Southern Italy B - Matera, SE Coast, Gallipoli, South Coast.
From Pompeii we headed south-east so that we could spend Christmas and the New Year in the 'heel and toe' of Italy before crossing to Sicily. T
hroughout our time there, apart from Gallipoli, it was very quiet and we were often the only people at our overnight stops.
Although there was sunshine most days we also had quite a lot of windy days so we didn't always get out for as long as we'd have liked to.
In the 1950s Matera was a source of shame for Italy, a place of poverty, malaria and high rates of infant mortality, where many people lived in caves without electricity, running water or sewage. During the 1950s many families were removed from their caves and housed in other areas of the city. However nowadays many of the caves have been redeveloped and in 1993 it was named a World Heritage Site and in 2019 a European City of Culture.
We stayed at a small site a few kilometres from the city and on the opposite side of the ravine. The owner spoke good English and suggested that we took a walk along the ravine to visit some of the Rupestrian Churches (churches carved out of caves & cliffs) that the city is famous for.
We had a great view of the city from our walk.
The Sassi area. Some of the caves are still uninhabited, others have been developed.
One of the Rupestrian Churches.
We spend a morning in the town.
Lots of narrow passageways and steps - easy to get lost!
On the bus we'd noticed some caves and deserted buildings near the road and within walking distance of our site so the next day we set off to explore some of them. Up close they were much larger than we expected and some of them had large areas carved out of the rock.
We spent 3 days over Christmas at the little, mostly deserted, seaside town of Torre Canne. Most days it was very windy so we spent a lot of time in the van but did get out for a couple of walks every day.
The easterly wind was causing big waves and spray on this side of the town.
Just round the corner in the shelter from the harbour it was very calm.
Each afternoon we saw thousands of starlings making patterns in the sky.
This is a hill town a short way inland which we visited on our way south. We parked on the outskirts of the old town walls and then walked into the town, wandering along lots of narrow passageways and steps - and getting lost several times!
Driving through this area of Italy we passed lots of olive groves. We just had one night here parked up next to the beach and a small cafe.
The camper stop here was at a deserted holiday resort, a few hundred metres from the coast. The coastline here was very different with cliffs and no beaches. Once again it was, for most of our stay, windy but we did have some good walks along the coast and through the forests.
Chalk cliffs with lots of caves and arches.
Across the Adriatic we could see the coast and mountains of Albania.
Santa Maria is the town at the tip of the 'heel' of Italy. We tried to park near the lighthouse but the car park was full so we drove through the town and parked at Punta Ristola which is the most south-easterly point in Italy.
Punta Ristola, where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet.
Approaching the lighthouse at Santa Maria.
We walked out as far as we could along the promontory.
From there we had a good view across the bay with the lighthouse in the distance.
We spent the New Year at a campsite near Gallipoli. It was still very windy but we did have some sunshine when we visited the old town on an island close to the mainland.
Crossing the bridge to the old town with the castle in the foreground.
The town is surrounded by defensive walls, built mainly in the 14th century.
Defensive walls and a harbour.
Fishermen in the harbour.
The inner courtyard of the Castle.
Walkways inside the wide walls of the castle.
From Gallipoli we headed north-west, around Tarento and then followed the coast road south-east. We found this lovely, quiet spot near a beach for a lunch stop and ended up staying for 2 nights! We didn't drive any closer to the beach as it looked rather sandy - and were glad that we hadn't attempted it as we saw 3 cars getting stuck. As well as clear skies the wind had finally stopped so we were able to do lots of walking and cycling.
A lovely quiet spot for a couple of nights.
We walked down to watch the sunset both evenings.
Sad to see this turtle on one of our beach walks.
One of the cars that got stuck in the sand.
Cycling along the forest tracks.
Orange orchards and wild flowers.
On one of our beach walks we watched these fishermen who had set out nets with their boat and then pulled them in by hand. If we'd have had some cash with us we'd have bought a couple of fish!
From Pinl de Lenne we followed the coast road to the ferry port in Reggio del Calabria. We stopped at 3 different sites along the way.
We had some levely views of the mountains.
Our first sight of Sicily in the distance.
The lighthouse at Capo Trionto.
We stopped inland at the hill town of Sersale - free parking with electric.
Sersale had had snow recently.
On board the ferry to Sicily.