Dave the motorhome’s peering out at the red and green light-houses marking the entrance to the port of Trani, on the Adriatic (east) coast of Italy (N41.28198 E16.41962). We’re in a car park in the shadow of the sea front 13th century cathedral, and all the ‘you must pay to park here’ signs are covered with black plastic. It’s yet another incredible place to stay, within a stone’s throw of the fishing port and the town centre, thanks Italy, bella bella!
Under a rain-heavy sky Alberobello changed character completely this morning. Our motorhome-only sosta, which had been the scene of illicit (in an Englishman’s world) car-parking yesterday, was all but empty, only 4 other motorhomes stayed the night. The scrum of coaches and sticker-sporting cruise liner passengers were gone. The Japanese tourists with two guides (one a translator) had legged it. It was pretty much just us, and we legged it too.
Greece has LPG stations, this much we know, but they seem few and far between. Rather than having to muck about trying to find one in the first week or two we’re there, we stocked up on our way to Trani this morning. Although we could do with some diesel too, and Greece has gained a media reputation for being more expensive than St Tropez, the wonderful Internet says different. As of March 2013, this site says the average diesel price in Italy is €1.684, compared with €1.413 in Greece and €1,703 in the UK. For those masochists out there, the cheapest reported price is €0.126 in Egypt, about 11p a litre (but hey, you’ve rather less chance of being imprisoned for speaking your mind about David Cameron than you have if you go about bad-mouthing the regime in Egypt!).
A usual level of research (not much) has led us to decide to take a ferry from Bari to Patra. There are loads of options for getting to Greece, including getting a ferry to Albania and driving south. We’ve made the decision to take the non-Albania route as we, after some deliberation over a carton or two of vino, can’t be bothered with roughing it. We could head for Igoumenista in Greece, which is in the mountainous area a few hours drive north of Patra, but it sounds cold and lonely, great for hiking, not great for the lazy (us). Patra on the other hand is on the northern edge of the Peloponnese, an almost-island which was the heart of ancient Greece. The main sights outside Athens are here, I think, but more importantly it’ll hopefully be a bit warmer with a few rocky beaches where I can bore Ju snorkelling.
Anyway, a similar level of research has booked us a Camping on Board spot on a Superfast Ferries boat tomorrow, for €208 including various taxes. At least we think it has. We used www.greekferries.gr to make the booking and their process ends with a page which says something along the lines of ‘thanks for your cash, we’ll send you an email with 4 working hours with the actual price and whether you’re on your requested ferry’. As it was gone 5pm when we finished it, we guess we’ll find out some time tomorrow if we’re on the 8pm boat to the Balkan Peninsula.
Back to Trani. As Italy likes to do, it scared the bejesus out of us on the way in. Italy’s towns often have medieval or older centres, twisting narrow streets designed to confuse naughty invading folks, deflect winds or to just give the poor old buildings a chance to cling on to the hillside. Given the modern flood of traffic, free access to these areas would be chaos, some roads are barely wide enough for a Smart Car. Italy’s thus restricted access to locals using ZTLs – Zones of Limited Traffic. In a motorhome, even disregarding the likely fine landing on your doorstep when you get home, you’d have to be out of your mind to venture in to one. We haven’t, including today, as the areas outside the ZTL require enough of a degree of insanity to navigate as they are.
The stereo goes off as soon as we get close to town, eyes trying to watch both the one-way grid on the satnav and the bonkers traffic ahead. Tarmac gives way to old stone for the road surface, not a good sign. The walls tighten in. A daft, but normal parked car, with the driver sat watching, has us scraping along an inch past it. Just as we’re clear and onto a narrow section of one-way alley, Ju spots a height warning sign, telling us we’re a meter too high to get under something. Oh batshit. It’s now either try and reverse back up the way we came, getting maybe thirty cars to synchronise getting out of the way, or we plough on. We plough on, eyes bulging. The spot we think we can chuck a you-ee is blocked with bollards, BOLLARDS! On we go, tighter and tighter, until we see a side road we can fit down, fling Dave down it and suddenly we’re out, scooting around we follow the brown signs this time, completely ignoring the screaming satnav and we’re safely in the port in a jiffy.
Trani is some 40km north of Bari, so we’re driven out of our way to get here. Why? Washing, bags of the stuff, honking (mine) over-worn clothes. Experience of searching out a self-service laundrette in Palermo tells us just entering the Italian for ‘laundrette’ into Google and hitting Enter is about as useful as asking Charlie to intervene for peace in the Middle East. Our friends Jacqui and Marc were here last year though, and knew there was a laundrette here, in among the old Jewish ghetto area, so Ju’s been in there half the day, enlisting the help of locals to find change for the machines.
Once all that good stuff was over, and we’d booked (ish) the ferry. We had a stroll about. It’s all stone. The cathedral looks imposing, but the little locked-up chapel in the harbour is the most intriguing to me, the Church of Ognissanti. It was once part of a Knights Templar hospital, built in the 12th Century. It’s been here since the Crusades, how wonderful it is to be here and see it.
The night’s falling now, the light-houses flashing into life. To our right fishermen are selling their catch direct to the public from hand carts with electric lights, one was alive with escape-attempting langoustine, another had fillets for sale, no messy inards scales and heads! It’s stared to rain too, so I doubt we’ll spend too much time wandering the place. Is it wine o’clock yet?