OUR TRAVELS

PART ELEVEN

Hello again and welcome to Part Eleven of our Travels. Regular readers will know that I’ve done a sterling job in fast-forwarding this blog to the present time! Well, not quite, but I was nearly there as Part Ten below suggests. However, the nature of this travel lark is that there is always something happening. For example, I’m writing this in Benimarco, Valencia, Spain, whilst staying at our great friends, Ros and Mick’s wonderful finca! Long story – but that’s a story for a later date!

Part Eleven is about the, roughly, second half of our long stay in Paestum, which we absolutely loved and to which we will return – in fact on our way down to Sicilia later in the year. Told you, there’s always something happening, about to happen or going to happen at some time!

The greatest part of a fantastic time in the ancient, once Greek owned, part of Campania, was the arrival of our daughter, Rosanna! She’d been working like mad on her GCSEs in the UK with her Papa and Stepmum, under the strict lockdown regime near York. She needed a break, in the sunshine – and we needed to see her, having last set eyes on her at the end of December! So, with Covid 19 PCR test, negative of course, and lots of other papers she left from Stanstead mid-April. We left our beachside camping site in Paestum the night before we collected her, returning to Pompei for the night, and thence to Napoli, whose airport was perfect for us.

Remember, Campi is 7.4 metres long – were we going to be able to park her, if so where? Clueless, the internet was no help, we arrived in good time and approached the Arrivals area, whereupon a huge soldier, machine gun at the ready, with his colleague, similarly scary and armed, looking on. I smiled, but could he see behind my mask? No worries, Claire’s infinite charm disarmed the guy completely and he pointed (not with his gun) us to a parking area. Phew – and then we found to our further delight, a cafe which was allowed to be open!

We weren’t allowed in the airport, despite our being best mates now with the army, several others of whom were constantly patrolling, so we messaged Rosanna to simply exit when she could, and join us for a coffee! It was wonderful to see her again, looking so lovely, smiley, confident and all ‘growed up’! Now, I’m from the north and we don’t do gushing emotion, but . . . . .

It was quite a long drive in one go back to Paestum, but it took us past Vesuvio and the Bay of Napoli, which weren’t bad for Rosanna’s first sights of this area, the furthest south she’s been in Italy. An early night after dinner, wine (ok not so much for Ro, but we belong to the French school of thought re bringing up youngsters with a healthy respect for alcohol, so she often has a taste) and lots of chatting. The next day – her first Beach Bonfire BBQ (almost the perfect alliteration)!

Sausages with a difference, meaty with fennel seeds as well!

But, I’m running away with myself – I need to step back a little to April 2021 BR (before Rosanna!), in other words a week or so before she came. In fact to another of the loves of my life – a winery visit (known in Italian as a Cantina, a word that doesn’t seem to have the same cachet as bodega/chateau/domaine, even winery).

This beautiful ‘candelabra’ descends from the ceiling allowing visitors to select a glass for tastings at
I Vini del Cavaliere, Capaccio, Campania. (www.vinicuomo.com)

Catarina was most welcoming when Claire and I arrived on Scoots at their lovely boutique cantina (winery – pay attention, willya!), I Vini del Cavaliere, in Capaccio, 15 mins away from our campsite. As you know, it’s not my intention to quote chapter and verse about all the wineries and wines that we experience on our travels in this blog. Wine is a big passion of mine, Claire’s too, so it’s bound to be a part of our travels – but not all readers share the passion (indeed, some might say obsession!).

For further details of the visits, wines etc please refer the Colin Harkness Wine Review on Video (posted on Facebook Colin Harkness); Twitter (@colinonwine); Instagram (colinharkness53); my monthly Wine Show www.valleyfm.es 12:00 – 13:00 hrs, first Saturday of every month *[next Wine Show Sat 5th June]); as well as my regular posts on the above platforms. This of course also applies to our visit to I Vini del Cavaliere and the glorious wines tasted there, and later back at Campy.

That said, a word about them would not go amiss – we loved our time there, Catarina and Giovanni were such genial hosts and, perhaps needless to say, their wines were outstanding. Plus, they are now open again for visits – which really is a must-do when in Campania (where, of course, you’ll find, only a few kilometres further north of Capaccio, the fabulous Amalfi Coast)! You can contact them here www.vinicuomo.com.

