Back to Italy…earlier than planned!

18th June

The last diary blog said we were heading off to Montenegro. Shortly after writing that we wondered whether Montenegro was in the EU (it isn’t, yet) and therefore whether our motor insurance and breakdown cover would cover travel in that country (they don’t).  We could possibly have phoned the insurers and paid for extra cover, or done something at the border, but you know what, I’d have been worried throughout. There were other issues with going to Montenegro too (phone package doesn’t cover it, ferry timetable from Bar) and in the end we decided to check out ferries from Dubrovnik. The next ferry was due the next day at 12pm – perfect. So we booked ourselves on it, and decided to leave Montenegro for some future trip.

I’m a little disappointed but would rather feel relaxed about travelling knowing we have cover. We’ve already called the AA twice (for the battery and then the puncture) this trip!

So the 18th was spent mostly on the 7.5 hour crossing from Dubrovnik to Bari. Beautiful scenery sailing out of Dubrovnik. We chatted to another English couple who’d been at the same campsite for part of the trip, had a long lunch, played cards, I edited part of my book etc. Not the most salubrious of ships but comfortable enough.

sailing
Sailing out of Dubrovnik, on board the Dubrovnik

Arriving in Italy we then drove to Matera – a place we’d read about in the book and had missed when here before. Got there late, parked at a truck stop for the night. Which was fine until the trucks started leaving at 4am, all beeping their horns at each other…

19th June

Moved the van to a car park dedicated to campervans in the middle of Matera, then went off on foot to explore. It’s a fascinating place – up till the 1950s many people lived in caves here. Now a lot of those dwellings are shops, museums, curiosities. We enjoyed wandering around, up and down steps, in and out of cave churches and houses. There are a few that have been furnished to look as they would have been 100 years ago.

matera
Matera

When we’d seen enough it was back in Gertie and a long drive back to the coast, and into the Gargano peninsula. If Italy is a boot, Puglia the heel, this peninsula (part of Puglia) is the spur on the heel. It’s mountainous, unlike the rest of Puglia, so slow driving around the coast but some amazing scenery. We found a layby with a fantastic view, and free-camped there for the night.

I heard in the UK there was a heatwave. We are also melting – temperatures going up to mid thirties and only down to about 25 at night.

20th June

Time for a campsite visit to get some washing done. There was one near Vieste, at the tip of the peninsula. The coast here is flatter and there are loads of campsites and holiday villages. It was only a short distance from where we’d spent the night so we got there early, nabbed the washing machine and got it all done. Went for a swim. The sea this side of the Adriatic is not as clear as in Croatia, but the beaches are sandier. Also on the promontory was a trabucco – a weird fishing contraption. Loads of poles lashed together with rope to support a net which can be angled according to the currents to catch fish. This one relied on tourist-power to wind it up as far as I could see. We watched it in use in the evening.

trebuca
Trabucco

21st June

We’d planned a driving route around the coast and then through the interior of the Gargano. All very twisty and turny and pretty in the hills. The flatter parts of the coast are occupied by a succession of tourist resorts and sandy beaches. Some looked pleasant others a bit regimented.
We left the Gargano peninsula and headed up the Adriatic coast, on the coast road rather than the motorway. Endless resorts and beaches filled with rows of sunbeds and parasols. The Italians do seem to like their beaches regimented. Ended up at Matinatta where our Camperstop book suggested there was a beach car park where campers could park overnight. Found it and it was free. We ended up having a very pleasant late afternoon and evening here, chilling, having a swim, then late evening a drink at the beach bar. Sometimes you can pay loads of money for a four star campsite and hate it, and other times pay nothing for a spot under a tree in a perfectly sited car park and have a really good time. You don’t know what you’ll get until you’re there.

22nd June

The sun was directly on the van in the morning, waking us up early with the heat. We drove a little way up the coast to Vasto for a brief look at the town. There’s a church doorway that’s of interest – just the doorway, the rest of the church collapsed in a landslide but they kept the end wall and its ornate door in place, with a view across to the sea.

church door
Church door. Me very hot – over 30 and not yet 9am.

Drove on up the Adriatic coast. It’s an endless succession of rather tatty beach resorts, each with hundreds upon hundreds of beach loungers and umbrellas, all in regimented strips and colour-coded to match the hotel or campsite they belong to. We don’t do the sit-on-beach-and-fry thing, so these places really don’t appeal.

Nevertheless, somehow we ended up at a campsite right on the beach with its own set of loungers and evening entertainment. The campers were packed in. We got the sheets washed (main reason for wanting a campsite) and grumbled about the small pitches and noise level and heat.

And then realised that our fridge was not working. A couple of days ago it had seemed warm in the morning after a night on mains electric then cooled down ok when running off battery (when driving) and gas (when free-camping). We’d assumed there’d been a power cut at the campsite overnight. But when it happened again we realised the fridge must be faulty. The campsite technician came to take a look, but he was no Giorgio or Salvo (those wonderful Sicilians who helped with our battery and then puncture problems). Campsite reception recommended a campervan sales/hire/repair shop just up the road who might be able to help.

So we spent an evening grumbling, had a swim, cooked a barbecue dinner and grumbled some more.

23rd June

Packed up (despite having booked in for 2-3 nights) and drove the short distance to CamperLike to see if we could get our fridge mended. Spent the morning hanging around the showroom looking at every gadget, gizmo and accessory they had to offer, and finally got a fixed Gertie back at 1pm, leaving us 200 euro worse off. Apparently some resistor thingie had failed, and the part cost 125 euro. Rest was labour.

Drove further up the Italian Adriatic coast which was just more ugly towns and packed beaches. Talk about overdeveloped. Oh I am such a grumpy old woman – shouldn’t be, because here I am on long leave travelling round Europe in a campervan and honestly the experience is amazing and I am loving it… on the whole!

Reached Loreto. Ignatius was taught by Loreto nuns at some point in his childhood, and here’s where the order began. But the most interesting thing in the town is the house where Jesus spent his childhood, which was transported here from Nazareth by angels… so the story goes. They’ve built a massive basilica around it and it’s now a major place of pilgrimage for Catholics. So inside the huge and ornate church there’s a little brick building, surrounded by ornately carved marble. Apparently there’s some documentary evidence that the house was brought here by ship during the Crusades by the Angeli family, and some archaelogical evidence that it might have once been attached to the cave in Nazareth which is also supposed to have been Jesus’s childhood home. Believe what you will. It’s an unusual sight.

We’re parked for the night in a car park just outside the town walls. It’s a hilltop town and there is a delicious breeze and not a bad view. Stuff those coastal seaside towns.

car park
Not a bad place to spend the night.

 

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