Time has passed quickly through the Balkans with finally reaching Italy, in total the distance we covered to the border of Italy is 8,179 miles which is 13,086.4 km. With the map below shows the exact points we stopped enroute to our next destination, what a journey and we are only half way around Europe until we get to the finish line.
Each country we pass one after the other it’s surreal how so different they are from one another with culture, food and the people. Yet at the same time we are not that different and we go through the same values as us all homosapiens hold, and yet I feel that we have alot to learn from the way we live. Here so far especially eastern Europe one the traditions they hold so dear to them is living off the land. Most of them use the maximum perimeter of the land they have at their disposable to live of the land, being vegetables, fruit and if they have the means, animals. It’s sad that in the west alot of people have failed to grasp the importance of value that your land holds and what you could do with it, the satisfaction that holds when you supply and feed yourself or the family, growing your own produce and living off the land, which is made all to easy buying from your local supermarket. In New Zealand especially the smaller towns is an exception for the market stalls and the abundance of organic produce. And yes even the big chains have the organic sections for your request.
To see this and no doubt realise with your own eyes, but to awaken to the reality that we all had a duty to use our hands to sustain ourselves and to look after not only ourselves but the community. We have seen that here towards the eastern part of Europe whether to think they do it because they are poor or not is irrelevant. That is the perception I have gathered on what it means to own your patch, to make the most of what you’ve got, some have so little but still make the most of it.
So our journey through Italy would see us reach Belluno bordering the mighty Dolomites, but before getting there we find a spot that best suits us to rest and recoup for a few days before heading up the mountain. Aquileia proved the ideal spot with a swimming pool and to just relax, what we didn’t realise is the campsite is right next to an archeological site that was at one point the capital city of the Roman Empire. Here there are an abundance of old mosiacs found scattered all round the sleepy town. The Basilica of Aquileia that is situated in the middle of this town you can see the mosiacs on display in the main church area on the floor, it was also discovered underneath the church. The church itself dating back to 313 AD host a vast array of animal portraits clearly visible with such incredible detail. All of these mosiac tiles are traced back to 4th century. Aquileia was one of the main shipping ports in Italy and had made the canals which bought the ships inland, here you can see traces of that in the ruins. This place is on the Unesco world heritage site and it was a pretty cool find to realise that this was a very significant site. Time up and we head to Belluno.
Heading towards the Dolomites and the roads are nothing short of immaculate and a steady climb on the motorway made for some smooth sailing for the Green Machine. We base ourselves in a town called Belluno. Time to make our way into the Dolomites National park and we drive up the valley as far as the Green Machine would allow, turns out we got to the end of the road which takes us to the L. della Stua lake. Here we walk a track recommend by a local, we are at 500 metres at the base of the lake, we walked a very steep trail taking us up to 1700 metres with an amazing view at the plateau, here there is many flora and fauna on show. The rocky ranges is really quite impressive and the research we did to find this place is well worth the trip!
Heading down from Belluno we head towards Venice a camp site quite central making it possibe to bus into Venice easily and taking less than 20 minutes. Arriving into the square were all buses, mopeds and cars as they can drive no further. From here the mode of transport is either boat or Gondola , we head into the imformation centre and acquire about the rolling card. If you’re in Venice and you would of heard Venice is one of the most expensive cities in the world, enquire about the Rolling Venice card. You have to be under 29 to obtain it and for €4.00 offers you discounts at selected restaurants and having that card will enable you to have the travel card for €20 each that covers you for 3 days in Venice, that’s using the boats around Venice as many times as you want in those three days and also buses that get you to Venice from where ever you are staying outside of Venice, it works out being €6.50 for a single trip so you are saving a huge chunk of coin.
We catch the boat into the main part of Venice which is the Marciana Area, Venice dates back to the 5th and 6th century AD, we walk through the ??hords?? of tourist and come to an opening that is St Mark’s Square. With the perimeter of the square in the recognizable archway pillars, tables and chairs line up all laid out for guests at restaurants to eat with the view of this impressive square. The Bell tower which originated from 1100 was rebuilt in 1517 and again rebuilt in 1902 after the tower collapsed, to the top of the spire it stands at 96 metres. From here we walked many allay ways exploring many of the churches and buildings on show. We seeked out a a small little restaurant to have some pizza and slowly make our way back out through the chaotic touristy hords.