Now back to April 2021 ARA (After Rosanna Arrived!) – we showed her the magnificent Greek Temples in Paestum (photo in Part Ten, below), of course, and we were all delighted to visit a buffalo farm just around the corner from our campsite, where we bought and really enjoyed, some of their delicious fresh Mozzarella cheese and some of their hard cheese too.

We also took the train to Napoli – my strong advice: don’t ever drive in Naples! Three on a scooter, helmets optional, was common. Once or twice four, including one time when it was presumably, Mum, Dad and two kids, one of whom had a helmet on! Also there don’t seem to be any rules, re stopping at lights, coming out of a side road, going around a roundabout and so on. It’s a free-for-all, with horns blowing, fists waving, shouting and muttering, plus, unsurprisingly, the sound of ambulance sirens and the occasional police siren too!

The peace of the railway station before the storm of Naples!
A lion (on the right!) guarding the Cathedral of Naples – sadly closed!

Now, as promised – Col takes up a new hobby!

My brother, Al, was, is and always be better than me at all sports! Simple fact of life, though it wasn’t so easy to accept when we were younger. I did ok in sports in the end and I’m sure that reaching the standard I did was mostly the result of trying my best to beat him at everything, losing always, but learning as did so. Of course, this is my opinion now – I wasn’t so sanguine, so relaxed back in the day.

Let me introduce you to Rodney! He and I will bee reeling them in soon!

So, I decided to take up fishing – Al didn’t fish, so I wouldn’t be hammered by him catching more than me etc. I’m quite sure that if he had taken it up, he would have battered me (pun intended!). However, there wasn’t enough movement for me, it wasn’t a game so I stopped, returning to the badminton court, golf course, tennis court, swimming pool and so on, for the inevitable defeat. Playing in the same footy team was a delight, we were on the same side (guess who scored most goals though!), so too was our doubles pairing in badminton – same reason.

However, the fishing ‘bug’ has perhaps always been part of me, though dormant, until we set off on our travels. As we are often parked in campsites next to the sea, and as you know we sometimes have BBBBQs, it seemed to me that catching our own lunch/dinner would be pretty cool! I mooted the thought to Claire, who was all for it – and promptly bought me Rodney, tackle and stuff!

OK, so Claire was all for me fishing, she quite fancied a sea bream or two BBQd, washed down with a good glass of white Italian wine – but she wasn’t too keen on worms! Here she is carrying the bucket containing the bait!

Needless to say – I caught ‘nowt’ on my first attempts (Al would have caught a dozen no doubt!), but I know that the fish in Italy will be trembling once again soon!

Photo courtesy of Rosanna!

We weren’t sure how long Rosanna would be able to stay, so we wanted her to see a few more of the many wonderful sights in this part of Italy. We decided to go to Pompei for a short while, thence to Roma!

Claire and Rosanna in the Forum of the ruins of Pompei. If you haven’t been to see this ancient town, obliterated as it was in AD 79 when Vesuvio (in the background) erupted, you really must!

Those who’ve been know that Pompei is something else. One cannot imagine the anguish, suffering etc of the poor people, and their animals, who lived in this bustling Roman town. The speed with which the town was covered, firstly in ash, and then in the rivers of lava is something of Hollywood epic proportions – except that this was real!

Part of the ruined city of Pompei, just as it was on that fateful day.

We were all taken aback, particularly when we witnessed the bodies of some of the unfortunates, killed where they were, caught in exactly the same position too. Awe inspiring, eerie, moving and mysterious.

Fast food joint, as was, AD79! Complete with amforae where the food would have been kept warm, and in the background amforae for supplies – oil, wine, water and more.

However – and I’ll be in trouble for writing this – it wasn’t just Pompei’s ruins that took Rosanna’s breath away. Giuseppe, the cool, young Italian guy from whom we hired the audio equipment more than caught her eye! Like all dads and steppies, this is something I’m going to have to get used to!

