North of Italy, via the Western coastal roads

a link for the map

Maierá to Como, July 9 – 29, 2017

Leaving Sicily behind we headed towards the north. We were in a little bit a rush now to get north as we were meeting some friends on the mainland opposite the island of Elba, but we managed a few stops in between.

The first was a reasonably elevated stop, winding our way up some of the famous narrow Italian mountain roads and into the Pollino National Park. The road we chose was steep and shortly after where we stopped it came to an end. It wasn’t long before we were visited by a farmer, returning from his day in the fields, who showed us to a spring which we made the most of and filled our tank. These springs we began to find were such a treat!

As we drove north on the narrow, windy roads of the Amalfi coast, dodging cars, scooters and pedestrians in the hundreds, as they return from their weekend getaway was challenging. The roads were crammed, and it was looking highly unlikely we would be able to find a spot to park up for the night. It was hard enough to fit two cars side by side on the road, yet alone find a free spot on the side!

Just as we were about ready to accept defeat, we rounded a corner and there was a little pull in that we decided was as good as it was going to get. It was pretty spectacular though. And just as we finished eating, up on the hill the fireworks began to crackle and explode. I guess that explained the number of yachts who had decided to anchor in the bay below us.

The following day dawned early with a rather aggressive Italian man who wanted to set up his vege stand where we’d parked. It was pretty obvious what he wanted! We had quite a drive ahead of us so we packed up quickly and moved on. A quick stop in Pompeii, where we walked briefly through the town before continuing on towards Naples. 

That evening, we found a spot for the night in the hills of Monti Aurunci National Park. As we cooked dinner, we were visited, at first by one, little black dog who we named Sophie. She must have alerted her friends to our presence as when the sun went down, we were very quickly surrounded by about 8 of them. Not quite sure if they were going to get aggressive or not, we retreated into the van, leaving the sliding door ajar so we could observe them. Probably just hungry and curious, they hung around for a bit before heading off.

Next stop was Piombino and the ferry to Elba for our friends birthday. We’d made a breakfast treat of rice pudding with foraged blackberries and were introduced to our travelling companions for the next two days. We hired a little boat and made our way around the island, swimming, snorkeling, cliff jumping, eating, drinking and…unfortunately, somehow, we managed to lose two anchors!

Reaching the mainland again, we had a minor issue with the van, which in broken English, we managed to get a mechanic (really luckily as it was Saturday!) to fix. Great job he did. A job numerous other mechanics had failed at.

We reached the outskirts of Bolgheri in the middle of siesta, so we decided to do the same. The only problem was that when we woke, instead of being re-energized, we were both completely shattered, and fell right back to sleep. We put this down to having spent two days in the blistering, mid-summer Italian sun!

Continuing the birthday party, it was then on to Florence to be part of a surprise party for our friend in the middle of the woods near his house in the Tuscan countryside. We spent about a week here, in and around Florence, cycling the Tuscan hills, enjoying the weather, growing a strong hatred for the tiger mosquito and were spoilt with the Italian hospitality they offered, which you can read more about in our other blog post Central and North Italy’s food scene.

The night after we left Florence, we pulled up off the road onto a piece of land filled with brambles and shrubs for the night. Not ideal, but it was remote and quiet. Just as the sun went down, as we were pulling out the bed, we heard some rustling in the bushes. It wasn’t the rustling of something small. Then we heard more rustling from other directions. We were pretty quick to close up the van, and soon after were surrounded by wild boars. There must have been at least 12 of them!  

Modena and Parma were muchly about the food which you can read more about HERE but also saw us find an amazing spot for the night, on the hillside of Monte Prinzera Regional Reserve. It was here that we both witnessed our first ever dry lighting storm. What a bizarre phenomonen! Around 2am we decided to move the van, as being where we were, on the top of the hill, left us quite exposed.

It was then on to Como lake to meet Zsu’s sister Mano. We explored the area with her, had a fantastic BBQ one evening, which you can read about HERE, and made blackberry jam with foraged blackberries.

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