Heading south down the east coast of Italy the first stop will be San Marino, this republic is not apart of Italy and has not been since 301 AD. The drive through in thunderstorms was a sight to behold which would limit our time in San Marino considerably. It is said that San Marino has built themselves a solid identity, based on the common values of democracy and peace. San Marino is the oldest republic in the world. So up the cable car we go to this little fortified town atop a hill over looking the San Marino district, we venture in to discover something we both knew nothing about. We start walking around and it’s a shame how touristy it has become as every shop is just about selling touristy gimmicks, one that stands out to which I don’t understand are the guns, and weaponry that is for sale, reading our first insert of San Marino is its advocation of peace and that it plays an important role in the United Nations and European council… Moving through the haze of the low cloud we make our way up to the towers of San Marino the first tower being built in the 11th century offered a glimpse of the art work from prisoners inside, unfortunately todays weather holds for no views. The 2nd tower we visited was built between 13th and 14th century with a ladder leading to the top storey of the tower, the gusterly winds and rain was all that was on offer on what would otherwise be spectacular views. This place heaving with tourist we decide to get out, mixed views of this place to say the least. Moving on and we had a place in the heart of the countryside written down on our itinerary. Urbino which sits in Le Marche provence atop of a hill over looking all the farming fields with city walls surrounding the circumference this place was a throwback of a medieval feel. Parking at the base of the archway we walk on up the cobbled streets towards the Piazza Ducca Federico square. Not alot of information provided of this place but I can tell you now this is a place you will want to see, the scenery from atop is very cool and you are in the middle of country. So I’m going to keep it brief on what otherwise is not self promoting itself too much, Urbino is full of elegant looking churches, baroque style buildings, lanes of old with cobbled streets, it is also a University hub thriving with student life. If you get the chance come and visit Urbino it’s very much a homely feel, very traditional and not a touristy feel to it.
Heading down further on the east coast of Italy our end point will be Lecce, from Urbino it is roughly 700 KM with stops along the beach fronts first being Senigállia we found a free park for the night, unfortunately the weather didn’t allow for any swimming, next stop down was Lido Riccio which turned out to be a carpark with some gypsies living amongst filth, don’t get me wrong they had flash campers and cars etc, but the area they were parked smelt of piss and was littered with rubbish. Catching one lady pick rubbish off the floor to throw it over the fence, this made me really angry with Karen restraining me from saying anything to them. A brief swim at the beach which is surrounded by hotels and umbrellas that line the beach to no end. A disco ensued to the early hours of the morning didn’t make for great sleep! Carrying on with our journey south and we hit inland a little bit and approach the district of Puglia, on the main roads for a couple hours and it was crazy to see the amount of prostitutes on the side of the road with a deck chair in the saunering heat wave, 50 metres apart from each other some audacious with gstrings and it was only 11.00 in the morning! This was quite sad to see as some looked far to young to be doing this. Our destination is south of Manfredónia with a campsite on the beach front unlucky for us there is a thunderstorm and gustly winds ripping up the ocean. A couple we met later that night coming in on bicycles in the pouring rain to have to pitch a tent, with sorry onlooks from us in our cosy dry campervan I offer them boiling water if they wanted a quick hot drink, funnily enough the girl was from New Zealand Palmerston north and her bloke from Bristol UK. Having a good yarn in the morning of each others travels and exchanging recommendations and details to keep in contact we wish each other well. Venturing further south the land becoming more barron and dry with more olive tree plantations becoming abundant we stop in a sleepy seaside town just north of Torre Canne, luckily for us this was a construction site that was closed but after a brief chat with the owner he was more than accommodating giving us keys to showers and toilets we had a locked up campsite to ourselves, with the remaining Italians kicked off! Pays to be polite and ask! Again thunderstorms and winds not allowing an evening swim what would of been a beach to ourselves. Finally our last day of driving to eventually reach Lecce. Before approaching Lecce we head down the coast to a seaside town called Rocca Vecchia, we park up and cook up a feast of pancakes for breakfast with banana, nutella and panna cream. This place has a beach with the well known Grotta della Poesia, what is it? Well it’s a very exposed rocky beach and when we got there the winds were whipping up a frenzy with white caps everywhere you wouldn’t be thinking of a swim! But as you walk onto the rocky out crop you find a large hole that opens up with clear calm blue water that is fed by two channels at either end, the rough sea water filtering in and even though it was windy it was sheltered down there from the winds. Loads of locals come here to enjoy the hole and many tourist come to see the uniqueness of it, me and Karen duly thought it appropriate to get down there and have a swim even steps carved into the rock to make it quite accessible, very cool place!
