From time to time we found that the habitation door won’t lock when you press the central locking key. We found out what the problem was and a quick and easy solution to fix it.
From time to time we found that the habitation door won’t lock when you press the central locking key. We found out what the problem was and a quick and easy solution to fix it.
So, we went round this roundabout and the fridge door swung open and a load of salad bags fell out. Good job it wasn’t the greek yoghurt eh? Could have been right messy. We taped it up until we could find a quiet spot to investigate the problem
The Netherlands is one of the best places in the world for challenging the irrational belief that ‘flat is boring’. The Netherlands is most certainly not boring – albeit it is mostly flat. Yet this small country in northwestern Europe will continually implore you to stay a while and soak up its culture, its hospitality and its natural beauty. We have visited on three separate occasions and each time it draws us in like the Pied Piper of Hamelin – we fall in love just a little bit more each time we venture into the land of windmills, canals and clogs. Check out our Guide to the best bits we’ve found so far, starting with our interactive map below…
Click on the map to explore some more.
The Netherlands is split into 12 different provinces – one of which is Holland, which the Netherlands is often mistakenly labelled as. Its name is translated as ‘the lower countries’ because of its topography. According to Wikipedia, only 50% of the land reaches 1m above sea level and 26% is below sea level. Back in 16th century work began to reclaim this lower level land from the sea and their efforts resulted in the polders. This region is typically speckled with windmills and canals as part of their land and sea management. The country has an intricate relationship with the sea, both in terms of protecting its inhabitants from the forces of the ocean and for their ability to trade on the world’s economic stage. Their web of canals and rivers that run from the North Sea through to Germany are critical to their economic status. With fertile soil, the Netherlands is second only to US for the exporting of agricultural and food products. So whilst it may be small, it is a force to be reckoned with.
Interestingly alongside many of their Scandinavian cousins, in 2019 the Netherlands ranked fifth out of 156 countries for happiness and wellbeing, according to the World Happiness Report. So they are doing something right.
If you want a real blast of culture, then visit the Netherlands around 27 April. This is their Koningsdag festival. King’s Day is an annual affair, often starting the night of 26 April. Then throughout 27th it is one big party, honouring their King’s Birthday. Since 1885 the Royals’ birthdays have been celebrated and it is classed as a national holiday across the whole country. Each town and region celebrate in different ways, although it is expected to dress in orange, the country’s national colour. Events are staged, parties are thrown and music is put on by local communities. It’s just one of those events that needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
My dad used to work for a Dutch company and often he would travel there on business. I have vivid memories of him returning with Dutch gifts for me, one of which was a treasured doll in traditional costume that was packaged up in one of those little plastic tube containers. It was that that piqued my interest for this northwestern European country and to follow in my dad’s footsteps.
Paradoxically, my first trip was also for work – after which we extended our visit to see Amsterdam and some iconic Dutch villages that you see in the brochures. Towns interlaced with canals and protected by windmills offering cheesy delights to hungry passers-by. This was where my love affair for this fair nation began and it is a book that we just keep adding chapters to.
Whilst Amsterdam is the Netherland’s capital, it is not where the Government is located. You will find this at the Hague. Although that has no impact on this stunning watery city that gives Venice a run for its money. Its 17th century Golden Age heritage is clear to see as you weave your way around the network of canals on slowly chugging boats. Towering buildings fringing the canal banks with facades shaped and coloured like variety pack of sweets. Church spires reach high above the city roof-line and bridges interlink streets across the entire cityscape. And bicycles – let’s not forget Amsterdam’s bikes! In fact it’s hard to forget as they are strewn everywhere. This is the capital’s main source of transport, as indeed it is across the Netherlands. This country seriously knows how to cycle.
We arrived on a murky day in March and even with soft wafts of fog caressing the water’s edge you could sense the city’s beauty. Flower markets selling every kind of tulip bulb you could imagine from the iconic fields close to Lisse, just east of the city. Museums galore satiate the appetite of any curious traveller, from Van Gogh to World War 2 Anne Frank’s house. And if that’s not your cuppa, then perhaps a coffee would be better? The Koffie Huis need caution as this is no ordinary tea-house selling cappuccino and cake. Well not that type of cake at least. Amsterdam’s wild spirit throbs in these ‘special’ cafés offering you a warm welcome and a heady experience – if you dare. And the Red Light District seems a perversely voyeur activity although it’s a cultural experience to wander the area and see the ladies standing in the windows as still as manakins.
