April 02, 2012 GMT
When in Rome

Week 14 - Rimini in Italy to Pompeii in Italy

When Google maps tells you it will take over 5 hours to get somewhere theyíre right. It was only a couple of hours to Pescara on the motorway, but the coast road was built up all the way and slow going. It was cold and dark and raining by the time we got there we thankfully checked in, grabbed a pizza and crashed out.

Tuesday we checked out the weather forecast and there was snow coming. If were to cross the mountains to Rome it was now or never. We figured the motorway would be quicker and safer if it snowed so for once we followed the green signs and got a toll ticket. Almost immediately we started climbing and it got colder and colder. We got about a third of the way to Rome and it started snowing. It got really heavy and then covered the outside lane of the motorway. I think through sheer will power Ant kept us upright and we stopped for a coffee and to defrost. While we were having coffee there was a queue of people taking pictures of the bike. We were sitting in the cafť thinking wierdos taking pictures and Iím sure they were thinking wierdos riding that contraption through all this snow.

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The bike was sprinkled with snow when we got out, but we pressed on and eventually the snow stopped and we started to drop down towards Rome.

Got off the motorway and immediately got lost. Found a bus stop with a map in it and found our way to Porta Pia and then to the hotel. Got some yummy gnocchi with gorgonzola at a local restaurant and went to bed.

Up early for exploring in Rome. Wandered up to the nearest bus stop and found we could buy a 24 hour ticket for busses and trams for 4 Euro, bargain! Bought our tickets and caught the bus to The Colosseum. Which was incredible.

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Iíve seen it so many times on the telly, but actually being there was fantastic, despite the rain. Walked all round the different levels and looked at the displays. I particularly liked the Roman graffiti which must have taken ages to carve into the stone.

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Stopped by the gladiatorís training school and then grabbed a coffee to warm up a bit.

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Spent the rest of the day looking round the forum ruins,

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the Circus Maximus,

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the Piazza del Popolo (which seems to be the place to go and snog your Italian boy / girlfriend. I swear some of the couples were trying to set some kind of longest kiss record!) and the riverside. We walked down the Via del Corso and had a look at the shops, but too expensive for any retail therapy.

Thursday we caught the bus to Vatican City and went to the museum. Some of the statues and artefacts were really impressive, but Ant and I found the art to be a little bit on the violent side for our taste. They did seem to have a model of the Death Star outside though, which was quite cool.

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The Sistine Chapel was another place it was fantastic to be after having seen so many pictures of the ceiling. We only have 1 fuzzy picture taken from up my sleeve as youíre not supposed to take photos in there. I haven't posted it as I really shouldn't have taken it. They had a man shouting at people and everything. We walked round to St Peterís, but it was shut. We assumed the pope must have been having his lunch, as it didnít reopen till 4. We made do with a look at the Christmas tree and nativity which were still there even though it was the 2nd of Feb. I guess the pope doesnít have to worry about bad luck!

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Back into town by bus via the Castle Saint Angelo and the Trevi Fountain, which is massive and more of a waterfall than a fountain.

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Well worth a visit if you are ever there, really pretty when itís lit up at night too. Walked up to the Pantheon which was shut for mass, timing is important when visiting Rome. Shattered after all that sightseeing so Pizza for tea and then back to the hotel for an early night.

Packed the bike up after breakfast and incredibly it started snowing. Thatís the first time itís snowed in Rome for 28 years! Due to the cold and wet the bike wouldnít start so Ant had to do some fettling with it and clean the plugs. Got it going eventually and headed out of Rome on the Tangenzianale. Took the SS7 towards Aprilia, but the rain eventually drove us into McDonalds. We were the lady with the mops worst nightmare. She had to come and mop the floor round us every 5 minutes as the rain dripped off our clothes and left puddles on the floor. After another couple of hours of torrential rain and the beginnings of a thunderstorm we decided to call it a day and stopped for the night in Latina. Went to Carrefour and bought a pic-nic tea. Sat in the hotel stuffing our faces and watching the lightening.

Saturday was beautiful, all the rain had blown away and it was bright and sunny. Nice coast road again and we got to Montedrangone in no time at all.

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We started looking for the hotel and then I remembered we couldnít find one in Montedragone and had actually booked in Licola Mare, which was another 50k down the coast. We were quite glad as Montedragone looked pretty grotty. Little did we know Licola Mare was much worse! Found the turning for it off the Naples Tangenzianale and after passing a considerable number of ladies of the night we found the road the hotel was on. It looked like the rubbish in the town hadnít been collected in months and there were gangs of men on every corner and dogs roaming everywhere. The hotel itself wasnít too bad and we had a nice view of the sea over the burnt out cars on the beach.

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Made a hasty exit from Licola Mare and went into Naples to try and find a McDonalds to book somewhere in Pompeii. No sign of a McDís and the traffic and cobbles in Naples were a nightmare. Got on the ring road, which in Naples isnít a ring, and we were going the wrong way! Gave up eventually and took the motorway to get out of Naples. Took the exit for Pompeii and horror even more cobbles! We wobbled our way down the road and decided to try one of the campsites opposite the entrance to the ruins. They had some caravans available that would be warmer than the tent so we booked into one of those for a few days. Looking forward to exploring the ruins.

