With my expired visa and the thought of deportation lingering in the back of my mind, the day to start the long drive back from Italy to the UK is here…
The plan is to take the longer route of over 2,300 kilometres and 9 days to drive back to St Malo in France, then catching the ferry across to the UK to finally leave the Schengen zone.
You can shave about 300 kilometres 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 is a mutual agreement.
Starting the long drive back
Pozzuoli to Lake Bracciano
With an early start and Reg laden with pre-made meals for the long journey, we say our goodbyes to friends at the campsite – all staff here have been excellent.
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 advises this is to be built but waiting on funds)
Blue Lake Camper, Lake Bracciano – Arrive 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 but very windy and chilly this evening. Forecast advises ‘feels like 0′…and it definitely does! Umberto speaks perfect English and is passionate about Italy.
Walking along the lakeside, which is very cold this time of year but still 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 await every corner in town – very quaint and a shame we can’t stop here longer.
Human settlement dates back to 5,700BC with remains of the village in Marmotta district of Anguillara, which is now under water.
The whole area looks quite upmarket and 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 on via IV Novembre, 3/A and decide 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 as it’s time for another long day to Deiva Marina. Stopping at Deiva on the drive down, so it’s easy to find the campsite.
After a very long drive through some gorgeous regions of Lazio and Umbria, arrive 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 open year-round?
Anyway, the manager is very helpful and advises to drive a couple of kilometres down to the seafront 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 at €0.50/3mins.
After a -2°C night the hot showers are welcomed early this morning.
Speaking with one of the very lovely campsite owners, discover that she has lived here for 40 years and loves Deiva Marina: “in the summer, we have the world here” – just about says it all!
This is a gorgeous place and very close to Cinque Terre.
Filling up with fuel at the friendly petrol station – Stazione di Servizio Carburanti EUROPAM (SP40), meet the father this time with the son – 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. Not all machines display English and Italian, most are in Italian. If you submit a €50 note but only want €20, you will receive €50’s worth of fuel.
- Stop for a coffee (€1+) at one of the Autostrada services, take-away coffee is €2.90+.
One thing to notice whilst driving along the hundred’s of kilometres through Italy (and Spain previously) 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.
The free roads in Italy are usually pretty bad – pot-holed and in urgent need of repair but nothing seems to be repaired.
I’m quite surprised that during travel from the north of Italy down to Naples, things look quite depressed. Locals advise there’s a recession on and hear 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, nor take holidays. One campsite owner had only 1 week off in 3 years.
Speaking with many locals during our time in Italy, not a great picture is painted of this country.
I’m told that migrants are given €35/day, housed, and provided with more, but still go out and beg.
It’s 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.
Leaving Italy: Deiva Marina to France
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 isn’t to be this time. I hope to be back very soon.
Today is a shorter drive but crossing the border from Italy and into France, so back to much more expensive tolls.
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.
Going out for a quick stroll to stretch the old legs even though it’s raining and really cold, stumble upon a huge supermarket less than a kilometre from the campsite. End up spending more than an hour at the supermarket – short some may say.
Villeneuve-Loubet to Aix-en-Provence
Today is another short drive although the day starts somewhat painfully with a comedy of errors unfolding…
- Reg’s break pads need cleaning as a high-pitched squeal started yesterday. As the campsite’s pressure washer is out-of-service, give up on this task.
- Reg is too high to fit under the supermarket’s entrance – we need fuel. Hurriedly turning around to get back on route, almost take a wrong turn and end up on the wrong entrance of the Autoroute. A quick manoeuvre, whilst backing out illegally and running over a road island in front of a Police car, think the officers turn a blind eye as they drive past us. Maybe the police are used to silly tourists in this town.
- If this isn’t enough, the first tolls that we arrive to are mostly shut – at least a dozen booths. Waiting with other vehicles when the green light finally comes on, our queue is a Tag-only queue. As Reg’s tag isn’t working, we can’t pay and call for assistance. The ‘Assistance’ is asking for me to enter a credit card in French. Meanwhile the 18-wheeler truck driver behind Reg has his finger stuck on the horn. Neil gives him the finger, so I walk over to the truck driver to try and explain what’s happening but to also appease the situation. Smiling at him, he’s OK. The Toll assistant finally arrives, Takes my credit card, charges something to it although not sure of the cost, and we’re finally on our merry way.
- Stopping for diesel, the pump isn’t working or so we think. It’s a self-service pump, no credit cards/cash at the pump. I venture into the station and they hold my credit card whilst turning on the pump. Of course Neil doesn’t know what’s happening so the diesel spills all over his trousers before getting some into the tank! I then return to the station and finish the transaction – all very strange.
- Another Toll booth drama – this time the machine isn’t accepting my credit card, so a mad fumble for cash to pay for the fuel.
- Deciding on a pee stop the next Services we drive into is under renovation – this isn’t apparent from the highway. Driving around a few times and not finding where to park, end up back on the Autoroute. Driving further to another Services, this one is also under construction. Driving around a couple of times and almost ending back on the highway again, but thankfully find some public toilets near a load of parked-up semi-trucks.
Does anyone else have these problems?
Finally on our way again and reach the campsite in good time, regardless of all the hick-ups today. 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 but even for washing clothes and dishes. Huge campsite with many facilities, lovely trees everywhere, pitches aren’t even/flat but this is OK. The lovely and very helpful staff member even scanned my documents for free. This site is about a 2.5-kilometre walk to the city.
The city is simply lovely and very chic, albeit a little pricey.
I feel quite scruffy here but it’s such a shame that we can’t stay for a few days as there are lovely walks around Aix-en-Provence.
Passing gorgeous classic French architecture, it’s a pleasure strolling around this town – 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.
Wandering around the shops, buy some freshly baked baguette and chocolate – ahh, the wonders of French food!
Stopping off at the Paul’s a Boulangerie franchise dating back to the 1800’s, the bread is absolutely fantastic although a little pricey.
Aix-en-Provence to Lyon
As this is going to be a much longer drive than the previous couple of days, I’m hoping nothing goes wrong.
The drive to Lyon takes you through stunning scenery and it’s like salt to the wounds, as we can’t stay for a while to 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 Compact camera, 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 with central heating. Lovely helpful staff in this great site although you pay extra for Wi-fi.
Laundry: Washing – €3.50/load; Dryer – €3.50. Not sure of the times as spent too much time at the supermarket instead of doing washing at the campsite.
Would love to stay here longer as it looks lovely and has a nice feel to Lyon but alas, we’re pushing on each day and have to catch the ferry back to the UK on the 25th – a little over half-way of the over 2,330-kilometre journey.
There’s always time to shop for food or bits.
About one kilometre from the campsite and you bump into this mall, which includes a massive supermarket with isles bursting with a plethora of exquisite choices. I haven’t seen such a selection since the Baltic States. Spending a couple of hours just ogling at all the food and walking out with more groceries we don’t need is sad I know.
La Vie en Or
Also in the Auchen Mall, splurge on a lovely dainty pair of gold and Amethyst earrings at this jewellery shop. Many shops in this mall have sales on but this little shop is the cheapest that I’ve seen in Europe so far and also in SE Asia.
Leaving Porte de Lyon
Lalizolle is the next stop of the long drive back from Italy to the UK – Part 2 and hoping that nothing goes wrong.