Amsterdam can satisfy the needs of every traveller and is a sight to behold. Check out our small gallery below.
Holland’s iconic villages
Amsterdam is without doubt a major draw for the tourist intent on a perfect city-break, although for an authentic glimpse into Holland’s provincial culture, you need look no further than the surrounding villages. Volendam, Edam (yes of the mighty cheese fame) and Monnickendam all to the north of Amsterdam show you the Dutch sea-farers’ life. Where the sea meets the canals, the locals work in harmony with the water, mastering as best they can, the strength of this indelible element.
Mini versions, it seems, of their capital giant, these small villages cry out tradition and authenticity, as their daily work goes on regardless of the onlookers. Whilst there are tourist shops here, it’s done so tastefully and without the all too often cheap tat that they think we love.
Further west from the city you have the charm of Delft with its wonky church that rivals Pisa and Gouda (pronounced Howda) that will tempt you with their fare at the church square market. And it is a must to buy just a little bit of their nectar produce! Dutch cheese. With rounds of delectable dairy delights, you will be at a loss as to which to buy. Although try the green pesto cheese – it is divine. Either way you will not be disappointed by the exquisite taste of their sumptuous offerings. Beyond the cheese, check out their churches, waterways and cobbled streets that have a knack of transporting you back to some sort of Dickensian era, such is the atmosphere of these amazing places.
If you want a true taste of Holland, these coastal and inland villages are definitely worth exploring. Check out our gallery by clicking on the image below.
Holland’s iconic tulips and Keukenhof
One of my bucket list trips was to see the tulip fields of Holland. Known throughout the world for their patchwork quilted fields of colour I could only imagine their beauty. After the joy I experienced seeing Provence’s lavender I knew I had to see the Netherland’s carpet of colour. And so April 2019 we finally managed to get there in our camper. Whilst I think we probably timed it two weeks too late, there were still some amazing blasts of technicolour enchantment. It was everything I had hoped for. And then there was Keukenhof. Whilst the fields may well be the commercial side of tulip bulbs, Keukenhof is all about the mastery of the blooms themselves. A landscape of sheer artistry, as lakes, fountains, curvaceous beds and steams provide the backdrop canvas to these incredible flowers. 800 varieties of tulips and 7 million bulbs conspire with a bit of human intervention to create the joy that you will behold at Keukenhof.
Only open from mid March to mid May, undoubtedly the Netherland’s most famous spring tourist attraction, it is a rare experience that visually will blow you away and give you an overwhelming sensory experience. Check out our tulip video below.
Staying up north, well west if you want to be geographically correct, there is a region of the Netherlands that is a water power house. A region that has defied nature and resiliently honours their motto ‘I struggle and emerge.’
Zeeland is a set of 3 finger-shaped peninsula that have been gradually reclaimed from the sea over time. They are classed as the least populated region of the country, that is until the summertime when their population doubles. Don’t let that fool you though, because Zeeland has plenty to offer the adventurous types. With its intrinsic connection to the sea, Zeeland is well positioned for water sports and you will find this aplenty on each island you travel to. Middelburg, its capital, is a Dutch delight with its clean-line streets, waterways and central plaza. Music vibrates out of the cafés and the cathedral’s imposing stature stakes its claim on the skyline.
As you ‘island hop’, each one takes on a different feel and yet holding them together are their battle scars and historical heritage. And you might think these rivalling factions are people based, although no! These are wounds from the sea’s impenetrable dominance. Years of flooding have consistently shaped the land formation, the dykes and technology that now holds the sea firmly at arm’s length.
A fascinating place that really needs exploring. So don’t avoid this area for the sexier appeal of Holland’s other charms. For more info on Zeeland, check out our comprehensive blog here.
We stayed at Wolphaartsdijk, Camping De Heerlijkheid (51.54217 3.78037).