Well, that’s Part Eleven completed – hope you enjoyed the catch-up. All comments welcome, but please e-mail them to colinharkness53@gmail.com, or post on Facebook, Colin Harkness, Twitter @colinonwine, Instagram colinharkness53.

Ciao/Adios!

OUR TRAVELS

One of the three amazing Greek Temples – in Paestum, Italy!

PART TEN

A great thing about our travels is the flexibility – we have a plan, sometimes we stick to it, we often adapt it and sometimes we change it completely. Our leaving Manfredonia (see Part Nine) was just such an occasion.

We’d planned to go to Gallipoli, further down the Adriatic and in the ‘heel’ of the boot of Italy. We’d read that there was quite a lot to see, the town was interesting and that there was at least one campsite open during the Winter. However, second thoughts, for a number of reasons (though mostly because it would be a particularly long drive to Sicilia which we wanted to visit. to see what it would be like for next Winter) decided us to go back across Italy to the Med coast once again, though further south than we’d been before. We ventured beyond Napoli, land of the original Pizzas!

I’d never heard of Paestum – once run by the Greeks, whose presence we were to find out is marked by three of the best-preserved temples anywhere – but it was on the way to Sicilia, sort of, and hopefully a little warmer.

The thrill of dining out – the only diners in the campsite restaurant, our table by the glorious open wood burning fire!

Well, it was warmer – but not at night time!

Camping Villaggio Dei Pini is right on the beach at Capaccio Paestum and it was such a wonderful location we stayed for about 4 or 5 weeks – so this is the first of two blogs about our time there. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, the owner, a touch stern-faced, to be honest, took our details, as well as our temperatures, and told us we could choose any available pitch.

There were three only taken and the one that we really fancied was free – bingo, we were set up in a short time and went straight the beach, but a few metres away! Idyllic just about sums it up!

In the distance, the Amalfi Coast, seen from our deserted beach!
Sunset, same beach, different angle, showing the beautiful Isle of Capri!

The following day we went to retrieve our passports from the office where we met the great young guy, Daniel, who became our friend in no time! Speaking German, Italian, English and Spanish – he’s worth his weight in gold at Villaggio Dei Pini, for that reason alone. However, that’s not all that makes him such a great guy to have at reception – he’s so friendly and willing to help. Add to this that he is a musician, playing the guitar, as well as an ex-professional footballer (having played pro footy in Uraguay, Italy and Switzerland!) and a lover all natural foods and, wait for it – wine!

He’s half German, half Uruguayan and his lovely wife is Italian – their sweet little girl, Celeste, therefore a mixture of the lot! And – when we arrived, Ana was over 8 months pregnant, so a small family about to become a little larger!

Clockwise – Claire, Celeste, Ana, Daniel, Fri and Lalla!
Bringing Paella to the land of Risotto – a small Paella Party, chez nous!

Also, we were delighted to meet Fri (pronounced Free) and Lalla – fellow travellers staying on the campsite, who were such good fun, with Fri another guitarist!

We all hit it off perfectly – one of the greatest pleasures of camping!

Claire and I were also invited to Daniel, Ana, and Celeste’s nearby apartment where we watched Daniel make homemade fresh pasta, also using Ana’s mother’s home grown and pressed tomato sauce and home grown and pressed olive oil. We chatted and played with Celeste and had a lovely time. One highlight was when I told our new friends that Claire is an Classical/Opera singer – and, I managed to convince her that she should give a little ‘taste’ of her wonderful singing.

Celeste, following the conversation, but probably expecting just a little sing song, was looking at Claire when she started on an opera aria, from memory, and seeing the little girl’s jaw drop with her eyes wide in astonishment, was priceless! Indeed, so moved was she, that she asked to leave the table and dance with beautiful balletic movement, following her year or so of ballet dancing classes. What a wonderful night!

It’s a man-thing!

Another great benefit of ‘our’ beach was the fact that, although deserted of people, there was a good amount of driftwood. This, coupled with the fact that the campsite had plenty of Pine Trees (it’s in the name!), spelt Beach Bonfire BBQ to me!

This was our first – we had several. The weather great, the wine good and the food, well my usual 5o shades of black!

