A Journey Around the Coast of Italy
Not my usual blog, but I am so far behind trying to keep up with current work that I thought I ought to do something to remedy that, so I am going to start with our trip through France and around the entire (almost) coastline of Italy at the very beginning of 2018 (only 6 months behind!) This wasn’t specifically going to be a photographic adventure, but of course there is no getting away from the fact that I’m a photographer, with a camera, travelling through some beautiful and dramatic places. So it became more “photographic” in nature as we progressed.
We travelled across the channel to St Malo, and basically headed due south until we met an old friend, Richard Hubbard, who has a beautiful house and Gite in Bordeaux Have a Look! – a very welcome bed for the night before we even spent a night in the VW California! Our route then took us through some Bastide villages with very impressive histories and then some equally impressive bridges en route that I had always wanted to experience.
We then cheated a little by calling in on some friends (Chris Darby having a very enjoyable 50th birthday in Morillon – which just happened to be a ski resort, so we had a couple of days skiing with them….)
We then spent some unexpected time in Switzerland on the banks of Lake Genva for a couple of days while the Van was being fixed!
Once we were up and running again (only a minor problem – a wheel was falling off!), we struggled to find a crossing over the Alps into Italy, but eventually, having traversed almost the entire country, we crossed at Simplon deep in the snow. A short visit to Genoa (don’t really want to do the cities, apart from Rome) and then the coast line, heading down the west coast.
The next stop was in probably the only “real” campsite we stayed in, and that was in Rome – we stayed just off the main ringroad in an area called Aurellia. Rome was really special – not just because of the obvious, but because we were also meeting up with our daughters, Lucy and Georgie, and we all had tickets for the Italy v England Rugby match at the Stadio Olympico. As I am sure it is for most visitors to Rome, St Peter’s Square was mind-blowing:
My favourite “visit” of the entire journey was to Monte Cassino – the abbey founded by St Benedict that had been razed to the ground in 1944 following significant battles, and subsequently rebuilt, beautifully! It’s a 9th Gurkhas battle honour. As in most of Italy that we visited, it was completely empty of tourists in February. Heaven!
After visiting Pompeii (far more impressive than I had anticipated….and empty of visitors again!) we headed, of course, to the beautiful, stunning and simply perfect (apart from the rubbish!) Amalfi Coast. Driving here, again with very little other traffic, was magical.
Here, we are making good headway, and should soon be at the halfway point; or at least the very far south of the “toe” of Italy. We camp by the sea in Paestrum and then have a very pleasant drive (long day!) down to Reggio Di Calabria… The weather is getting warmer, and we had some perfect views driving along the coastline – incredible seas and skies!
Once we are in Reggio, we couldn’t find anywhere to camp, so we parked on the beach itself with views straight across to the smoking Etna in Sicily. The beach was “owned” by Pasquale – an 80 year old fisherman who assured us we would be safe to stay where we were – he was right – what a lovely old chap!
At this point, we headed to Craco – an incredible medieval Ghost-Town that had been deserted, finally, in 1970. The Clay rich soil meant that the town kept slipping and was finally deemed unsafe – but it is preserved, and it is magnificent and romantic and just remarkable!
We found ourselves quite by accident, as one does in other places in Italy, in Matera; an amazingly beautiful town that is probably the 3rd longest continually habited human settlement in the world. We actually parked up in a tiny car-park on the other side of the town and had no idea what awaited us when we traversed the town. The natural caves attracted inhabitants over 7000 years ago, and the buildings that grew up around them over the centuries were simply wondrous. Matera will be European City of Culture in 2019.
We are now heading north at a fair lick, and one of the things I was keen to visit was the Gurkha Cemetary just outside Rimini – 1944 saw heavy fighting here, and there are 2 Gurkha Victoria Cross winners laid to rest at this cemetery.
We have now completed just over 3000 miles and we are heading back into France. Another chance to see some good friends skiing: Muirs, Abbotts, and Hesters and a chance for Blou and I to relax after a fantastic month or so driving around some of the most incredible scenery anywhere in the world. I would recommend anyone going to the coast in Italy, and I would also recommend January and February to do it – it’s warmer than the UK, and nobody else is there! We really did feel spoilt having the place to ourselves!