The Netherland’s iconic windmills – Kinderdijk
Every image of Holland in particular is framed by a traditional windmill in some form or another. And whilst in other countries they may just now be a pretty feature, for the Netherlands, they still hold an important role albeit they are superseded by the modern structures. One place that must go on your Netherland’s itinerary to really appreciate these mechanical magicians has to Kinderdijk – a UNESCSO site and museum that is free to the public. This area just a short boat ride from the Netherland’s oldest town of Dortretch, and it is a photographer’s haven. With the right light you can produce some stunning images. And the history of this place is so intriguing, as these 19 windmills from the 15th century are working museum pieces, presenting the role they played in securing the safety of the local inhabitants.
Catch the 202 water-bus from Dordretch and for €8 per person (bicycles are free) you get to explore this incredible UNESCO site. Check out our gallery by clicking the image below.
We stayed at Jachthaven Westergoot (51.813818 4.724003) at the marina.
The Netherland’s star-fortresses
One thing you expect to see in the Netherlands are windmills. Loads of them especially up in the polder regions of Holland because of their water-management role. Although what surprised us most, in our third visit to this fair land were their fortresses. Throughout Europe you often see towns protected by the archetypal walled-cities such as Evora in Portugal and Carcassonne in France to name just two. Yet in the Netherlands, they did things slightly differently. With their water affinity, of course it makes sense that they would protected themselves with moats. And moats designed with the most incredible flamboyance. Whilst they are often best seen from an arial perspective, Heusden, Bourtange and Loevestein are still incredibly beautiful places up close and personal.
Take yourself back to medieval times, when wars and invasions where prime in the battle for national supremacy and where protection of your land was a primary goal. What better way to shield yourself from the enemy than with moats and draw-bridges. It’s like something out of a fairytale. And yet today these impressive places still hold the shadows and battle scars in their cobbled streets.
We stayed at a free camperplaats at Loevestein (51.814377 5.02747). There were two places at Heusden to park overnight; the west car park was only suitable for campers under 6m (51.73496 5.13404) and the east car park for campers over 6m (51.734599 5.145048)
To find the right words to convey the charm of Giethoorn, I would need to use half the dictionary. Adjectives like delightful, cute, serene, peaceful and unique would just be a few. And I’m sure you would be well within your rights to call me a bit gushy. Although visit for yourself and see that it’s true.
Although Giethoorn is known as ‘Venice of the north’, I think this is wholly inappropriate. Yes Giethoorn has waterways, yes there are no cars here, although Venice it is not. The comparison somehow undermines both stunning locations and Giethoorn deserves a place in a tourist’s agenda, all by itself.
These northern reaches of the Netherlands have a wild feel about them as you see the landscape change from its westerly neighbours. The polders give way to marshland and peat bogs that have served this region so well for hundreds of years. In fact Giethoorn was born from this industry. When local workers started to dig up peat from the soil they stumbled across remnants of goat horns from animals killed by floods. And from that moment Giet (goat) hoorn (horn) was born.
The 6km elongated village is strewn with narrow waterways, rickety wooden bridges and the most gorgeous thatched cottages, that would look at home on a box of chocolates. With the ‘whisper boats’ that silently glide up the canals, you get a real feel for the peaceful existence in this charming village. Arrive here early before the coach parties of Chinese turn up. So popular is it to this eastern nation, that shop signs are in Chinese and there is a dedicated Chinese restaurant to boot. Apparently it’s all due to the successful YouTube documentary Ni Hao Holland where Cherry, who lives in Beijing, dreams of swapping the stress of life there for the serene life of ‘quacking ducks’ in Giethoorn.
We stayed at Jachthaven Kuiper (52.72141 6.073414), which one of three Aires along the canal that allows motorhome parking. We paid €11 for a pitch and €1 per person with water, EHU and showers all costing extra. Wifi was free.
Anyway Giethoorn… Go! It’s a must see when you are travelling to the Netherlands and only 90 minutes east of Amsterdam. You’ll love it. Check out our gallery below to see it for yourself.
The Netherlands will always be close to my heart and each time we go, it embeds itself deeper into my affections. And I defy anyone to come to this ‘flat’ land and describe it as boring. The Netherlands is so far removed from boring as you can get. It’s one of those countries that oozes personality and culture and leaves us wanting to return for more delicious Dutch delights. With its ease of access by plane into Schipol Airport close to Amsterdam and by road from UK and Europe, the Netherlands cries out to be explored. And with Dutch hospitality sure to make you feel at home, this charming northwestern European country needs to go on your list, soon! And we hope we’ve elevate it onto your agenda.
