With my expired visa and the thought of being deported lingering in the back of my mind, the day to start the long drive back from Italy to the UK finally arrived.
The plan is to take the longer route of about 2,300+ kilometres and 9 days to drive back to St Malo (France), and then catch the ferry across to the UK; finally leaving the Schengen zone. You can cut about 300 kilometre off this drive when taking the route across the mountain ranges. Taking the longer route to be kinder to Reg and driver (I’m not on the insurance) in the winter’s snow – a mutual agreement.
Pozzuoli to Lake Bracciano
With an early start and Reg laden with pre-made meals for the long journey, we said our goodbyes to the friends at the campsite. All staff here have been excellent!
Distance: 300 kilometres
Diesel: €40 @ €1.288/litre
Roads: E45, SS675
Tolls: €0.95 + €18.60
Campsite: €15/night includes power and water; no wi-fi; no ablution block (owner advised this will be built but is waiting on funds)
Blue Lake Camper, Lake Bracciano – Arrived to a very friendly owner (Umberto) in a nice Aires’ site, across the road from Lake Bracciano (about 32kms northeast of Rome. Gorgeous views of this lake. Very windy and chilly this evening – forecast says ‘feels like 0′…and it definitely does! Umberto speaks perfect English and is passionate about Italy!
Walked along the lakeside, which albeit is very cold this time of year but very picturesque.
Bordered by the Tolfa Hills, this part of Lazio region is gorgeous and originally formed by volcanic activity. An abundance of fresh produce and activities are on offer. In the summer, you can swim or fish in the lake, take a bicycle or hiking tour, or go on the Rome City & Vatican Guided Skip Line Tours – Rome is that close.
Gorgeous medieval buildings amongst ancient cobblestone alleyways awaits every corner in town…very quaint and a shame we can’t stop here for longer.
Human settlement dates back to 5,700BC with remains of the village in Marmotta district of Anguillara – now under water.
This whole area looks quite upmarket. Most of the cars are not even dented or smashed. Apparently, Tom Cruise was married in The Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano as was a famous Italian singer. Both divorced, so the rumour is that it’s bad luck to be married in the castle!
Found the Carrefours (Via IV Novembre, 3/A) and decided on a few supplies before walking back to the campsite and having some well-earned dinner, with the big electric heater on full.
Lake Bracciano to Deiva Marina
Up early, it was time for another long day to Deiva Marina. We stopped here on the drive down so knew how to get to the campsite.
After a very long drive through some gorgeous regions of Lazio and Umbria, arrived back in the beautiful Laguria region and the Valdeiva Camping site only to be told the site is closed. It appears that in Italy, although sites advertise “Open all year”, this does not mean the site is actually open every day of the year. Or sometimes, a site just closes on a whim, perhaps it’s due to no one staying, but then why advertise opening year-round?
Anyway, the manager was very helpful and told us to drive a couple of kilometres from here and down to the sea to the Fornacia al Mare campsite as this site is open.
Diesel: €50 @ €1.239/litre and €40 @ €1.169/litre
Roads: E35, A11, E80, SS1
Campsite: €15/night (includes power and water)
Campeggio Fornacia al Mare, Deiva Marina – No Wi-fi but lovely hot water in the ablution block costs €0.50/3mins.
After a -2°C night, got up early to the welcomed hot showers.
Spoke to one of the very lovely owners of the campsite who has lived here for 40 years and loves Deiva Marina – “in the summer, we have the world here”; this just about says it all!
This is a gorgeous place and very close to Cinque Terre.
Got some fuel from our friendly petrol station – Stazione di Servizio Carburanti EUROPAM (SP40). Met the father this time and the son was also working – extremely friendly service and lovely to have a chat.
- Typically, there are two advertised prices at a fuel station. One is for a self-service machine whilst the other is for someone to do everything for the motorist. The difference can be up to €0.15 or more per litre. Most of the self-service machines only take cash (notes not coins) and the machine doesn’t return any change whatsoever. Not all machines display English and Italian, most are in Italian. So, if you submit a €50 note but only want €20, you will receive €50’s worth of fuel.
