrived here with only half an hour until nightfall so did not venture into town today.

Ostuni Cathedral on hill top

The campsite is right at the bottom of the hilltop town and we sat and watched the numerous lights go on throughout the town. No other motorhome here so we are alone again. Couldn’t understand the parking payment signage – very confusing, but think it is no cost after end of September.

Tuesday 16th January

Our boat from Brindisi to Greece does not leave until 9pm tonight and with only 40kms to go decided to venture into the town of Ostuni to explore.

Cobblestoned walk to Cathedral

All the homes and apartments are white or cream sandstone and all are box style, many with little patios and most still with greenery and coloured pots adorning them. As with many of these towns, the climb is all uphill on cobblestones and steep but really worth it in the end.

Amazing how many English words have been adapted – the sign under the white sail in the alley reads “cocktail bar”

In the middle of the town square is a church with the most beautiful and colourful stained glass windows and of course the regulatory statue in the middle of the square. We climbed higher to the summit which offered breathtaking views across the valleys below and right out to the Adriatic Sea. The cathedral of course sat at the top of the summit – unfortunately was not open to sightseers.

Beautiful sunny day with blue skies today – the best we have had for weeks, so really enjoyed the travelling.

Overnight in Ostuni – always try to reverse right on to a post, pole or tree to try to minimise risks of bikes being stolen

Arrived in Brindisi with several hours to kill, so parked at the ferry terminal car park and relaxed with a good book until it was time to check in at 7pm.

The ferry was late and we finally left (with about 40 huge trucks and only a few cars) at around 10.30pm instead of 9pm. Settled into the sleeping lounge (takes about 50 people) and played scrabble and did crosswords until midnight. We were the only ones in here so enjoyed a quiet peaceful night. All the truckers slept in the truckers lounge- nice!

Italy Summary

So this is good-bye to Italy – we really enjoyed our stay here – the food was great, the wine was great and the scenery spectacular – thank you for having us.

When we left the French Riviera and crossed in to Italy the first thing we noticed was an increase in the traffic and particularly the motor scooters – plus an increase in the congestion in towns and the narrow streets.

The Italian drivers are skilful but impatient.

We also noticed how friendly, helpful, smiling and welcoming the Italians are, compared to the country we had just left.