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Vicki’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 05 Aug 2012

Location: Tivoli, Italy

MapThere's been a big delay in updating this because of the lack of internet and wifi. At the time of writing I still don't know when I'll get this posted but I'm preparing ahead in case an opportunity arises. I'm actually writing this at the Tivoli campsite I was at 2 weeks ago. There's no wifi but I have tracked down a plug on the outside washing block, where I'm now recharging my laptop. It's very windy today, but the view is amazing!
After leaving Sorrento I headed to Martina Franca, in Puglia. This is where my friends got married. I stayed in an old camper van in the orchard of their friends who live down there He's quite a famous musician but I won't name drop! After being in a tent for several days it was luxury to be able to stand up and move about in the van. They live in a trullo, which is a very small building typical of that area. Trulli look a bit like hobbit houses - they're very picturesque. Many have been converted into modern houses, but some are still derelict.
The wedding took place in the Ducal Palace in Martina Franca and was conducted by the mayor. It was very different to any wedding I've ever been to and was quite a long drawn out affair, with an interpreter. At the end of the ceremony the mayor made a really nice speech in English, which was very pro - European. After the photos we went for lunch in a local restaurant, then went our separate ways for a siesta. We all met up again at another trullo, with a swimming pool, for an evening celebration.
I ended up staying in the van for a week, seeing a bit of the area. I visited 2 Unesco World heritage sites - Alberobello, which is a whole town of trulli - very picturesque and touristy; and Matera, which is an ancient town where many of the dwellings are in caves. It was where Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ was filmed - I'll have to watch it now. The last day I was there was spent swimming in the sea - first in the Adriatic, which was a bit windy, and then on the south coast, which was much calmer. I love swimming in the sea, and the water was nice and warm. I managed to avoid getting my feet and legs nibbled by small fish (people pay money for that at home!).
I decided, after one day of swimming, that the "heel" of Italy was not for me - there's nothing else to do and the whole of Italy were heading down there for their summer holidays. Instead decided to find some more mountains. My guide book, and one of Richard's friend, suggested I go to the Pollino National park, that spans Basilicata and Calabria. So on Thursday I drove to a town called Rotonda, which was apparently the hiking centre of the area. No-one speaks any English in the south of Italy, it seems, so trying to get information about where to hike is really hard. The maps are very unhelpful (don't get me started about Italian maps!) and the sign post are unreliable and random. Rotonda was in the middle of nowhere, on tiny roads, so I found a B+B in a small town nearer to where I wanted to hike, called Frascineto. This was not a bit touristy - quite the real thing - - but everyone was friendly and helpful, despite the language difficulties (the second language in Frascineto is Albanian!).
On Friday I headed for one of the hiking areas. The canyon that had been recommended was OK but low down and not accessible by walking. So I decided to head up into the mountains. I know I had the correct road, but the higher up I got the more pot holes there were, until eventually it was so bad that I turned round. The thought of damaging the car, in the middle of nowhere, with no-one around, was just too horrendous to contemplate. I then visited a hill town, which was OK, but not what I was there for, and then thought I'd suss out the route for the walk I'd planned for Saturday, which included Mt Pollino. Good job I did - the road was just as bad, and I gave up at 1500m. So that, combined with the fact that it's not really safe to go up mountains in the middle of the day in this heat, decided it - I was giving up on Pollino and heading back to Gran Paradiso.
I drove up to Tivoli on Saturday and am staying at the same campsite. Had a really good meal by the pool again last night, and a walk up the a ruined goddess temple this morning. If you're reading this it's because I've been successful in finding an internet cafe in Tivoli. If it doesn't cost too much I'll try to download some photos too.