Having decided to leave Sicily and head for Puglia, we got the ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovanni. We did a long drive to Metaponto in the ‘in-step’ of Italy. All roads in the lower half of Puglia seem to lead to Lecce so we went via it to Gallipoli. After a number of days chilling we drove round the ‘heel tip’ coast to Sant Andrea. Back to Lecce, skirting round it this time and on to Castellana (great caves) via Ostuni (lovely white painted hill top town). Skipped round Bari (may be getting the ferry to here on our return to Italy, so saving until then!) to Trani. Decided we needed to move along so headed back to Naples, taking a circular detour via Castel Del Monte (a Kath ‘must see’ castle).
Aah Naples, did a day on foot in the city, a day up Mont Vesuvius and Herculaneum and another day revisiting the Amalfi coast. This time we took a bus from Salerno to Amalfi and a boat back. Naples is a bit like Palermo but without the same level of charm. It’s a fascinating city but challenging and you need to be well prepared for Italian craziness. I feel a separate blog is required to cover Italian craziness!
Amalfi coast is incredibly touristy, every one is very polite (in an American ‘have a nice day’ type of politeness) but you feel they are figuring out how to shake you down for as much money as they can. Give me genuine French coolness/grumpiness every time :).
Having said that I would love to go back and spend time in Amalfi and its surrounds.
Leaving Naples and heading north to Abruzzo, Umbria and Tuscany. First ‘on the way’ stop at Monteroduni. It was supposed to be a free stop if you had dinner there but turned out they only do weddings now, so no dinner but they were happy for us to park up for the night. Next day we just pulled off a quiet road in the hills of Abruzzo and spent the night overlooking the small town of Capestrano. The hills are now turning into mountains. Visited some great mountain top towns (some still recovering from 2009 earthquake). Remote narrow roads, relatively cool temperatures, lunch just off the road with great mountain views at 1,900m!
Onwards through Umbria to Lake Bolsena (filled volcanic crater, which is actually just inside Lazio).
Into Tuscany to Montepulciano, Montalcino and Certaldo. All spectacular hill top towns in the Tuscan countryside. The former two well known for their wine, Nobile di Montepulciano (not to be confused with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, wine made from the Montepulciano grape all over the Abruzzo region) and Brunello (world famous apparently!). Certaldo is famous for Boccaccio (don’t worry if you don’t know who he is, neither did I). I could write a lot more on these towns but this route blog is already getting very long!
Did Siena in between which is very Florence like, big and touristy, but none the less impressive.
Moving north to visit Bologna. Stopped at Sasso Marconi just south, next to train station. After 6 weeks in Italy we decided the best way ‘to do’ Italian cities is to park up next to railway station a number of stops outside the centre and get the train in. I know, took us a while to figure that one out … doh! p.s. Bologna’s great.
Heading out of Italy towards Croatia, got caught up in bank holiday traffic, stopped at Latisana, before crossing border into Slovenia.
As ever, those of you interested in the detail, stopovers, mileage, costs, etc click Sicily to Croatia