We went to see the amazing temples, though Covid restrictions stopped us from visiting, but they are plainly, magnificently visible from the road. We also went to the nearby town of Agropoli on Scoots, which enabled us to climb the narrow and steep road to the deserted, but well preserved medieval castle, where we were enchanted by the occupied dwellings which surround it, many of them built at the same time!

So, we were lucky yet again – and there’s more: (don’t miss Part Eleven, where I take up a new hobby; we, inevitably, I guess, visit a winery; and when our lovely daughter Rosanna comes out to play!)

Thanks for reading!

OUR TRAVELS

PART NINE

Manfredonia, Puglia.

Looking back at the history behind Manfredonia, where we arrived after Pompei, I see that the modern town was founded in the mid-13th Century by the eponymous King Manfred. The Greeks had owned it, the Romans after them, others, then the Normans, but I cannot find any reference at all to the rumour that it was the inspiration behind the name of the ’60s Pop Group, Manfred Mann (Ha Ha Said the Clown, and more such classics!). Odd that!

We needed to hotfoot it out of of Pompei as the area was going to be re-classified as a Red zone. We’d always intended to see the Adriatic coast, so why not go to a Yellow zone there? Our journey was interesting, quite mountainous, with misty, rainy weather and a curious motorway services stop where we were the only people there apart from the pump attendant and the guy running the cafe and shop. Once sitting with a panini style lunch the mist and drizzle seemed to close in on us obscuring everything outside, causing us to wonder if we’d moved into a parallel universe, or perhaps into a ghost story!

We left sharpish!

Once near to our campsite destination the roads took a dramatic turn for the worse, causing us to wonder if it was true that Northern Italy has the lion’s share of the country’s finances. Poor Campy didn’t like them at all!

Our campsite was great, just a 25m walk to the beach which was deserted apart from an amazing collection of shells – which were really beautiful.

Our Private Beach!

There was a slight issue with wifi, which is crucial to Claire’s teaching online, of course, but having arrived at the weekend we were surprised to see that on the Monday several of the campervans had left – locals who’d been there just for the weekend. Thus we were able to change our pitch and have better internet service. One great thing about it being a sort of weekend resort was the fact that the the closed restaurant advertised takeaway pizzas on the Saturday night – it would have been rude not to have ordered one! Scrummy!

Manfredonia was quite charming – an easy Scoots ride away, a small harbour, a small castle, though not open due to Covid, a few pizzas and some shopping possibilities (oh great!). We easily found a lovely restaurant where we were made so welcome as we were trying to speak Italian which was appreciated.

The tiny harbour.
Excellent fishy starter!

Manfredonia reminded us a little of the Azores, it had that sort of ‘feel’ about it. We went again to explore a little more.

Our nearest neighbour, another campervan in the next pitch in fact was a pleasant Italian who helped us out one day when it really was raining heavily. However, he must have been cursing us later that day!

We’d put out our awning – and forgotten to take it in because of the rain. Water was gathering as we were sitting inside, oblivious to the problem. We heard some shouts, but didn’t really take notice until there was a knock on the door – which is one of those No-No’s really in camping, respecting privacy, unless there’s a problem, of course.

I leapt to my feet – well, if you’ve seen me move recently, you’ll know that’s not true, two ruptured discs in my lower back, one dodgy knee, the other largely useless have rather impacted on my leaping anywhere! So, by the time I’d reached the door, 1.5m from where I was sitting, our kind neighbour was already trying to solve the problem by lowering one of our awning support poles to make it angled so that the lakes of water that had formed simply drained away.

However, he mistimed it, just as I opened the door – to see the contents of both lakes empty themselves on his head, knocking off his glasses and completely saturating him and his clothes.

“That’ll teach him to mind his own business!” – said Claire. Err, well ok, it was me, and a joke of course, albeit a touch cruel. It’s me brother’s fault, he taught me humour!

Needless to say (when Claire had stopped laughing – err, well . . . . ) we were mortified and very apologetic, thanking him etc. The next day, I went round to his to give him a couple of beers in thanks and a further apology, only to find he doesn’t drink – bingo, great entertainment, and free too, said Claire . . . . . .