- Stop for a coffee at one of the Autostrada services; coffee (€1+), take-away coffee (€2.90+).
One thing to notice whilst driving along the hundred’s of kilometres through Italy (and Spain 3 months’ ago) is all the abandoned but wonderful ancient farmhouses and buildings dotting the countryside.
Buildings look as if they’ve been left for an age. Now rundown with walls and windows missing, caved in roofs, sections missing…but in their hay day, would have been buildings of grandeur. So sad to see and with all the homeless people around. Many are close to the highway so maybe owners abandoned their homes when the highway was built through the farm lands and towns.
It is with heavy heart that I leave Italy today as wanted so much to stay longer, but alas, the extension to the visa or anything else wasn’t to be…this time. I hope to be back very soon!
Talked to many locals during the time in Italy – not a great picture painted of this country.
I was told that migrants are given €35/day, housed, and provided with more, but still go out and beg. It was also incredulous how high taxes are in this country and how little locals receive: no free health or education, and only a small pension – taxes are at almost 70%, I’m told. There’s even a “Shade Tax”, which is for a 2 square metre awning at your house, then you’re taxed for the shaded part the awning produces…really? Hope someone can clarify this for me? I’ve heard many stories of the extent of Italy’s corruption and after spending time here, I’m starting to really believe this extent…
The free roads in Italy are usually pretty bad; pot-holed and in urgent need of repair but nothing seems to get repaired in Italy.
I was quite surprised that driving from the north of Italy down to Naples, things look quite depressed. Locals keep saying there’s a recession on and learnt today that unemployment is at 42%, but with Belasconi it was “only 29%”. These figures are unimaginable in Australia.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Italy. Apparently if you have a job here, you hang onto it and never leave, or take holidays it seems. One campsite owner had only 1 week off in 3 years!
Deiva Marina to Villeneuve-Loubet
Today will be a shorter drive but will cross the border from Italy and into France, so on to much more expensive tolls.
Distance: 280 kilometres
Diesel: €20 @ €1.269/litre
Roads: E80 (Italy), A8 (France)
Tolls: €30.20 (Italy); €3.50+€1.50+€1.20 (France)
Campsite: €24.60/night (includes power and water – hot water in ablution block)
Meuble-Camping De L’Hippodrome, Villeneuve-Loubet – Wi-fi is free in low season but no chance of hooking on as too many campers on site. Lovely site and you can even order a fresh baguette for breakfast.
Went out for a quick walk just to stretch the old legs even though it was raining and really cold. There’s a huge supermarket less than one kilometre from the campsite…ended up spending more than an hour there, which is a short time really.
Villeneuve-Loubet to Aix-en-Provence
Today will be a shorter drive. However, the day started somewhat painfully and like a comedy of errors…
- Reg’s break pads needed cleaning as a high-pitched squeal started yesterday. As the campsite’s pressure washer was out-of-service, gave up on this task.
- Reg was too high to fit under the supermarket’s entrance; needed fuel. Hurriedly turning around to get back on route, almost took a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong entrance of the Autoroute. With a quick manoeuvre, backed out illegally, running over a road island, and in front of a Police car! Think the police turned a blind eye as they drove past us without blinking an eye. May be the police are used to silly tourists in this town!
- If this wasn’t enough, the first tolls that we arrived at were mostly shut (at least a dozen booths!) . Waiting with other vehicles when the green light came on, our queue was a Tag-only queue. As Reg’s tag doesn’t work, we couldn’t pay and had to call for assistance. The ‘Assistance’ was asking for me to enter a credit card (I thought) in French. Meanwhile the 18-wheeler semi-truck behind, was honking his horn, Neil gave him the finger, and I got out and went over to him to try and explain what had happened. I smiled at him and tried to appease the situation and he was OK. The Toll assistant finally arrived and took my credit card, charged something on it although not sure of the cost and we were on our merry way again.