Posted by Nikki Robinson at 01:00 PM GMT
April 18, 2012 GMT
Warning Ė This blog post contains adult themes

Week 15 - Pompeii in Italy to Patras in Greece

Reasonably warm night in our caravan with the heater going full blast. Ant went to Carrefour up the road and got bacon for breakfast, yum! The campsite was really busy for the time of year with lots of cars coming and going.

After breakfast we braved the cold and went to explore the Pompeii ruins. They were amazing. It was so cool to be inside the archaeology, but also a bit eerie as all the streets, houses and shops were still there and you could really imagine how the town would have been.

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We saw some of the casts of the bodies left behind and loads of amphora and other items that had been preserved. The theatres were still there as well and the big one is still used for open air performances during the summer.

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Got really cold so returned to the caravan for a warm up and checked the weather forecast. It was snowing everywhere else in Italy, the southwest corner we were in was the warmest place to be. After checking with the campsite guys they had a warmer bungalow we could move into the next day, so as the forecast said the weather was going to be bad into next week we decided to hang on in Pompeii for a few extra days and see if anything improved.

Tuesday we moved to a bungalow and it was much warmer. To celebrate we went for a wander around Pompeii town and (because the temperature was above freezing) we stopped for a gelato. Spent the rest of the day and the next doing boring things like washing and shopping and buying pressies for Antís birthday.

Thursday was Antís birthday and his pressies were mostly food. Really chunky chocolate and a big squidgy cake. I also bought him some glue so he could stick the soles of his boots back on, as they had started to peel off in the cold and wet. Checked the weather forecast and although we had blue skies and sunshine it was still snowing almost everywhere else. It looked like Friday was going to be the best day to get through the mountains to Bari, so we decided to make a break for it tomorrow. We returned to the bungalow to start packing up our stuff and the realisation slowly dawned that the campsite wasnít busy, but that we were actually camped in a BROTHEL!

While we were in the bungalow every couple of hours a different car would pull up and out would get a lady and a gentleman, invariably wearing dark sunglasses. After they had vacated the bungalow the cleaning ladies would come round and change the sheets and another car would pull up! But what really gave it away was what we could hear through the extremely thin bungalow walls. We have never been so glad not to speak Italian, although siÖ.siÖ.si doesnít leave much to the imagination.

Friday morning we were packed up early. Ant went to check out as one of the stream of cars was pulling in and it seems we were getting a cheaper daily rate than the hourly one, so that was good. Got lost getting out of Pompeii and took the road to Sorrento rather than Salerno, lovely scenery though. Got the right road in the end and immediately started climbing. The temperature dropped and eventually we came to a police road block. They were diverting heavy traffic off the motorway. We became a bit worried when they looked at the bike and started laughing. Then they asked about snow tyres. They let us carry on, but made us promise to go slowly. A few miles on we couldnít do anything but go slowly as it started to snow really heavily. A few minutes later the road was covered and we were skating along. Though will force and iron bum muscles Ant managed to keep us upright, we wobbled off the motorway at the next junction and took shelter under a bridge. A policeman came to see if we were alright and said there was a hotel in a couple of kilometres. Unfortunately it was a down a steep twisty hill, so I walked and Ant slid down the road as best he could.

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We were so happy to see the hotel appear around a corner. It was very swanky, a 4 star hill resort and wellness centre! We were just glad to be out of the snow. After a very nice dinner in the restaurant and a hot chocolate, which was so thick you had to eat it with a spoon, we went to bed with everything crossed that the roads would be ok in the morning.

Saturday was still cold and snowy, but the roads had been cleared and we figured we hadnít got too much further to go until we started to drop down out of the mountains. We set off and the roads got better and better and then the sun came out. Yay! We were flying along enjoying the ride when we went around a bend and the back of the bike felt all squirly. We pulled over and put some air in the back tyre, then had a ciggy whilst we watched it slowly deflate again. Nothing for it, but to change the tube so Ant took the tyre off and I found the spare tubes.

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Got it all back together but there wasnít quite enough oomph in the compressor to reseat the tyre properly so we wobbled the last 15 k into Bari and found a tyre shop. They were great, fixed the punctured tube, reseated the tyre and gave us a very stern warning not to go to Greece because it was dangerous! Couldnít find any internet access in Bari town so decided to try the ferry terminal because, despite the opinions of Italian tyre shop guys we still wanted to go to Greece.

Found the ferry port and rode up to the ticket office. There was a ferry leaving in a couple of hours and the tickets were slightly cheaper than I had previously found them on the internet. Result! We got straight on the ferry, strapped the bike down and bagged ourselves 2 Pullman seats. The ferry sailed on time at 8pm, so after a bite to eat we read until we were tired enough to get a bit of sitting up sleep.

I was really surprised to have slept until 5.30. We were woken up by lots of activity as people were getting off at Igoumentsia. After the stop the ferry was practically empty, so we stretched out on all the empty seats for another couple of hours until we reached Patras. Rode straight off the ferry and out of the port, no customs, not even a passport check. We followed the coast out of town heading in the direction of Athens and eventually found a campsite that was open. Pitched up with a beautiful view overlooking the water.

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Went in search of food and found a kebab shop in the next village. Our first taste of gyros and we were in heaven. Stuffed our faces and fell into bed to catch up on the missed sleep from the night before.

Posted by Nikki Robinson at 05:14 PM GMT
 

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