On our way into Lecce and we park up next to the old wall around the city. Lecce is known as Florence of the south with its baroque style architecture, taking a walk around the streets we approach the Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral over looking. This was restored in 12th century and has a 68m tall bell tower, walking around it was really cool that the place was really buzzing with only locals. We move on towards the other square Piazza Sant’Oronzo which is where the Roman amphitheatre is situated, there is so much more to be discovered but due to the amount of inhabited buildings above restrict excuvations. This Roman theatre seats 25 thousand peoole back in the day. Wandering some more after some typical pastrys and eating something very similar to Arichini balls which is basically deep fried ball of cheesy risotto, delicious! Taking a look in a craft beer shop and end up walking out with dark stout beer as well as a wheet beer all made here from Lecce, solid beers too! Coming across a beer in this shop was made by a danish group who export hops from Nelson New Zealand. Which had the NZ flag and Nelson baring its name on the bottle. That was completely unexpected! Next stop is Basilica di Santi Croce, baroque architecture took from 16th to 17 century to fully complete, this is a very impressive building to see, well worth the wait as it closes during the afternooon. Lecce for the amount of time it had taken us to drive down was a breath of fresh air, really cool architecture and a great little city to visit. The surrounding areas to this place is a must see that’s for sure.
Táranto was founded by Spartans of Greece, it is a seaside town. The old town is now quite run down in what would otherwise be a really cool little city, as work and expansion of Táranto the people sort to live outside the old town as homes were newer and closer to jobs, thus leaving the old town to deteriorate. We came to see the much talked about Spartan museum but unfortunately it was hard to find and it was closed. If you’re this way it is quite highly spoken of. Another night next to the beach we start to finally head north and base ourselves outside Potenza in the heart of the country side hope to stay at an Agritourismn camp, they were closed due to maintenance and reconstruction we were however lucky to stay free of charge over night. We set off the next day towards the west coast of Italy.
Amalfi coast is beautiful pristine beaches stretching from Sorrentine peninsula with a back drop of ragged mountains and pokey little houses built on the outcrop of the hill, this is where we spent the day enjoying the sights. Get yourself a decent vehicle and accept defeat with the chaotic driving and you should be fine! The roads are questionable! From here we go stay at a campsite that is right next to Pompeii historical site.
We decided to do Herculaneum first after alot of em and arring due to whether to do both or just one, it turns out that you get different aspects from both so we opted for both. To give you a brief description what happened to these old towns the Volcano Vesuvius erupted in 79AD leaving behind a destructive mess that killed many many people and completely incasing the cities and sealing them which preserved what we look at today. The people had no chance of survival as the the ash and gases clogged their lungs and suffocated them in which you can cleary see from the plaster cast display replicas in the Pompeii historical site, second or third eruption on what was already devasted sent ash and lapilli of 5 or 6 metres in submerging the cities into a desolate grey landscape. So train into Herculaneum get our tickets, pre tickets you walk over a bridge that basically takes you down into this crater like place that what you see is a miniature city, Herculaneum was covered in 16 metres of pyroclastic rock flow that preserved this place incredibly well. This city was occupied by Romans since 89 BC but funtioning well before that and was founded by Hercules on his way back from Spain to Greece. It’s crazy that so many years ago you are walking through well preserved streets, houses, shops, spa baths and many more that kept this city ticking over, and there is still more work going on to uncover more. Unfortunately alot won’t be found for alot of the city is habitable above. Alot of the artwork and decrotive interiors of the home are incredibly well preserved with the pigmentation of decorative work still clearly visible. Old wine cast and pottery is visible and the timber used in the home all really well preserved. We personnaly felt Herculaneum was a better experience for the array of what you saw and how well it preserved. Pompeii was an Opician foundation in 6th century BC and eventually being occupied by the Romans in 89 century BC, Pompeii was the bigger brother of Herculaneum as they were the commercial city and a bigger city alone, Herculaneum was a much smaller city and was said to be a holiday resort for wealthy Romans who wished to be closer to the sea. Pompeii had a large amphitheatre, forum baths and an odeon (small theatre) there was alot more style and marble used in this city where there where obviously alot of wealthy romans living here. One of the many elaborate houses one man that lived here and I forget his name was one of the first men to challenge Julius Caesar. Alot of the paintings we saw were actually mosiacs of such fine detail, it’s quite incredible. Finally before I bore you with all the history and what not, the remains of the people and animals that died in this tragic aftermath. These are plaster cast to capture what really went on and the emotions, some of the stances is quite horrific and thought quite strange why alot of tourists got selfies with them, anyhow it captures quite remarkably the way they died from asphyxiation. So below are the photos of both and will label which is Herculaneum and Pompeii.
So there you have it, such a varied journey down the bottom half of Italy, unfortunately for time allowed we weren’t able to make it down to Sicily and explore the area as we previously had planned and on what we hear is a stunning place, with also missing out on seeing Anna and Daneilo! With countryside, wild coastlines, really old towns and history it was such a mixture of Italy in these 2 weeks. That’s what it’s all about and really getting a grasp of what is Italy than just seeing the top tourist locations. With venturing up north for our final journey through Italy it has been a really eye opening experience. Gracias, Ciao!