Back to Italy

Monday 2d December, back to Ionion Beach Camping

We drove back to Ionion Beach Camping, the best camping site we had been in Greece. 

Still, they don’t seem to empty the bins in the toilets. They were full! Every single one of them overflowing with used toilet paper. 

I never saw anyone doing any cleaning either! So I decided that if they could not be bothered to empty the bins, I would flush my toilet paper and if this caused a problem, so be it! Hygiene in campings in Greece has been from abysmal to just not good enough despite being quite costly. Maybe this is because it is low season and they don’t have staff? In any case this is no excuse. 

We picked a spot and decided to get the gazebo up, as the weather forecast was saying it would be dry for a couple from days. That was optimistic. 

Still, that evening we had dinner outside instead of crammed inside in our small van. I was smelling something though. Eventually we discovered that the 15 to 20 cats who seem to live in the campsite, were using the back of this spot as toilets! We moved away! 

We met again with John. We had met him in the site the week before. He was using the camping as a  base to visit the region. 

In the afternoon I cooked a big lentil/ chicken curry. That would last 4 meals. 

Tuesday 3rd December

We chilled in the camping. I did some laundry in the early morning, in the hope it would dry by night fall. It did not. The weather was once again cool and we had more rain. 

In the evening we invited John for a drink in our gazebo. Last week he had given us fresh bread and a bottle of wine. So this was the least we could do. He was planning to stay in the area until January but gave us leaflets of some nice campings in Sicily. He would be heading over there in January. He had spent last winter down there, so he had good advice on best campings! 

Weds. 4th December, wild camping by a small fishing village.

We packed and emptied grey water and toilet cassette. We also filled with water in preparation for the next few days. 

We were heading toward Igoumenitsa, we had our ferry there but it was a long way. So I found a parking spot, in the fishing harbour of a small village, about 150km south of Igoumenitsa.

Leaving the Peloponnese, we avoided the very expensive bridge and took a small ferry instead. It was a fraction of the price. I was not too keen on taking the ferry as the weather was wild and the sea very rough, but in the end it was ok. I was not seasick. 

By late afternoon we arrived at a lovely little harbour with small fishing boats dotted around. We had a walk around but it was very cold. At least the rain had stopped. 

Thursday 5th December – overnight ferry Igoumenitsa to Brindisi

The ferry was leaving near midnight. Originally we had planned to stay in the van with the dog, but this is not permitted in the winter. So we booked a “dog cabin”. We were travelling with Grimaldi ferries because we do not have to put the dog in a kennel in the ferry. The company provides few special “pet friendly cabins”. The crossing was about 8 hours, so travelling by night was perfect. Get settled, go to sleep, next morning drive out. 

I don’t like ferries. I get seasick if the sea is rough. If you think a ferry is too big to get sick, try Dover – Calais in winter, in rough sea, and come back with your feedback ( and stomach intact!). It can be very bad! I am so glad we have the eurotunnel! 

We arrived at Igoumenista around noon. We decided to have a last Greek meal in one of the many tavernas dotted around. I ordered a small portion of fried anchovies and grilled sardines, while Alistair went more conservative and got cod in some sauce and grilled peppers. Everything was excellent. 

After a rest in the van ( we shared a nice 1/2 litre of white wine at lunch time) we moved, by 5pm, to the ferry terminal. We parked and had  a small snack for dinner as lunch had been rather filling. 

Eventually we went to our boarding gate, not that it was easy to find. Once we had our tickets we had no clue where to go, so we drove from one end of the harbour to the other end, until someone eventually directed us to the right place. A bit chaotic and disorganised, compared with Calais or Dover! As usual,  every truck and car boarded the ferry except us, so we waited for a good hour, while nothing happened, before we were let in the ferry. We went then straight to hour cabin. 

Scruffy was very anxious, the ferry, even anchored, was very noisy and he looked confused and scared. Alistair took him to the bridge For last pee then we went to sleep. 

Friday 6th of December – southern Italy 

In the morning we had a quick shower and as I was finishing we were asked, on the speakers, to vacate all cabins. We were still a good 2 hours from docking! So we decided to ignore the various calls for a while. An hour before arriving we left and gave back the key at reception. We then sneaked in the only place sheltered at the bar. Dogs are not allowed there or anywhere inside the ferry, but we were not found out. Another couple with a small lapdog was asked to go outside on the bridge! I was very annoyed as we paid almost 300 euros for a dog cabin, nothing warns us that up to 2 hours before arrival we have to vacate the cabins and wait outside in the bridge, in the rain and freezing cold! For several hours! I will be writing a letter of complaint to Grimaldi ferries. 

