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November 2019 to February 2020. Italy, Sicily and Sardinia.

4. Southern Italy. 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.

Throughout 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.

With a three burner hob, oven and a microwave (if we have electric) I can make a wide range of meals in the van.


1. Matera.

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, in 1993 it was named a World Heritage Site and in 2019 a European City of Culture.

We stayed a a small site a few kilometres from the city and on the opposite side of the ravine to it. 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 across the ravine.

The Sassi area. Some of the caves are still uninhabited, others have been developed.

One of the Rupestrian Churches.

A great spot for lunch.


One day we took a bus into the city. It's very hilly with lots of narrow streets and steps.


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 been large areas carved out of the rock.


2a. South East Coast - Torre Canne

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 walk every day.


The easterly wind was causing big waves and spray on this side of the town.

The lighthouse.


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.


2a. South East Coast - Ostuni

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!


1c South-East Coast - Torre Rinalda

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.




1d South-East Coast - Sant Andrea

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.

Across the Adriatic we could see the coast and mountains of Albania.


1d South-East Coast - Santa Maria di Leuca

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 where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet.


Approaching the lighthouse at Santa Maria.

 

From Punta Ristola we had a good view across the bay with the lighthouse in the distance.

We walked out as far as we could along the promontory.


We could see some things floating in the water across the bay to the west. On using the binoculars I was able to identify a nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, a crib, shepherds and some sheep!

2. Gallipoli

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.

 

 


The Castle has recently been renovated and opened as a museum. It was built as a fortress as we could clearly see by the width of the walls.

The inner courtyard of the castle.

Narrow walkways in the walls.


3a South Coast - Pino de Lenne

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 and ended up staying for 3 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.

Cycling along forest tracks.

Oranges and wild flowers.

Each evening we walked down to watch the sun set.


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!

A dead turtle on the beach - shame.

One of the cars that got stuck in the sand.


3a South Coast - Sersale

Driving along the coast road we could see snow on the tops of the mountains.

The Park4Night App indicated that the hill town of Sersale had free parking for campers which included electric so we thought we'd check it out and found it to be correct so we stayed for a night.

The camper stop was next to the (closed) tourist information office. We were glad of the free electric as it was cold overnight.

We had a walk around the town and could see that they'd had quite a bit of snow recently.

 

1. Central Italy A. Pisa, Lucca, Florence and Sienna.

2. Central Italy B. Lake Trasimino, Numana, Rome.

3. Central Italy C. West Coast, Vesuvius, Herculanium and Pompeii.

4. Southern Italy. Matera, SE Coast, Gallipoli, South Coast.

5. Sicily.Sant' Alessio, Naxos, Mount Etna, Taormina, Siracusa, Ortigia and Piana Calzata.

6. Sardinia. Cagliari, SW region, Gira Plateau, Santu Antine and Alghero.

7. Spain. Travelling from Barcelona to Bilbao.

 

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We had intended staying at a camper stop close to the ferry terminal to Sicily. It had a great view but was very run down and looked to be deserted so we went straight to the ferry terminal and within 10 minutes were on board!