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Come to Portugal and immerse yourself in so much more than golden sand between your toes. Whilst the beaches entice any sun seeker, Portugal cries out to be heard on the historical stage. A saunter inland will open up a history lesson that will give your Portuguese experience a depth and context that will not disappoint. And it is the Alentejos region’s capital Évora that offers our classroom today… Come on in and check out our highlights of this ancient capital steeped in Roman and Gothic ghosts.
Where to find Évora
Évora is one of those places that whilst is built up on the outside, offers a compact and charming presence on the inside, sheltering its Roman ruins, cobbled streets and ample churches by protective city walls. Évora sets the scene for battle, conquests and supremacy which vibrate in its very foundations. And such is its importance that it has earned itself UNESCO status and is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns network according to Wikipedia.
No more than 2 hours away from Lisbon, Évora is in easy reach, albeit probably not in a day trip. We headed east from the coast at Comporta for a bit of a beach break and found some amazing off-the-beaten track routes through rural Portugal. Surrounded by landscape littered with ancient megaliths, Évora has a real tale to tell going back 5000 years!
The Roman’s took charge of Évora in 57BC where baths and much of the city walls remain as a testimony to this period. Nearly 600 years later the Moors conquered Évora and they ruled for over 400 years until the Portuguese took charge in 1166. Much of Portugal under the reign of King Alfonso was released from Moorish rule and its identity today is significantly shaped by this epoch. Since then Évora has endured more battles and each time it seems that this small town has been a stalwart standing the test of time and war.
With Évora’s colourful past, each building knits together a visual storyboard to entertain its visitor and these are the magnets that draw thousands of tourists each year. We took our bicycles in to the city, which is not to be recommended as the streets are steep, cobbled and a lot of them are one-way making it difficult to reach places. So we suggest using the map below to do a self-guided tour. Click on the map for an Interactive Tour of Évora.
Évora’s 7 Highlights
The Roman Empire is known for its engineering prowess and the aqueduct is one of their legacies still visible today. And Évora’s aqueduct is a great example of their genius. We were lucky enough to be able to park alongside this magnificent and ancient symbol and just a two minute stroll through the city gates, and you can walk the length of the structure to its origin (38.57596, -7.91292). What is lovely to note is how the houses are built into the arches. There are examples of this throughout the town; modern supporting ancient, what an interesting symbiosis. (38.57147, -7.90975)
2. Praça do Giraldo
Évora’s beating heart can be found in the Giraldo Square. Not really square, more of an oblong, although characterful none the less. It is here that you will find the Tourist Information office which we suggest is your next station stop for a map. A useful phrase is Posso ter uma mapa por favor? Can I have a map please? (38.57063, -7.90941)
From here you can look up towards the regal Saint Antonio church, which has so much personality yet is dressed in simplicity compared to the Gothic architecture that frames the Square’s edges. Giraldo invites you to stop for a coffee and people watch or may be indulge in a Portuguese Nater, especially good if you have a sweet tooth.
3. Roman Temple and Cathedral
Perhaps one of Évora’s most famous landmarks are her Roman ruins. (38.57259, -7.90729). The temple known as the Diana Temple is in the heart of the museum quarter and somehow conveys a robustness about the Roman Empire. It has itself so much history with its identity changing throughout the centuries. Its role has evolved from being part of the castle, an abattoir and a log store. The ruins are in a remarkable condition and with the backdrop of the Cathedral and the little park, it’s a lovely area to hang out for a bit. Do check out the view from the edge of the gardens, overlooking Évora’s rooftops and to the city’s exterior.
