Our Road Trip around Europe Continues!
Speedboats, historic ruins and of course a fantastic Greek wedding. We had experienced a lot during our tour of Greece. Next stop on our European Road Trip was Italy. Read on to find out what it had in store!
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European Road Trip in a Self Build Motorhome: Day 26 [Total Miles: 3549]
We slept very well on board the ferry despite a number of car alarms sounding. Furthermore, the crossing was incredibly smooth and it was hard to tell that we were moving at all!
I had set an alarm for 6am so that we could watch the stunning sunrise and last few hours of the crossing. We sat on the step eating breakfast before making friends with a Dutch couple also travelling around in a motorhome.
Eventually we docked in Bari, Italy at around 11:00. Unfortunately the port was extremely busy and motorhomes were the last to disembark. Consequently it was almost two hours until we were finally out of the port!
Bari was very busy, however luckily we managed to park on a side street near to the city centre. We then spent several hours exploring the many churches and cathedral. Erica also enjoyed spending time in some of the small Italian shops. Fortunately, we found an ice cream parlour and sat in the shade eating delicious Italian Ice cream!
After several hours exploring Bari, it was time to return to the van for some lunch of olives, cheese and ham.
Castel del Monte
Erica’s gran had suggested we visit Castel Del Monte as she had remembered it from her own trip some 70 years previously. Consequently, we set the satellite navigation and made our way through the beautiful Italian countryside. We passed many attractive Trulli along the way which are characteristic of the region.
Fortunately there was little traffic and soon arrived at Castel Del Monte where we were directed into a campervan parking area. We found that our car park ticket entitled us to stay overnight and included electricity and water!
After a coffee, we climbed the steep and long hill to the Castle. It was extremely hot and the climb was tiring, however it was worth it.
Once inside, we were able to walk around the unique Octagonal Castle and were rewarded with views in all directions.
We sat inside the castle for a while before making our way back down to the campervan where we cooked dinner, drank wine and played board games. Importantly, we were able to run the air conditioner and cool down!
European Road Trip in a Self Build Motorhome: Day 27 [Total Miles: 3792]
I am fortunate to have a large family, including many members who live in Italy in the town of Valmontone, around 4 hours north west. Today it was my aunt’s 80th Birthday and we wanted to attend her surprise birthday party in the evening. As a result, we only had time to visit one place.
Royal Palace of Caserta
We decided to head to The Royal Palace of Caserta near Naples as it was about half way. In order to save time, we set the satellite navigation to take us along the Toll Road as opposed to local roads.
Frustratingly, there were roadworks almost the entire way and the time saving was minimal.
As we approached Naples we were able to catch a glimpse of Mount Vesuvius, before making our way to the Palace car park. Unfortunately the car park was ridiculously expensive and so we drove a short distance to a residential area where we parked.
After a short 20 minute walk, we arrived at the entrance to the palace. We decided to visit the buildings before the gardens as it was still very hot! Our route took us through the courtyard and up a grand staircase to the Royal Apartments.
The scale of the palace was incredible! We walked through room after room filled with marble floors, fresco’ed ceilings and ornate furniture. Unbelievably, the palace has over 1000 such rooms, however only 20 are open to the public.
The Royal Garden
Eventually we made our way back to the entrance and bought a slice of pizza in the cafe before heading out to the gardens. We spent time walking around the gardens before deciding to walk up to a main fountain in the distance. The scale of the gardens became clear as this walk was almost two miles!
Once at the furthest end of the gardens, we were able to view the impressive fountains and waterfall. The massive Royal Palace of Caserta now looked like a doll’s house from a distance! We sat in front of the fountains for a few minutes to cool down as it was still incredibly hot!
Eventually we entered The English Garden. Luckily this had lots of tree cover and gave us respite from the heat of the day. We spent time exploring the beautifully maintained gardens including large ponds, streams and lawns. True to its name, it felt like we were wandering around a park in Southern England!
After half an hour in the English Garden, we realised we needed to start heading back as it we were now over an hours walk from the van. Unfortunately there was only one entrance to the English Garden and we had to return the way we entered. Soon we made our way back to the Palace where we stopped for ice cream and a drink in the cafe before returning to the van.
Back on the road, we made our way to the town of Valmontone, around 2 hours north. Luckily I remembered the way to my aunt and uncles house. Upon arrival, I rang the bell on the gate which my aunt then opened. As we approached the house, she clearly thought it was a delivery van until we jumped out and wished her a happy birthday! This remains one of the most memorable moments of the trip for me.
After talking for a while, we showered and changed ready for my cousin to pick us up to go to the 80th birthday meal at a local restaurant. The whole Italian family came along and it was lovely to see everyone. There was lots of food, wine and balloons. A lovely evening to celebrate.
European Road Trip in a Self Build Motorhome: Day 28
As you might expect, we had a late night and so had a lay in first thing. After breakfast, my uncle offered to show us some of the local sights. Our first stop were the stables where my cousins keep their horses. Luckily there was a cafe next door and so we were able to enjoy a nice coffee with Ricotta in!
We drove on to a large lay by overlooking Lake Albano. Fortunately we could see the Pope’s Summer residence of Castel Gandolfo in the distance.
