Burning Diesel Across the Mezzogiorno, Heading North Through Calabria

Dave the motorhome’s windscreen is full of blue, a widescreen view of the Ionian sea south of the Italian boot, topped off with a crust of snow-capped mountains to my left. We’re in a wonderful free camping stop right on the beach, tucked out of the way near to Rossano (N39.61803 E16.71163).

You can't beat free camping spots like this one in Calabria.
You can’t beat free camping spots like this one in Calabria.

Honestly, I’m not gloating, and we’ll be back in Blighty soon enough, but the contrast in weather between here and back home is astonishing. It’s T-shirt hot hear, the sun splashing down on our solar panel all day. Back home, as anyone reading this in the UK will know, it’s another story. We punted out an email to Catherine and Chris (who run www.bobilstore.com) about where’s good to visit in Calabria (answer, paraphrased: pretty much nowhere) to hear the Harrogate Motorhome Show they’re at is taking a beating from the snow. Adam (who runs www.motorhomewifi.com) had to abandon the show at Newark as it was completely snow-bound – his partner Sophie’s holding the fort at Harrogate for them. If you’re heading to the show, or any future ones, please have a look for ’em and say hello from us?

So, great weather coupled with fabulous and beautiful free camping spots apart, what does Calabria have to offer? I reckon we’d have to agree with Catherine, nothing much! If you’re happy to pootle along the coast, or head up and around the cooler hills, you could easily live on very little around here for a month or two and be nice and comfortable into the bargain. On the other hand, if you’ve been spoiled by the hill towns of Tuscany and the baroque wonders of south-east Sicily, the bland, scattered, rubbish-strewn concrete block towns of southern Calabria might well have you easing your foot down on the gas and burning through ’em.

One of the coastal Calabrian towns we passed through today.
One of the coastal Calabrian towns we passed through today.

That’s what we did today, spending a couple of hours on the road, passing through a raft of towns set far apart between expanses of undeveloped beach. Neither of us mentioned stopping in any of them. This is the mezzogiorno we’ve read about, the impoverished south of Italy, although it’s nothing like as bad as the near-slum conditions in and around Naples. It feels pretty chilled out here. Outside the towns, it’s all about the agriculture, with a bit of over-sized rusting heavy industry placed handily against the side of the main road. Shepherds stand bored among mixed flocks of sheep and goats. The usual Med staples of vines and olives stand in amongst hordes of lemon and orange trees, all fat with crop. From time to time a beauty of a villa drifts by.

Jesus wishing us all luck while driving in Italy...
Jesus wishing us all luck while driving in Italy…
No overtaking signs don't mean no overtaking here. They mean: overtake, if you've any manhood about you, just don't get caught!
No overtaking? Forget about it.
Italy? A first world country? We saw less rubbish in Tunisia.
More rubbish than Tunisia? Glad it’s not summer.

This little spot is in a hidden-away place, the kind you either have co-ordinates for or have to rummage about on Google Maps to try and find. We pulled into position and immediately chilled out. With a practically private beach, Charlie and I have mooched about throwing driftwood about almost the whole afternoon. A pile of the stuff now sits outside Dave awaiting a fire-pit and beer session once the sun’s set.

Our relaxing was interrupted about 3pm by some chaps stabbing numbered sticks into the beach, 52 of them, set about 15m apart. We stared for a while and wondered what it was all about. The last one had an Italian flag attached and a Fine Campo sign – end of the field? Huh? With not much else to do we guessed what it might be. A running race? Mountain bikes? Scramblers? Rowing? Eventually Ju guessed it, fishing. What else? A short while later 52 blokes are here, each with a few rods in the water. Their kit’s old. No sign of the camo tent, electric beer cooler, bite alarm or even a decent seat here. They may not have much cash, but they do seem to be having a good time!

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The great 2013 Calabrian fish-off commences!
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These guys are using nets on the same stretch (they’re not in the competition, unless they’re blatant cheats) and rummaged through the net to find a single shiny 6 inch long fish. Disdainfully thrown to one side, they started to wrap the net up for another try. I’d not want to be a fish around here at the moment!

Right, time to go inspect my wood stash and to dig out the pit. Beer and fire await.

Cheers, Jay

1 Comment

  1. The beach spot at Calabria looks awesome, think we might have been tempted to put our feet up and stay a few days. Shame the fishermen didn’t throw you a fish for the BBQ!

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