Friday, 22 August 2014


We got a little lost on our way back to a better road south from the Termi di Saturnia when we came across the above pictured fort. I have no idea where we were but my husband was so impressed by it, he had to pull over and get a shot. Castles, forts, and amphitheatres were his favourite sights. Mine were churches, narrow alleyways and steps.

We had two rules on the journey. One was to always ensure we filled up with petrol when the car hit half full - if we got lost the last thing we wanted to worry about was the possibility of running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere - and the second rule was to find a camp site before dark, preferably by 7pm - it isn't easy pitching up when you can't see properly.

It was early evening when we got back to a main blue road. We couldn't find any signs to camp sites along the way so I checked the Camping guide book I'd bought for the trip. It mentioned a couple in Rome and although we had no intentions of visiting the city, we were pleased to find somewhere to stay. However, it was about 8pm when we pulled in. The place was huge and very expensive - but then it did supply toilet roll which was a rarity in camp site toilets where you're normally expected to provide your own.

There was a group of young Australians camped nearby and adult supervisors staying in a huge camper van next to our tent. We'd had something to eat and just got the kettle on when the downpour came again. We were both irritable,tired and fed up of rain.

We went off to seek wi-fi and find the bar which was packed with the Aussies watching a world cup football match. There was lots of drinking and lots of noise. The wi-fi didn't work, the bar was too noisy, it was raining hard, and so at about 10pm we decided to get our heads down for the night.

Sleep was impossible because the young Australians got louder and louder. Sound carries further after dark. Every time we nodded off, there was more whooping and yelling from the kids and that rave type music that feels like someone's taking a hammer to your head with every thumping, dischorded beat. At 4am I could stand no more. I sat upright and shouted at the top of my voice :"This camp shouldn't be selling alcohol to kids at this time in the morning and those teachers need bloody shooting for allowing that lot to drink all night!" On reflection, it was a bit harsh. We were staying at a holiday camp after all. They were just having fun and why should they creep around because two weary, knackered, and middle aged travellers needed sleep - although clearly on the night, I was very irate.

About five minutes after my outburst, everything went deathly quiet. Tent walls are as thin as paper. Maybe the adults in the camper van next to us - which flew the Australian flag - heard and sorted out the rowdy bunch or maybe the 4am wake up call was the official end to whatever party they were at. We managed to drop off but we had to be up and packed early. We woke about 8am and there was no sign of the Aussies who were, perhaps, snoozing on a coach taking them somewhere.

We drove for two hours around Rome looking for a road sign to Naples which was the direction we needed for Pompei. We got so frustrated at driving round in circles, that we reluctantly took a green toll road just to get us moving again. As it turned out, it wasn't as expensive as France. We paid two Euro when we came off.

We drove through the outskirts of Naples and it looked a bit grim. To find it's beautiful centre, we'd have to drive in and we both wanted to avoid getting lost again so we bypassed it in favour of staying in Pompei. We were both more interested in seeing the volcanic ruins than art in Naples anyway.

I was vary of using the camping guide book again but a site it recommended seemed easy to get to by just taking a turn off the motorway. When I read properly the description of the Rome camp site, it did say that it was more geared up to attract the young. If I was 18 - 30, I probably would have loved it. However, Camping Zeus sounded perfect and more our cup of tea, especially as it was right at the entrance of the ruins. We decided to hang around for a few days for sightseeing, to get some washing done as the weather was glorious, and to rest.

We'd just got settled in and had tea when this little chap came along to say hello.

He was a bit mucky and he had fleas but he was very friendly and clearly liked the company of people. I looked around thinking he must belong to someone on the site but I soon found out he was a stray. He didn't stay long before moving on. We called him Zeus after the camp site. Later on, as we walked through the town, we saw many dogs wandering around on their own and with others and we realised no one owned them. We saw the sandy coloured puppy walking away from the camp site behind two older dogs as we approached after our walk. I pointed him out to my husband and said : "Ooh look, there's Zeus," and the dog turned his head at the mention of the name we had given him and I swear he smiled as dogs sometimes do.