Eventually we drove into Italy. As in Greece, there were piles of garbage and graffitis everywhere. As in Greece, as soon as we stopped in the parking of a supermarket, the beggars would come out of the woodwork! The difference is that in Greece they were gypsies, in Italy they are Africans. Still, impossible to avoid beggars. 

Another unpleasant sight in Italy, on top of the masses of garbage, derelict abandoned tagged and vandalised buildings and terribly awful roads, are the prostitutes, dotted every 100 metres along the roads, outside of motorways. It just feels like a third world country…. I don’t think we will be going back to either Greece or Italy. 

Eventually we arrived at the camping listed in my ACSI book. It was open. We paid and parked. Then we walked to the facilities ( shower and toilet block). The visit of the inside left me horrified. The camping was rated 4 star in the ACSI! In the women side only 2 cubicles were open for the toilets, they were horrendous with no toilet seat, urine and stains  all over the ceramic and dirt ( and much worse) inside the bowls. The showers were not usable. Even with flip flops! 

On the men side, Alistair only found a filthy squat toilet open ( all others were locked) also terribly dirty. 

What do they think campers are? Animals? 

We decided to ask for a refund and leave! I don’t think we spent more that 15 minutes there! 

As I said, based on all that, I don’t think I will ever come back to Italy! The place is a dump! The hygiene is non existent! I don’t know where all those people gushing all the time about Italy actually go! 

So we drove as close to the ferry terminal to Sicily as possible. I found a parking on the seaside that had good reviews. We arrived there around 5pm, it was getting dark. It had been raining all day. The place was strange, kind in the middle of nowhere, but then, near the small parking, was a long promenade along the seashore with lamp posts illuminating it for miles! It was popular with runners though. 

We had early dinner and played some board games. It had been a long day. 

Saturday 7th of December, Sicily ghastly camping

So we drove to the ferry terminal. The place was  a mess. We stopped kind of in the middle as there were no parking, and went to buy our ferry ticket. Apart for  the fact they wanted to overcharge us ( this is Italy after all) it went ok. We got a return ticker for 95 euros. Expensive considering that the crossing takes 15 minutes! 

When it was time to board it was anyone for himself, no such non sense as order of boarding depending on lanes or the size of truck or car… just get in as fast as you can disregarding anyone else and gesticulating all at the same time! 

Once in Sicily, we crossed the never ending town of Messina, full of beggars jumping in front of your car at red light to beg or forcibly clean your windscreen, the usual huge piles of garbage everywhere and the dreadfully crumbling buildings and abandoned structures. Some parts of town reminded me of the favellas in Brazil, although the favellas were better built and had better roads! The favellas I visited when I lived in Rio were far better than what I saw in Messina. The town is a mess and filthy! 

Eventually we decided to pick up the motorway as we were not making any progress. The surface was dreadful… we had to pay for that almost 5 euros for 30 kms of terrible road surface. Maybe you are perceiving that I am not warming to Italy…. 

We finally  arrived at the camping we had in mind. An ACSI club camping with a 3 star. The place was terrible and the facilities 50 years too old but we spent the night there. I wanted  a shower and wash my hair. On the plus side it was not too dirty…. still not the kind of place we wanted to hang around for long. The showers were heated by tiny electric heaters attached to the shower head. We had the same set up  in Bolivia and Ecuador! One was so weak the flow of water was almost inexistent. Only two showers were kind of delivering almost warm water with enough pressure to get wet! 

Sunday 8th December, camping Luminoso

By 7am a bunch of Italians were talking loudly near the van.  A diving school uses the facilities and access to the sea as its base. So the place was soon full of Italians all in and out using the dreadful toilets and staring at us once we kept the van door open while having breakfast! 

We left early. The roads were the usual chaotic. All  drivers superglued to their mobile phone so they are swerving all over the road, when not having a heated conversation with another person in the car, using both hand to talk! The car drives itself I guess! 

Once again, massive piles of garbages everywhere at any opportunity. It was a depressing sight. 

We stopped at a large shopping mall to buy som bread and few things. After a quick lunch in the parking lot, we left again and soon reached our final destination. Yes, it is our final destination, we will go no further. We are as south as we can be. Beyond, over the sea, there is only Africa and Libya. Not a country we wish to explore ever! 

We visited a couple of campings and settled on the best one. The best we had in Italy! Private (CLEAN!!!!!) loo, clean modern showers, great clean modern facilities, nice pitches. The place was full of Germans but they still had some space for us. So we will base ourselves here for two weeks while we explore the island. We still have rain though, no escape!