4. Town Hall and Roman baths
This old palace is now home to the political hub of the town and its area. This is a magnificent Square bordered by a church and financial buildings. Entry into the Town Hall is permitted for free, as are the Roman baths, which we wish we had visited. (38.57228, -7.90963)
5. Chapel of Bones
Aside the Roman ruins, Évora’s other significant draw is the Capela dos Ossos – Chapel of Bones. (38.56873, -7.90884) For a €5pp entry ticket you can get access to this most eery and yet fascinating place of worship and meditation. This tiny 16th chapel in the grounds of the Church of St Francis is a thought-provoking visit. Built by monks as a solution to the growing number of cemeteries around the town; they interned the bones and in a bid to honour the dead, decided to put them on display within the structure of this building. 5,000 corpses today form the fabric of the chapel; bones and skulls don the walls, the pillars and the architrave. It is the most bizarre form of art; art that holds a message for its viewer, prompting them to think beyond the visual display in front of them – the transitory nature of life. The Chapel makes you reflect on the journey of life and how we rush through the days without pause for the moment. It’s a sobering visit.
6. Church of St Francis
Whilst dropping in to pay your respects to the bones, you may be forgiven for feeling so overwhelmed that you miss the Church of St Francis, which is the main body of this area. It sits on the roots of a church dating back to 1200’s. Its Gothic design is impressive and as you walk into the longest nave of any Portuguese church, its gilting will wow you. There’s gold everywhere. It really does deserve a short visit.
7. Cycle/Walk around the city walls
After the reflections from the Chapel of Bones, heading to the gardens just beneath the church brings your mind back to the beauty of the world. (38.56734, -7.91001). There were lots of repairs going on when we visited, although I imagine it is full of splendour in the summer months. With its bandstand and peacocks, it’s a lovely place to wander. And from here you can access part of the upper walk around the walls, feeling the past beneath your feet. And then continuing your route on the lower level, you can trace your steps back to the beginning of your walking tour and end up at the aqueduct once more.
Évora – our conclusions
If you love history, culture and context, then Évora will be a great place to visit. If you need a break from the coast, Évora will satisfy your need for curiosity – just for a day. Its cobbled streets are not just atmospheric, they are a piece of history’s jigsaw that will leave you understanding just a little more about Portugal. It will leave you richer for standing in the footprints of our ancestors before we head back to the inevitable draw of the western sunsets and crashing waves. We highly recommend this little detour in your Portugal tour.
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Buongiorno e benvenuto!
Italy has been our home for over three months in the last three years and it’s been an experience of Highs and Lows. One thing we adore is the language. I’ve had some great teachers along the way from a Campsite Receptionist, who is now a friend, to camper neighbours who shared their local knowledge.
Imagine the scene; Emilio in his 70’s, looked like he had come straight off the set of an Italian Mafia film and his younger wife Anna by at least 15 years, who fulfilled most of the duties, not in a subservient way, just as though it were the most natural thing in the world to do. They spoke very little English, so between us we spoke French, pigeon Italian and the odd word of Queeny’s tongue. What an incredible hour we had together and thanks to them, had some amazing experiences in Tuscany. They even gave us their phone number is case of any issues whilst in Italy. And oh boy! Could we have used that half a dozen times in the last month.
During our time here, we’ve experienced Lakes in the guise of Garda and Trasimeno, stayed in a volcanic crater just outside Naples and overnighted outside a Benedictine Monastery up in the mountains; we had two free, wild jacuzzis and mud wraps in the mountains – courtesy of Tuscany’s natural thermal springs. We’ve watched the sun go down on our lakeside ‘home’ in Umbria and watched it rise through Tuscany’s evocative poplar trees. We found flamingoes on the Po Delta together with a few million midges that must be on their winter retreat from Scotland. We’ve seen Pisa’s tower lean a bit, Florence’s iconic Duomo Cathedral and Pontevecchio bridge, been treated to sunset in our beloved Venice and visited the iconic hillside towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino of wine fame. And that’s before we mention the Cinque Terre and the famous Stelvio Pass which was hair-raising and brilliant all at the same time.
And then we had adventures of getting ripped off in San Marino’s tax haven principality, had our bikes stolen from a public space in Lucca, been subjected to the worst roads and motorways we’ve ever been on and took part in a chaotic, free-for-all junk-yard derby that made Delhi look like an empty supermarket car park. Sadly our road-trip south, which had the intention of experiencing Pompeii, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, was thwarted by the crowds, crazy-frog drivers and a bit of rubbish navigating on my part. How we came away sane and unscathed is beyond us.
