Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Thursday April 23rd 2009 - Friday April 24th 2009

Selano Spiaggia, Vico Equense (ACSI2009-1597) N40.66002 E14.42028

We have had our fill of the city for now, so today we set off heading south again, destination the Sorrento area and the Amalfi coast.

On our way south through France we did pass the time of day with several fellow Campervan/Caravan owners, who when we said we were headed for Sicily, muttered about the state of the roads. We were somewhat puzzled by this, since we had previously been as far South as Florence (by car), and Venice with the campervan. On these trips we had found the roads to be good, indeed the motorways were so well surfaced as to be billiard table like.

As we headed south of Rome we began to see what people were talking about. We did not know it as this stage, but this was only the beginning. First the simple things, road signs lack any distance information and road numbering information, plus the small detail that as we have found since entering Italy, they flout the EU standards on road signs, they have motorways signposted in green and all other roads in blue, unlike every other country in the EU, so arguments between the satnav and Kathleen increased dramatically. Then the potholes, even on major roads it was not uncommon to have to reduce speed to 30mph to avoid having everything shaken loose and flying about the van.

As we reach Naples, the roads get even worse, some sections are made of paving stone sized cobles (in the style the Romans made roads I think, from seeing Pompei later) and they are far from flat, so it is like driving across a ploughed field. Although it is only shortly after midday, the sky darkens and a massive thunderstorm erupts. As we join the “Ring road” to skirt Naples, we are met with a river of water running down the slip road off the major road (don’t they have drains here?). Once on the ring road, which is mostly reduced to single file traffic by road works, we are unfortunate enough to get behind a Tata pickup truck, driven by the only Italian who wants to travel at 20mph. Eventually I see a chance to overtake (it is a no overtaking zone, but by now I have entered the spirit of things and I am ignoring such details), as I begin to overtake, oncoming cars flash frantically, they are warning me there is a “Carbenari” up ahead, so I pull back in an crawl along at 20mph. The rain stops as quickly as it began, and we get a magnificent view of Vesuvius, cloud still clinging to its summit as we leave Naples and head for our site on the peninusular beside Salerno. As we approach the coast, we see the shape of things to come on this section of coast, the road is narrow, and twists along a ledge on a cliff, occasionally plunging into a tunnel, the views are spectacular, with villages perched precariously on the steep edge, and the blue of the sea 50 to 100 feet below, usually but not always with a crash barrier between us and it. Several times I am forcefully told to watch the road and not the view, as Kathleen’s anxiety level increases.

Eventually we come to yet another 90 degree bend and plunge into a tunnel which emerges about a kilometre later in Vico Equense. Following the sat nav instructions we edge around an impossibly tight bend and begin to descend a narrow twisting road to the actual shoreline. Although we have doubts that this tiny road can lead us anywhere except a dead end the trusty Tomtom brings us to the entrance of the campsite. We are met by the English speaking owner, who directs us to a pitch and gives us the low down on where everything is. He is very pleasant and helpful, but I think in an earlier life he must have been a school teacher, since he speaks to us throughout as if we were 5 year olds.

The site is small, there is so little flat ground here, it is hard to imagine why they use any of for a campsite!, but everything works and it clean. Most of the other Vans and Caravans are German, one brave soul is even towing a “Smart Car” behind him. But next to us is a Spanish registered van, the owners however are English, having moved to Spain some 30 years ago, they travel the rest of Europe in a Campervan when the fancy takes them, since they are both very sprightly 70 year olds, it is not doing them any harm.

The next day we decide to visit Sorrento, first we catch a bus in the village by the sea. This in itself is an experience, there appears to be no timetable, the chap in the bar next to the bus stop assures us the bus will come, just have another drink. Patience is not a virtue with one of us. The bus eventually arrives and takes us along the impossibly narrow and twisty road with much honking of the horn (but little slowing down) at each blind hairpin bend, and deposits us at the Railway station in Vico Equense. We buy our tickets and try to figure out which of the platforms we need. Some guesswork from the announcements takes us to platform two where (in time) a train for Sorrento arrives. We duly arrive, and spend a few hours exploring this attractive little place, before we retire to a pavement café to watch the world go by. Then we return to the railway station and make our way back to Vico Equense. We decide against waiting for the bus to take us down the hill (there is no bar to wait in), so we walk, not so bad going downhill, and the views are spectacular.

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