The following day would see us explore more the outer perimeter of Venice and try a popular alcoholic beverage called Spritz which is quite refreshing in this sticky climate. Venice lived up to its hype and to experiance the city without cars and get around by boat is really something different. One of many big touristy gimmicks along with the Gondola when you walk down the well known or lesser known streets you become familiarised with Venetian Masks that were used for hiding your personna, of all your traits your mask would be worn at all occasions meant you could be what you wanted without anyone knowing who you really are, wealthy people, gay and doctors being one of many being able to go out and not be judged. These are everywhere there is one with the long nose that the doctors wore with medicinal herbs inside to stop them getting the plaugue sickness. The many streets/lanes are like mazes and so easy to get lost with many bridges taking you over to very diffrent parts of Venice if it weren’t for the signs there would be no hope! You will also find parts of the canal water very stagnant and can give a really foul smell of sewer but overall with many people complaining of the smell in Venice alone we did not come across that smell for the most part of Venice. But then Venice wasn’t built and prepared for 20 million or so visitors a year!
Setting off down the coast towards Ravenna Karen is heading to London for the weekend to attend a family wedding which would see myself looking after the van, based next to the beach or pool for a few days. I take a visit into Ravenna that is renowned for its mosiac Basilica. The main one I saw was the Basilica di San Vitale which dates back to 548AD said to be one of the most important monuments of early Christian art. The art work behind this is extraordinary with the detail precise it really is a must see, see for yourselves in the pictures. On this same site is a small Mausoleum called Mausoleo di Galla Placidia this was built middle of 5th century, this having a spacey feel to it with all it’s mosiac like stars giving a night sky feel. All very cool to see the art work on display and preserved so well after all these years.
Time to drive into Bologna to pick Karen up and set up camp on the out skirts of the city, we make full use of the campsites pool in the morning for some swimming lengths and bus into the city centre.
Bologna in a nutshell is the place Bolognese meat sauce (ragú) origniated along with tagliatelle which is thicker than spaghetti. This place is predominantly red brick with archway pedestrian walkways everywhere, perfect if you explored this place in the rain you will barely get wet! But don’t forget to look up at the archways as you will find many paintings on show. We took a walk through into the middle and before we got there came across if not stumbled across the Two Towers that arch your neck back as far as it goes, built from around the middle ages not defined but there were almost 100 of these in the city which were built by noble families for defense and strategic assault spots for their own war purposes, during a period of cruel inner fights. The tallest tower (Asinelli’s) built in 11th century is the tallest medieval tower in the world standing at 96,2 metres high. We head into many old churches in this town but sadly the main one being the Basilica of San Domenico was shut for 3 hours, was said that Michelangelo took part in the construction of this building. As we wandered around we walk of the beaten track to find a perfect local restaurant selling fresh pasta dishes that I could not miss out on, proper grub it was now a standard to be met! There is so much to mention in this city I am only giving you the top things of many and as we approached the main square the fountain of Nepune is one of the symbols of Bologna.
Coming to an end in Bologna I had a local brew cup of espresso to top of a pretty interesting city, this place is very much a student city as half the city is occupied by university students. A great buzz about the place it’s worth paying a visit. On our way out of Bologna it’s definitely worth mentioning this roundabout/back road onto the motorway, 6 or so old school Campervans not the combie sort! Parked up with ladies in stillettos, fish net tights and feet up on dashboard with a fag in the mouth! How clever is that a whore house on wheels! Their work turnover must be immense. So that was a surprise and somewhat different to the hookers on roundabouts in Barcelona.
That concludes the first part of Italy, a real mixture of places we visited as we make our way down the east coast of Italy. A glimpse and taste of Italy that we have savoured thus far is turning into a really fascinating country. Chow!