Time to hit the road, exit this land called Greece, but which way? We dropped out of the bottom of Albania into the top of Greece back in November 2016, it seems such a long time ago, even after deducting a month in Australia. Nothing for it, but to get online & find the cheapest route to Italy. After hours of trawling through ferry company’s websites, I found the beast deal to be from Grimaldi lines ferry Co. – Igoumenitsa, Greece to Brindisi, Italy, £142 one way without cabin or reserved chair. The ferry would sail at midnight & arrive at 08:30h Italian time, time to get on the motorway & slog it north. The ever increasing amount of washing mountain dictates a stop over at a camp we used late last year to get it all clean & back in the wardrobes. Acrogiali Camping has slots in full sunshine, breezy & just about on the beach, perfect for a washing day, better still, it’s only 60km from the port.
Once on board we found a spare ‘long chair’ to sprawl out on & catch a few winks before arriving in Italy next morning. After a couple of strong coffee’s from the cafe/bar on-board, time to roll off & head for our first Italian stop, Ostuni. A pleasant enough little town, carved out of the same type of marble stone we last saw in Croatia. This stop was always only going to be a resting place after our almost sleepless night attempting to sleep in a chair, so after a quick walk around town, it was back to Charlie for a good long sleep and dreams of chips.
We can instantly see differences between Greece & Italy, just from the short ride from the port. The number of saloon cars on the road has increased, the number of 4×4 pick-ups, (olive-men, as we call them) and tractors decreased. Driving standards have fallen off the bottom of the scale, even by Greece’s poor standards. Generally more tourists, even in a small town like Ostuni, and strangely, everyone disappears indoors at about 13:30h…everyone, gone, empty streets, shops and garages closed, not to re-open before 16:00h, it’s a ghost-town. It’s all a bit wired to be wandering around a town by ourselves. Post-apocalyptic almost. Imagine at 13:30h on any given weekday, a self employed motor mechanic in Barnsley removing overalls & washing up, then rolling down the shutters and going to lunch. Knowing full well that he’ll be of to bed for a (nanna-nap) from 14:00-16:00h…? It’s like having two night times. Or worse, having to go to work twice in one day! Ok, I can understand this sort of behaviour in summer, 40 degrees + is never going to be nice to work in, but in winter? It must be so deeply ingrained, an uncontrollable, habitulised action. However did they cope during the war? ‘Sorry sir, it’s time for a little nap after my pizza!’ Chiao.
Next stop just up the road, Alberobello, home of the pointy roofs, locally known as the ‘Trulli Houses’ of Alberobello. UNESCO stamped pointy topped roundhouses, gathered in a cluster just big enough to draw tourists in. We had been seeing lots of these pointy roofs on the way in, but those were all in the country-side, spread quite far apart. This ‘pointy roof’ type of building happened all around these parts, but most of the buildings outside Alberobello seem to be farm structures. The original idea being that, if the tax-man came around, you could remove the roof & call it an animal enclosure. Some of them were brand-spankin’ new, just to fit in with local planning laws we figured, but you could spot ‘em a mile away, they were just too perfect! Sleeping for the night was a car park with designated MoHo spots just out of the town, a bit too close to a busy road and €10 just for a parking spot, but it did us ok. Expected to see more gnomes with pointy hats…none were found, shame!
Next up Matera, ‘cave-village’ (or Sassi) of yester-year and a bit of an embarrassment to the Italians back in 1950. Reported to be one of the worlds oldest towns, dating back 7000 years. Story goes, back in the 1900’s this town was all but isolated from the rest of Italy, left to fend for themselves in fact. The population slowly expanded and lead to habitation of the cave grottoes, originally intended for animals. The little town on the hill didn’t have any source of income, no agriculture no tourism and so slipped into a poverty spiral. Eventually most of the people ended up living in the natural ‘Sassi’ caves in this area, a hand to mouth existence, with no fresh water, other than rain-water, basic sanitation & little food, the area sank to an almost inhumane existence after the second world war. By 1950 more than half the population were living in the Sassi, infant mortality rate was over 50% and the Italian government were eventually shamed into acting. New (cheap) high-rise blocks were built in the surrounding area & the population re-homed, some by force. The Sassi have been slowly cleared out and the Sassi caves have a new lives as bits of film sets, quirky cafes, bars, B&B’s or just as a modern tourist attraction.
The tight little streets of Matera mean being very careful not to get stuck in town, so we opted for a campsite just out of town with a free shuttle-bus, there and back for times per day, see below for details.
Have a great weekend X Wayne.
Charlie’s sleepover spots.
Ostuni n40.73260 e17.58180 Quiet gravel car park. €7, no services. Water from tap.
Alberobello n40.78020 e17.24510 Car park near sports centre. €10, no services, WiFi (FON)
Matera Campsite Panterlone, n40.65260 e16.60613 €15pn Weak WiFi from bar. All services except showers.
Padula, n40.334080 e19.6510, on main road next to a wall. No services.