Monte Sant'Angelo, Italy - July 21, 2010
Well I'm now in Monte Sant'Angelo, Italy, looking down on Manfredonia where I was last night. Well, 150 miles and 5 hours riding later. Very interesting last couple of days.
I caught the ferry in Igoumenitsa, Greece after waiting 10 hours in the ferry terminal. Ferry left at 10:30 at night, and the cafeteria on board didn't open until midnight. Hadn't had anything to eat all day and so I was really looking forward to it. A $7 plate of spaghetti later and I was ready for a sleep. Now just to be clear, there was virtually no one on this ferry. Huge boat, maybe 8 cars and I think 5 trucks. Maximum 40 people plus crew? Anyway, I laid down on one of the couches and zapped right out. Got woken by one of the crew... no sleeping on the couches, had to go to one of the chairs. Forget that. I've never seen a ferry where you can't sleep wherever you can. On the ferry from England to France, it was hard to get around in the night from all the people sleeping on the floor. Anyway... so I went up onto the boat deck and slept on one of the metal boxes in which they keep the life jackets. It was next to the stack and so was warm, but every once in a while I catch a good whiff of diesel smoke. Needless to say, pretty lousy night's sleep. But if we were going down and anyone wanted a life jacket, they were gonna have to go through me first.
Ferry to Brindisi
The ferry got to Brindisi about 9 AM, two hours late. It must have had to tack into the wind or something. There was no breakfast on board, but I was able to get a cup of coffee from the bar. Powdered coffee in a paper cup made with ship's tap water and warmed by the steam of the cappuccino machine. That will be 3 Euro... $4. Ouch!
Ents? Olive Trees?
I drove up the coast sampling the worst of the Italian drivers along the way. Some of the roads here are placarded no pedestrians, no tractors, no bicycles... and no motorcycles... WTF??? Apparently a 140 Euro fine. So had to use the GPS to find back roads. One road turned into a gravel track before coming to a dead end. The GPS said it continued, but it had a closed sign. There was a farmer coming down a little track next to it in a car, and so I asked him about any other route through and he said that there wasn't. Very little Italian from me, no English from him. But if I followed him, he was going to another town and he would get me to a road that would go to Manfredonia, where I was headed. Well that was interesting. He took me down some very rough gravel and cobbled path, through an irrigation or game tunnel or something under a highway, up a bank and onto a road. Go that way, 2 km, then right... then left... then... and hey, it worked! Made it to Manfredonia.
The Italian Coast, North of Brindisi
Way too hot to camp although I saw some good places earlier in the day. Almost no one in them though. So I checked into the first hotel I came across. Just wanted dinner and a good sleep. First thing, I forgot to ask about air conditioning. Got into the room and there was a ceiling fan that turned only slightly faster than the one's in Sam's place in the movie Casablanca. Only a breath of air. And it was stiflingly hot. Every place has these metal security blinds over their doors and windows, not so much for security as to keep the keep the light and heat out. And they were all closed. Anyway, it didn't get much better at night because even though it was cooler outside and I had the blinds open, the walls of the room were so hot it just re-radiated the heat. The room just never cooled. Another lousy night. I also discovered yesterday that my horn didn't work. Well, that's like going into battle and realizing that you left your sword back in camp. So I found a loose wire but had to pull the gas tank to get to it this morning. By 8:30, I was just soaked again from the sweat. But hey... I'm ready for another day of battle on the roads. The sword is sharp again!
But I headed out this morning for what turned out to be a very refreshing day. Started out counterclockwise around that little blip on the back of the Italian boot. The drivers were better behaved and had some very nice views along the way. But after getting about half-way around, I decided I'd had enough coastline and headed inland. I saw on the map that there was a national park there. So headed UP this road. Literally. It was a road up into the mountains that was basically just that...straight up. 1st gear, virtually no turns and just up and up and up. Came to some town that had such steep streets that I dare not stop anywhere, then finally got on top. Got onto a more reasonable road that quickly entered one of the most heavily forested places I've seen in a long time. Really nice. Cool, dark, and no traffic. So dark in fact that even though it was noon, I could see my headlight beam illuminating the road ahead. Very cool. Lots of nice picnic areas and trails I could see. Not much undergrowth and so you could see quite a long ways into the forest. Just very neat. By the time I came out, however, I could see that the clouds were building and started getting some rain. But about 30 minutes later,I glimpsed some medieval city sitting up on a far ridge, with a castle and all that and headed there. And that's how I found this place.
Overlooking Monte Sant'Angelo
Started to drive into the town but realized that there are no real drivable streets here. Headed down some cobble stoned one and saw the dead-end sign just as somebody yelled something at me. Got turned around just before it turned into a long series of steps leading down to probably another series of steps. I saw signs to hotels, but didn't see any actual hotels. I think you need to walk to them and didn't want to haul my gear too far. Anyway, I eventually found one just on the edge of town...but it was 4-star. 4-star? I can handle that, particularly after the last two nights. So here I am toughing it out.
Had a nice walk into town after checking in. Neat place and toured the local castle ruins. 9th to 15th century. Lots of nooks and crannies to explore. And the town seems to be built around stairways that's for sure. Not for those with heart problems or Paroxysmal Sinus Ventricular Tachycardia. Maybe I'll go for a swim instead. Or a pedicure.
Anyway, I'm off to Pompeii tomorrow. Yeah, I know, it's on the other side of Italy. Bad planning again. But I do think it is too fantastic to miss. So will head over there tomorrow, or at least go until it starts to rain again. Then after, will work my way up and over to the old family haunts north of Venice. Pompeii may be hot again. And the room has air conditioning right?