Although despite all this, I have to say that each time we return to Italy, we love it a little bit more. I think our first visit scared the be-gesus out of us. Once you know the rules for navigating Italy mindfully, then it’ll end up being a fabulous experience. So you must come and make up your own minds.
Check out our Interactive Map below for all our Italian highlights from 2016-2018.
Our Italian Realisations
As we reflect on our Italian adventures over the years, we’ve learnt a few things about our pizza eating, pasta making friends:
Our 14 Highlights
Well you can’t say Italy without immediately thinking about Venice. And whilst it suffers hugely from both tourist erosion and flooding, somehow this community seems to continue life as if there were no problems – typically Italian. With its canals, gondolas, bridges and islands, Venice has to be seen both by day and by night. Both deliver a completely different vibe. Check out our experience here.
Northern Italy that rubs shoulders with Austria and Switzerland is all about the battle of the mountains. At one end you have the Dolomites with their towering spikes that can be seen for miles, to the more femininely curvaceous Alps at the western end. Both mountains spectacular in their own way, each offering a unique personality and Italian experience. Either way you will hold you breath and gasp.
3. Stelvio Pass
When we think of Italian roads, the image isn’t good. Although think again when you ponder on the driving challenge that is THE STELVIO PASS. We’ve driven a couple of Europe’s ‘most dangerous roads’, although I have to say this was the most challenging of them all. Not only is the road in good condition, it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever experience. Driving from Bolzano is a must, if nothing more than to save your brakes. The wiggles that snake up to the mountain’s snow line are just so testing; one after another, after another. It is exhausting especially in a motorhome, although out of season most definitely doable and we highly recommend it. Check out our footage here.
4. Lake Garda
Nestled in the bosom of the Alps, Lake Garda is the largest of all the Italian Lakes and whilst it is incredibly busy, even in September, it is a great experience. Whether you choose to do it by car, bicycle (using any one of the ferries), kayak or moped, Lake Garda is a gift that keeps on giving. Intense blue waters, northern winds that provide the sail power for the windsurfers and atmospheric villages that cling to the lakeside edges, Garda has it all. Limone is a delight, Gargnano charming and Riva in the north, buzzy.
5. Porto Venere
Sat on the eastern fringe of the Cinque Terre National Park, Porto Venere has sadly been missed off the ‘Famous Five’ list. And it is beyond our comprehension why. With its harbour, peninsular and iconic Gothic church, its narrow alleyways full of characterful houses, Porto Venere is supremely more beautiful than the ‘five’ in our opinion. With fewer crowds to affect your experience, this is definitely one to put on your list. Check out our footage here.
What superlatives can I use to aptly describe Tuscany that won’t undermine its tend charm and infinite beauty? So I will conjure up an image for you that may entice you to this Italian region. Imagine rolling hills, carved with sunflower fields and poplar trees that cluster together along roads and driveways, that in the autumn mists and sunrise light offer you a scene out of Gladiator. With natural springs hidden in forests that bubble and soothe away your aches and villages perched on hills that offer a grandeur in their lofty status and wine oozing from the acres of vineyards that cover the land. Tuscany has romance at its core with divine beauty etched into every piece of soil. I defy you to not fall in love with this region. Volterra, Montepulcanio, Montalcino, Pomerance, Talemone, Bagno Vignoni and the White Whale of San Felippo Bagnoni. Deliciousness on a map. Check out loads of footage we have here.
8. Po Delta
On the eastern coast, just a stone’s throw from the Venice magnet you come to flat lands that you wonder what beauty they can hold. Although for a completely unique and diverse landscape the Po Delta region is awash with wild life and salt-flats. And with this type of scenery you get flamingoes. Swarms of them – and mosquitos sadly. Although if timed right, a tour around the delta and Comacchio will give you a completely different perspective of Italy.
9. Alberobello and Matera in the south
The south has many undiscovered gems and given that most tourists go for the easy to reach northern regions, Alberobello and Matera are relatively unscathed by tourists. Alberobello with its famous Trulli houses are quaint and one of the most unique buildings I’ve ever seen. White washed buildings and their round stone roofs transport you back in time as you wander around the cobbled streets of this UNESCO village. In contrast not more than 45 minutes drive away you have the rock village of Matera. Carved into the hillside with caves that dwellers called their homes Matera will delight you. Overlooking its river gorge, walks, bird watching and café culture will entice you to this place and make you wonder why you have never been before. Check out our footage here.