My uncle then took us to the family business in Ciampino where we spent time exploring and catching up with other family members. Eventually we got a lift to the metro station and headed into the centre of Rome.
I am very lucky and have visited Rome over 20 times during my lifetime. Consequently, I had already seen most of the famous landmarks. Rome is however a place that never ceases to amaze me and remains my favourite city as there is so much history.
We disembarked the metro at The Trevi Fountain. As we expected, it was extremely busy with tourists enjoying the summer holiday. Fortunately we were able to make our way forward to the edge of the water for a photograph as well as enjoying the refreshing spray of the water!
After a few minutes enjoying the Trevi Fountain, we made our way along a side street and found a small cafe. Luckily it wasn’t too busy and so we were able to sit at a table. Furthermore it had wine! We sat near a window eating pasta and drinking wine whilst enjoying watching the people walking by outside.
It was now around 2pm and very hot and humid. It was clear a storm was on the way. We therefore decided to leave the cafe and continue on our tour! Our route took us past the Spanish Steps and to the Pantheon
The Pantheon is a true masterpiece of Roman Engineering. It is the best preserved Ancient Roman monument and continues to inspire travellers from around the world. The building’s most impressive feature is its massive domed roof. Incredibly, despite being 2000 years old, it still holds the record for the largest unsupported concrete dome.
We enjoyed walking around the Pantheon and looking up through the roof to the sky above. It was hard to believe just how long the building had been there and impossible to understand how the Romans built the amazing roof!
Eventually we left the Pantheon and continued exploring the streets of Rome. We walked through various piazzas including Piazza Navona where we enjoyed an ice cream. I had been to the Piazza many times at night where it comes alive with people and entertainment. Surprisingly it was rather quiet during the afternoon and nice to appreciate the local architecture.
Despite the blue skies, we could hear the thunder in the distance and so decided to head to the Colosseum before the rain. Our route took us past The Forum and lots more ancient ruins.
Both Erica and I had already visited the Colosseum and so decided to enjoy it from outside.
As we arrived, the storm started! Torrential rain and lightning flashed across the sky. Consequently, we got soaked before taking shelter under a tree along with scores of others! Amusingly, street sellers seamlessly changed from selling sunglasses to raincoats!
Once the rain cleared, it was late afternoon. Unfortunately we needed to be back at Ciampino by 5 to get a lift back to Valmontone. Consequently, we decided to make our way back to the Metro and our awaiting lift!
We spent the evening dining out with my cousins in a lovely Italian Restaurant. It was so nice to catch up.
European Road Trip in a Self Build Motorhome: Day 29
After breakfast, we decided to make use of the pool and Jacuzzi and enjoyed a lazy morning. Around lunchtime, my cousins came over for lunch and we enjoyed several hours chatting. We then spent the afternoon route planning before driving to Artena for the evening.
Artena is a lovely Italian town built on a hillside. Furthermore a festival was taking place and it was lovely to see my family taking part, all dressed in traditional costume. We stayed for a few hours before returning to my aunt and uncles for dinner.
European Road Trip in a Self Build Motorhome: Day 30 [Total Miles: 3984]
We woke early and spent time tidying the van ready for our departure. Sadly we only had a week of our road trip left, however there was still plenty to see! Fortunately, my aunt and uncle had prepared a lovely final breakfast. It was nice to spend time with them before hitting the road once again.
Thanks to yesterday’s route planning session, we now had a clear itinerary for the final week. Consequently, we would spend the night in a town called Certaldo. Our first stop was Sienna, around three hours north of Valmononte.
The drive to Sienna was an easy 160 miles along the motorway. Luckily we managed to park in a car park along with lots of other campers near to the city centre. We exited the car park via a lift before walking through the narrow streets of Siena.
The first thing we learnt about Siena was just how hilly it was! However, we enjoyed wandering the many streets and visiting the many churches including the Basilica of San Francesco and San Cristoforo.
Eventually we made our way to the massive Piazza del Campo where we bought an ice cream and sat in the shade. The square was dominated by Torre del Mangia. Unfortunately this was rather expensive and so we chose not to visit inside.
Our route then took us past the stunning Siena Cathedral before returning to the van.
We drove to San Gimignano, a hill town consisting of many tall towers. Fortunately we found another free parking spot a short walk from the perimeter walls. Once inside, we found lots of well preserved buildings and of course the unmissable towers! San Gimignano was a certainly a fun place to explore. Eventually we found a cafe and sat with a coffee in the shade.
By now it was late afternoon, however there was still time for one more visit! Erica found a camper stop just outside the town of Certaldo, a short drive from San Gimignano. Once parked, we made our way up the steep hill to the old town for a wander.
Whilst the old town was relatively small, it was an enjoyable place for an early evening walk. Furthermore, we were rewarded with a stunning view across to San Gimignano. Soon, we arrived at Palazzo Pretorio where we sat admiring the local architecture.
By now we were hungry! Luckily, we found a lovely restaurant where we enjoyed pizza and wine before heading back to the camper for the night.
Its almost the end of the Road Trip. Click the link to read Part 7 – The final instalment!
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