overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Anyone fancy an ice cream?

Written by Martin Pitwood. Uploaded 11 August 2005.

Italy, Country 3, Diary entry 5-9th Aug 2005, Total distance in Italy: 1011 KM

After a major effort trying to crowbar the last few things into the car (and leaving a big pile of junk at Christophe’s place in Chambéry – sorry Christophe!) I finally set off towards Italy for the rendezvous with Alex and Maz down on the Ligurian coastline at the Cinque Terre.

 CampingLuckily for me the Tunnel de Fréjus had just reopened following the fire there a few weeks ago which saved me the hassle of going over the mountain pass and since I was running rather late it was good to save some time – at a ridiculous cost of 30 euros for a one way ticket though. Won’t be going through there again any time soon though I suppose! So we all just blasted along the autostrade towards the coast and met up at Moneglia. Found a campsite which had one pitch left – about the same size as two Land Cruisers. Put it this way: with us both parked there Alex and Maz couldn’t open their rear doors to get anything out, which gave us the ideal excuse to eat out rather than cook for ourselves. A&M had pizzas and I had a garlic dish seasoned with a little spaghetti which was lovely but – shock horror – I didn’t have an ice cream!!! I became very anxious that my average ice cream intake per day spent in Italy might drop below 1.00 (it was only a little above that from previous trips) but needn’t have worried as I made up for it later.

Vernazza, Cinque TerreSo the next day we got up and drove to Monterosso which is the first of the five villages making up the Cinque Terre. The five villages are arranged along the coast and linked by a path half way up the cliff which is very narrow in places with a long tumble down to the sea. The path goes through olive groves which had an impressive network of mini monorails snaking around them, to collect the harvest and take it up the hill to the nearest point a vehicle could take over. I wanted to have a ride on one but it wasn’t obvious how to hot-wire them.

Finally we descended to the very pretty village of Vernazza where we started on the ice cream in proper fashion (stracciatella if you must know) and relaxed on the little harbour wall and wished we’d brought our swimming stuff because the water was pristine and very inviting. After a boat ride back to Monterosso and a hike back up the hill to the cars we drove off to find somewhere to camp for the night.

It was a long time before we found the first signpost for a campsite but eventually we found one close to La Spezia, but we followed the long steep winding road up a big hill looking for it, eventually we ran out of road without finding the campsite but there was a patch of ground big enough and secluded enough for us to camp rough.

The next morning we woke up to the sound of labourers toiling the fields around us – the ground we’d chosen wasn’t as secluded as we thought, and people came over from the campsite just the other side of the hedge to ask why we’d camped in their spare car park! Well they were very nice and offered us a coffee when we explained what we were doing but we had to move on as we had to get to Verona.

All the best TV shows eventually find they get tired and to inject some sparkle into the proceedings they introduce the special guest star – so just when you were getting bored we did the same! Special guest star of the week is Francesca, friend of mine from Chambéry from a couple of years ago and many visits since. Alex and Maz had also met her at our leaving party, or more accurately in the nightclub afterwards!! I’d arranged to meet Francesca in Verona as it’s the closest we could reasonably go to Milan where she lives so I picked her up at the railway station there and we spent the afternoon together.

Juliet's Balcony, VeronaVerona is a lovely place with a very large open-air ancient arena where they still put on performances (Aida that night), and is also famous for Juliet’s House which has the balcony where she stood while Romeo tried desperately to pull her with his fancy Shakespearian language. Nowadays the passageway leading to the balcony is totally covered with graffiti of people declaring their love for someone. It’s very colourful with all the different pens people used but it’s not really very authentic.

Arena, VeronaBut for us the nicest part was the Piazza Delle Erbe which just looked nicer as it was less touristy. With Francesca’s help translating the menu we all had some very nice food at one of the restaurants there, then we didn’t need her help to buy an ice cream (mine was crème brulée flavour - delicious!).

Ice CreamAfter taking Francesca back to the railway station we drove out of town to find a campsite but discovered that the road east from Verona all the way to Vicenza is nasty and industrial all the way, so not only were there no campsites but also no secluded areas to camp rough, so we just carried on to near Venice and found a campsite there. Possibly the most expensive campsite in the world, if we find any that are more expensive we’ll let you know.

It did give us the advantage of leaving the cars there and going to Venice by bus though, which saved a bit of money but more importantly saved us a lot of hassle in parking. These beasts are 2.4m high or so so you can’t just park them anywhere!

Grand Canal, VeniceSo we spent a great day in Venice walking around and looking at the sights. It is an expensive place and there were a lot of people there but we managed to do quite well with a limited budget anyway. A lot of the city can easily be seen on foot, and then while Alex went up the bell tower on St. Mark’s Square to enjoy the spectacular view, Maz and I got a vaporetto (like a bus but on the water) out to the island of Murano to see the glass works. As soon as the boat docked there were people ushering us in to see their factory rather than the one next door, so we just went along and saw someone glass-blowing a bulbous vase followed by the shaping of a glass horse. Glassworks, VeniceThis was amazing – the guy started with a big ball of molten glass on the end of the rod, and just by using large tweezers he pulled strands out of the mass to form the legs, snipped with scissors to make the mane and then finally cut it away from the remainder on the rod to make a free-standing prancing horse. The whole thing took about one minute from start to finish, so when the tour inevitably took us through the gift shop we were shocked by the 10 euro price tag! After that we walked around the island a bit before heading back to meet Alex. It was surprising that so many small factories can remain in business when they all make pretty much the same stuff, but they seem to be doing fine. Also doing fine are the ice cream places but we helped their bottom line a little bit. We looked at the prices for getting a beer on St. Mark’s Square but decided that 10 euros for a bottle of Beck’s was a little out of our budget. Tired, we went back to the campsite for another night, on the way stopping for another ice cream. That helped the average.

The whole time in Venice we were keeping an eye open for an Internet café to upload our French adventures and for Alex and Maz to sort out some last details to do with the renting out of their house, but without success. Our last morning was spent looking in Mestre (no success) then Lido di Jesolo where we finally found somewhere. We spent quite a while in there sorting things out and then mid afternoon crossed into Slovenia…

Country Four – Slovenia

… where we are now on the edge of the stunning Lake Bohinj, but more on that in the next update!

All content copyright © overland-underwater.com - please do not use without permission.

Comment from Cam
Hi guys, I'm already very jealous reading about your travels through Europe. One suggestion for the diary pages - I'm never sure who's written what, so maybe you could put your names under your paragrpahs, or if your coding skills are better than mine, perhaps a different colour for each author!
12 Aug 2005 @ 07:08:20

Comment from francesca
Hi everyone.. I'm so glad you're having a nice time..it's so exciting reading your diary! I'mm happy you like murano and...see I was right for Piazza S. Marco prices?!

One more time good luck..kisses
12 Aug 2005 @ 10:51:24

Comment from Matthew
Hi all. Sounds like fun so far. Internet cafes in Italy aren't that easy to find are they...and they seem to close at odd times.

Haven't had my PC this week so just done a quick catch up on your travels to date. The diary thing has 'forward'=earlier and 'back'=later which confused me...but now I know...

Will check back in a few days and learn all about Slovenia.

M
13 Aug 2005 @ 12:18:15