10. Paestum – Greek Temples
So many flock to Pompeii to see the famous, ancient Roman city and its fickle volcano Vesuvius. Although it is for this very reason that we searched for something more authentic and not an expensive tourist trap. Heading past Naples, past Solerno and on towards Agropoli and you will find a far more genuine and less crowded monument. In fact Paestum is a Greek archeological site and its temples are in a great state, the best we have ever seen. It is definitely worth travelling a little further south to see this place. Check out what we saw here.
The Amalfi coast is certainly beautiful and given that driving a motorhome along its roads is forbidden, we decided on approaching it by sea. We took a ferry from Salerno (where there is a campsite about 15 minutes down the road) and disembarked at the town of Amalfi. The town is, like many of it sibling resorts, crowded with coach loads of tourists, although if you get away from the main high street some of the views of the town from up above are great. Just for the sheer hell of it, we would highly recommend taking the bus back. Although it takes nerves of steel as the bus driver throws the vehicle around narrow lanes and steep overhanging cliffs, it is certainly an experience. Check out our experience here.
Making the most of your Italian adventure
1) Despite Italy’s reputation, do come as it is beautiful – if you plan ahead to the specific sites you want to see then it becomes much more pleasurable.
2) To cover Italy’s extensive miles, we suggest you take the toll roads and suck up the fees if you want to minimise brain ache and wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s not always pretty, although the ride is not pretty on some of the main roads. Even the non-tolled motorways are shocking.
3) Italy has some amazing cities and palatial cathedrals, that rival Spain, although when visiting these Italian icons, stay in a campsite and take the bus. Crime here is rife.
4) Don’t make our mistake – pay for car parks and DO NOT park in side streets, even if there are cameras and other vehicles around.
5) If you go to Pisa, you’ll only need to see the main Cathedral and tower – there is nothing else – so an hour tops we would recommend.
6) Put Venice on the list, although stay at the site (if with a motorhome) on the inside of the city – Tronchetto, which is just over the bridge, that way you can experience Venice by day and night, which is very special.
7) See Florence out of season as the crowds are crazy and go early if you want to climb the Tower. Our advice for the best view of the city, is to walk to Michaelangelo’s statue, up the 167 steps – yes we counted them – the view over the entire city is exceptional.
8) Do not miss Italy’s eastern coast, south of Venice into the Po Delta. It is a nature lover’s paradise and a stunning natural environment, although keep away from the coastal towns as they are not pretty.
9) Bare in mind that any Italian with a motorhome will go away in it over the weekend, even out of season. So don’t expect to find Sostas (equivalent to French Aires) with much space.
10) Italian kids don’t go back to school until third week in September, so campsites are still classed as high season until then and then they close down anywhere from end of September to end of October.
11) I’m sure the Amalfi coast is lovely, although do not go in a motorhome unless you have a very strong constitution for driving. Campsites are limited and Motorhomes are not allowed on the Amalfi road. Go for a week’s holiday instead or even better, go on a cruise! It is the maddest area of Italy that we have experienced and that includes other main cities like Florence and Venice.
12) Expect the unexpected here and you’ll be ok.
13) The fresh pasta and mozzarella here is incredible, as is their cheap wine. Stock on their baked beans found in larger supermarkets so that in your trip back up through western Europe you have supplies, as the French just don’t do Baked Beans!
14) Learn a few words of Italian as it is the most musical language ever and actually not difficult to converse with a handful of stock phrases. The best phrase I learnt was ‘Posso’, which means ‘Could I?’ From here you can say ‘Could I have’, ‘Could I pay’, ‘Could I buy’. They appreciate the effort, even if it means you have to resort to Google Translate for the rest.
15) And finally, do come. We’ve not seen half of Italy yet and we still love it, you just keep your whits about you.
So our conclusion on Italy? There are many pockets of beauty in amidst some unlovedness, with crazy drivers and rubbish roads. It is a bit like a sweet and sour dish. There are most definitely two flavours to Italy and whilst we will always go back, we do so with eyes wide open and our nerves braced. For all our Italian adventures including Florence, this page gives you all our posts and videos. Italy in a nutshell.
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