Country number: 12
Territory Number: 14
When? Early and onwards
How? Bus, car, camping, caravan
Who? With Don, with Susanna, with Chris
I first travelled to Italy with Don on our way back from our first big overland car and camping trip in Europe. We went to Yugoslavia (the roads were diabolical) and returned via Trieste, dipping down to Lido di Jesolo and taking a day trip on the boat to Venice, before pottering off to France.
We caught a vaporetto from Lido de Jesolo to the islands and wandered the narrow streets of Venice. Gondolas were too expensive to contemplate, as was coffee in St Mark’s Square. But we sang Just One Cornetto , ate melt in the mouth calamari in a corner restaurant, admired the Murano glass and crossed the Bridge of Sighs.
Lido di Jesolo was my first experience of wall to wall sunbeds, backed by wall to wall tents behind the endless sands. Venice was captivating. Drinks with the masses in St Mark’s Square, wandering the canals, peeping over the bridges and admiring the Murano glass in the many boutiques lining the streets. We consumed delicious calamari in a delightful side street restaurant. Gondolas were ruled out, on the grounds of cost, but the arias that accompanied the tourists with money to burn wafted past us, free. ‘Just one cornetto…’
In later years, we went skiing in the Alps and the majestic Dolomites, Livigno, Madesimo and Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Susanna and I made a visit to Rome and Sorrento. Rome was satisfying and Sorrento scintillating. The whole of Italy paraded along the promenade at night. We took the hovercraft to Naples. No-one was running organised trips there at that time- it was considered to be too risky. We took nothing with us except a cheap camera. There wasn’t much to see- maybe we went to the wrong part-we were a little nervous. Some urchins offered to take our pictures and ran off chuckling when we refused to hand over the camera.
Pompeii was more rewarding -we soaked up the history and picked up pieces of pumice on Vesuvius. We took a boat trip to crowded bougainvillea filled Capri and a coach trip along the Amalfi coast. It was suitably gorgeous and the churches stunning. But the bus crawled along the narrow coast road – the Italians weren’t too fussy about where they parked their cars. We wove slowly round these and at one point the bus driver commandeered a gang of locals and they lifted one offending vehicle right out of the way. Despite all the warnings we didn’t get our bottoms pinched though.
Chris and I drove to Tuscany, visiting Pisa, Lucca, Siena and Florence. The autostradas were an experience, the city traffic was terrible and it was almost impossible to park. Florence was magical, especially the iconic views across the Arno to the red roofs of the city. Siena was fascinating and straw strewn- the locals all bedecked in medieval costumes. Preparations for the second Palio horse race of the year were underway. We parked the caravan with views across the picture book scenery to the castle on Fiesole; I was reading John Mortimer’s summer’s lease and we sought out and sampled all the wines he mentioned in his writing. Vernaccia de San Gimignano was superb.