- Stopped for Diesel but the pump wasn’t working or so we thought. It was a self-service pump, no credit cards/cash at the pump. I went into the station and they held my credit card and turned the pump on. Of course Neil didn’t know what was happening so the Diesel spilled all over his trousers before getting some into the tank! I then had to go back into the station and finish the transaction – bloody weird!
- Another Toll booth drama – this time the machine wouldn’t accept my credit card, so it was a mad fumble for over €20 to pay for the bill!
- Deciding on a pee stop, the next Services we drove into was under renovation, which wasn’t apparent from the highway. Drove round a few times and couldn’t find where to park and ended up back on the Autoroute! Drove further to another Services, which was also under construction. Drove around a couple of times, almost ending back on the highway again, but thankfully found some public toilets near a load of semi-trucks parked up.
Does anyone else have these problems? Finally, on our way again and reached the campsite in good time, to the lovely very helpful lady who even did my scanning for free.
Loads of tunnels today.
Diesel: €25 @ €1.159/litre
Campsite: €22.52/night (includes power and water)
Camping Chantecler, Aix-en-Provence – Wi-fi is €8/day but decreases the more days you purchase. Wonderful hot water in the ablution block, even for washing clothes and dishes. Huge campsite with many facilities, lovely trees everywhere, pitches aren’t even/flat but this is OK. The site is about a 2.5km walk to the city.
This city is simply lovely and chic albeit a little pricey. I felt quite scruffy here. It’s such a shame that we can’t stay for a few days as there’s supposed to be lovely walks around here.
Passed some gorgeous classic French architecture just walking into town this afternoon – quite beautiful and opulent. Loads of heritage sites and museums but there isn’t any time to experience any of this or do to this city justice.
Wandered around the shops and bought some freshly baked baguette and chocolate – ahh, the wonders of French food!
Stopped off at Paul’s a Boulangerie franchise dating back to the 1800’s. The bread is absolutely fantastic albeit a little pricey.
Aix-en-Provence to Lyon
As this is going to be a much longer day than the previous couple of days, I’m hoping nothing goes wrong.
The drive to Lyon is through stunning scenery and like salt to the wounds, as we can’t stay for a while and explore. This region is beautiful and of course, as it’s the Rhone Valley, so, what else does one do but drink wine from the Rhone Valley.
Amazing châteaux and farm houses grace the highway so you won’t be too bored along this drive. I’m continuously snapping with my little Panasonic Compaq so all’s well with the world.
No tunnels today.
Diesel: €40 @ €1.016/litre (Esso Express)
Roads: A7 +A6
Campsite: €18.22/night (ASCI discount) includes power and water
Indigo Inter de Lyon – Wonderful hot water in the ablution block, even for washing clothes and dishes; very clean, central heating, lovely helpful staff; great site! Pay for Wi-fi.
Laundry: Washing – €3.50/load; Dryer – €3.50 (not sure of times as didn’t end up doing any here – spent too much time at the supermarket!)
Would love to stay here longer as it looks lovely and has a nice feel to this city, but alas, we’re pushing on each day and have to get the booked ferry back to the UK on the 25th – a little over half-way of the 2,330+kms journey.
Auchen Mall – Walked about one kilometre from the campsite to this mall, which has a massive supermarket with isles bursting with a plethora of exquisite choices, which I haven’t seen since the Baltic States. Spent a couple of hours here just ogling at all the food and walked out with groceries we didn’t need…again; sad I know!
La Vie en Or (Auchen Mall) – Even splurged on a lovely dainty pair of gold and Amethyst earrings at this shop. Although most shops in this mall had sales on, this little shop was the cheapest that I’ve seen in Europe so far (and in Asia).
Leaving Porte de Lyon
Lalizolle is the next stop of the long drive back from Italy to the UK – Part 2 and hoping nothing goes wrong.