In fact it was he who also helped us by telling us that Puglia was going red the next Monday, and suggesting that it might be better if we left while we still could. I don’t think it was because of Claire’s sense of humour!

He very generously gave us a couple of litres of Toilet Cassette fluid (dunno, must be an Italian camping tradition?!) and Claire gave him the flowers I’d picked for her. I didn’t suggest he put them in water . . . . .

“Early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn.

Well, I really have enjoyed my stay, but I must be moving on.”

OUR TRAVELS

PART EIGHT

Subtitle – Onwards and Upwards!

Err, well actually, downwards! Not at all in quality, excitement and adventure of course, just geographically – we move further south for Part Eight of my blog, and once again I’d like to take you with us!

There are so many places to visit in Italy, I’m sure those who’ve been would agree. The difficulty is both prioritising, and knowing that visiting one place can mean going past another without a stop! However, we are on this adventure for the long haul, so there will be time to visit at least some of the places we miss on this leg another time.

Mt Vesuvias!

High up on our list was Pompei. The eruption of 79AD, the dreadful loss of life, the few who escaped, and the subsequent discovery in modern times of the town ‘frozen’ in time, is a true story of biblical style. Plus, of course, there have been other dramatic eruptions of this, mainland Europe’s only active volcano (Etna is on the Island of Sicily, of course, and active right now as I write!).

Of course, Covid got in the way – what a couple of years we are having! Pompei was in Orange, one down from the most restrictive category, Red. We could therefore go there but it was unlikely the ruins, museum etc would be open to visit. However, given our wonderful luck thus far, we have a very positive frame of mind – so we went for it, hoping that things might improve.

As you might imagine, knowing me, there was also another attraction – the winery Bosco de Medici has vineyards on the foothills, and rising, of Mount Vesuvio itself! An e-mail, a whatsapp and a chat produced an invitation to visit!

Our host, Giuseppe!

Now, I say, Bosco de Medici Winery, accurate, but it doesn’t at all tell the whole story. It is also a resort, where there are a number of rooms, like a hotel really, a swimming pool, beautiful gardens, a riding school and something of a menagerie, boasting an exotic pig (there’ll be more now, she was pregnant then!), rabbits, birds, peacocks and more. There’s a small electric train that takes visitors on a tour and there are also 200+year old buildings being restored, adding to the marvelous vista that is Bosco de Medici.

The Bosco de Medici Resort’s thriving riding school.

Plus, it is literally adjacent to the start of those ancient ruins – we could only see a small part, but were nevertheless in awe. Well, it is an awesome place!

Volcanic soil resting on, and born of, lava flows from eruptions over milennia now home to Bosco de Medici vineyards and the path that leads to majestic Mt. Vesuvio itself!

And what about the wines, I hear you all shout?! Well, as I’ve said this is a travel blog, and it’s not my intention to give chapter and verse about the wines we discover, wineries we visit etc here. Such stuff can, of course be seen on my Facebook account, including the link to my Valley FM Wine Show, broadcast last Saturday 3rd April, which is devoted exclusively to Bosco de Medici.

However, if you’ll indulge me just a second or so longer, I will say that the wines, particularly their white mineral influenced examples are extraordinarily good. They can be bought online – mention my name, I won’t receive any commission, of course, but it would be nice for them to know that their generosity has been rewarded a little, at least!

Down to business – I’m not on holiday all the time you know!

Strewth, more work!
Homework too!

We’d asked if we might be able to stay overnight in Campy, as you know we seem to be making a habit of this! Of course, they accepted with alacrity, going the extra mile too, by offering us the use of one of their rooms as well for showers, electricity and the loo!

One of the charming rooms at Bosco de Medici. When next visiting the Amalfi Coast, this is where you need to stay!

Plus we also had the tour, mentioned above, and a glorious tasting, with some wines to take away, so I could film one or two Wine Reviews on Video in the weeks that were to follow! What a fantastic time, once again – but, unfortunately short-lived. We heard that the area was just about to go into Red – we had to escape!

“Early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn.

Well, I really have enjoyed my stay, but I must be moving on!”