The next day was blistering hot and we had hours to look around the ruins. The first thing we saw was an old dog resting on the cool marble floor of the entrance. Signs were posted around warning tourists not to approach the strays. Not all of them were as friendly as Zeus and this one certainly wasn't. We saw him later barking at and chasing cars.

I hadn't realised historic Pompeii was an actual city and it took some getting around. We walked for four hours and didn't get around it all. I wanted to see the erotic art and the casts of bodies (black tourism again) but we couldn't find them. I did see some casts isolated on their own and my husband picked up a fridge magnet while there which gave us a taste of what we had missed. There were other artistic frescoes to see and mosaics too.

There was a sadness about the place and it did feel a little immoral taking tourist photos of what was a massive human tragedy. This was clearly in other visitors' minds. A little girl was laughing and playing near the cast of a sitting person with his hands to his face that looks like he's weeping. Her father asked her to have some respect. They are not real bodies but each cast represents a person who died an awful death.

Apparently, when the exotic art was discovered it was thought too disgusting, initially, to show to the public and then men were later allowed to view it. Woman were banned from seeing it until the 1980s.

Camping Zeus run trips to the top of Vesuvius but if you want to go to the crater, you have to pay extra. We took the bus ride which was hair raising. I mention it in detail HERE in an article looking at a different aspect of Italian life but if you're a rabid anti-smoker, it's best not to look.

The roads to the top were were narrow and hairpin like this one. Initially the weather was lovely but as we left Vesuvius, the heavens opened which made the ride a little more unnerving. It stopped by the time we reached an isolated bar on route where we had free wine tasting and bruschetta.

We didn't go to the crater because of a misunderstanding about the cost and a row my husband had with a shirty guide at the entrance to the crater walk, so we hung around at the foot of it picking up pieces of lava for the grandkids and taking photos of the lizards running around. We also had a beer in the bar and a chat with our bus crew who were great.

The rain came back to the camp and so did Zeus who had popped in every day to say hello. I felt sorry for him walking this way and that, following people who he thought might take him in and out of the rain. If I'd had something bigger than a two man tent, I might have taken him in and if I could have taken him home, I would, but it was impossible. We didn't see him again after that night. We asked the staff about him and other strays in the area and why there was no dog warden of anyone to look after them, but he said that was just the way it was. I wondered if Zeus had managed to melt another camper's heart and been taken home. I hoped so anyway. He was definitely a dog, or rather a pup, who wanted a human friend.

We said goodbye to Pompeii and headed down to Tropea. My husband was all for cracking on towards Sicily but I reminded him it wasn't supposed to be a race and Tropea looked gorgeous. The place was packed with people as we drove through the small town and it was difficult to negotiate our way past them all walking on the roads because the pavements weren't big enough. We didn't find the site mentioned in my guide book which was just as well. Quite by accident, as we gave up and headed back on the road towards Reggio Calabria, where we would take the ferry to Sicily, we found a little piece of heaven at the Paradiso del Sub in Zambrone - a place that wasn't even on the map.

We pulled in at the sign and then followed a long, winding, narrow road down, wondering where it would eventually lead us. Then we saw this when we got to the bottom and it took our breath away.

The link above to Paradiso Del Sub shows there is a whole different side to the camp site which we didn't see. We were happy with the camping pitch because apart from two other campers in a tent, who left the next day, a bloke who came out every day to sit on a huge rock and fish, and a family in a caravan, there was no one else around so it felt like we had it all pretty much to ourselves, although a few people who were staying in nearby bungalows on the site occasionally walked past and disappeared along the path. We didn't know where they went but I'm guessing to the swimming pool and the whole camping village that we didn't know existed.

The photo above shows the view from our tent. We were lulled to sleep each night by the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. I could have stayed there all holiday but we weren't even half way on our journey so reluctantly after a couple of days, we moved on in search of new adventures in Sicily - a place we both looked forward to getting to.

Tomorrow's post recalls how we ended up at a lovely site just around the corner from Inspector Montalbano's house, how we lost the car in Trapani and failed to make ourselves understood at one of the few times when being able to speak Italian really mattered, how my husband fell foul of police in Aquadolce, and earlier got stung by a jelly fish in Letojanni where we camped because it was close to Taormina.

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