Have I told you how much I have read since being away? I am on my 19th book, the majority of them have been the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman, set in and around Herefordshire with loads of identifiable places – and people! I haven’t quite got to the stage of converting to Anglicism and becoming a vicar, but I am enjoying them immensely. So much so, that I wanted to finish one of the books before heading out on Friday and so lost my earlyish start to the day. By the end of it, I had lost my bearings and near on lost my mind!
Similar to coming down the SS16 on the east coast, the non-motorway major A road, I thought I would do the same going upwards on the SS18 towards Naples and the Amalfi Coast. I don’t know what happened, but somewhere the road split and was not signposted, typical here, and I ended up back in the mountains at Lagonegro. This was, though you don’t realise whilst you are in it, a really beautiful town on a rocky outcrop in the middle of a range of mountains and green, not a lot else for quite a few miles either side of it. And so, you don’t get out your camera, you just get coffee and petrol and try and understand where you went wrong, where the hell you currently are, and how to get back to where you are supposed to be. The only disappointing aspect was a> Hills and b> I can’t share my memory of the place with you without my camera, so have another search for google images.
I don’t know why I am so panicky about hills now. I mean, we have done the Black Forest, single track roads, even reversing down them, the Swiss Alps, the Italian Lakes, Galgano which was twisty turny too. I just don’t like mountain ranges I guess. Though the views when you get there are awe inspiring. It is a combination I think of the hills, the petrol consumption and the fact that you are driving something that is altogether heavier, higher and wider than your average transit van. Add to that Italian roads, Italian drivers and Italian pedestrians and you are on a complete knife edge. Italians recognise they are bad drivers. I haven’t come across a speed limit yet that anyone has stuck to. Usually they are ok at traffic lights, but if you have a junction without lights it’s a case of who dares wins. They will overtake in oncoming traffic and expect you to get out of the way, they beep to tell you that. Even if you have stopped for a car turning ahead of you, they still overtake, and still expect the turning car to wait until they have overtaken all of them. I even had my mirror knocked today by a transit van overtaking me on a single carriage one way street with a line of traffic ahead of me. And I don’t think there is a law against mobile phone use whilst driving over here either. So with all this chaos going on, they are doing it one handed with a phone up their ears. Including one young lady driving a little fiat at basically 15 miles an hour, phone squashed in the shoulder, the other hand out of the window doing the hand gestures you do on the phone, completely oblivious to the tail back behind her after 30 minutes.
So knowing that the Italians know how bad they are at driving, you think that as pedestrians there would be an awareness of mortality if exposed on the open highways of the country. Absolutely none whatsoever. Wont use pedestrian crossings as that’s like conformism (not that the cars actually stop at a pedestrian crossing) so will step out in to the road anywhere. At anytime. And take as long as it takes to get to the other side as if it was a stroll in a country park. No rush or concern of theirs or anyone else’s mortality. But if you do stop or have to break or swerve, the one thing that you can guarantee is the car behind is beeping as he or she is overtaking you.
Back to consulting the Camperlife App and the sat-nav and back on track to the coast. True to form and by now, expectations, the car park isn’t where the sat nav says it is. By now it is getting dark and could do with a coffee so I pull in to a layby on the main SS18, which appeared to be just a wider corner than an actual off roady bit so I left the lights on. 18km behind me or 50km in front, though it was in Salerno and Salerno is kind of one up from Naples in the less desirable Italian resorts apparently. But it is forwards and more towards Florence so I have my coffee and head off, taking 3 attempts to get in to the Sosta Camper on the seafront in Salerno because of the traffic, but I am in.
Well, almost in. There are 3 campers parked on the far side of a metal barrier, padlocked down for the night behind another row of temporary metal barriers. On the sign it says 1 Euro per hour 07:00 til 01:00 some other stuff in Italian and “Tickets Bar Marconi” hand written on the bottom. I wasn’t particularly concerned about being the wrong side of the barriers, most camping sites do that for late arrivals, you can still use the services whilst you’re there. I set off for Bar Marconi.
After lots of passing around, asking if I was looking for food, being apologised to for them being stoned and session on mobile google translate, we eventually figured out what I was looking for and I was directed back to a kiosk on the adjacent car park. No one in and everything locked up. I assumed that they must have finished for the night, the sign saying up til 01:00am and it was now 01:30am. I figured that they would know I wasn’t here before then so would charge me from 07:00am and if I left at midday that would be just 5 Euros, not a problem after all I would have paid more for just finding it. Though I had been invited back to Bar Marconi, I was knackered so settled down to sleep.
10:00am hammering on the bonnet. Not a little, a lot. Both sides. OK, get dressed and poke my head out. Cars parked either side, a woman with a cool box stood in the middle of the car park, two men dressed in authoritive car park security uniforms, door to kiosk open. Tall man, 50s, straight in my face when I get out of the van, throwing arms around and pointing at the campers. Woman arms crossed looking disparingly at me and eyeing up the space my camper is taking. I try to explain that I went to Bar Marconi, no one else about, no way to get in. He thrusts a 10 Euro note in my face. I say yes 1 Euro an hour as per the sign. No effort to want me to stay or transfer to the camper stop, no intervention from woman going to the beach, no second man interceding to help just Mr Aggressive Twat on the rampage. You want me to move then, ok I will move. I waved at him as I drove off the car park and away. Oh well, f#ck you and your 5 Euros.
Ok so I was now on the road and following the signs towards the Amalfi Coast. Bargain. And a free night that I was prepared to pay for. Well that’s Salerno off my Christmas Card list that’s for sure. Here’s to Amalfi and Positano. And windy roads. And Italian drivers. And Italian pedestrians. And tourists. And me in the camper. And no coffee yet. Bugger!
Thousands of cars all heading for the famous rugged coastline. Thousands of tourists already ditched the cars wandering all over the roads. Hundreds of motorcyclists weaving in and out of you and them and all over the place. Buses, council wagons, rental cars scared of 3 metres space each side of their charge. Add all this to my increasing anxiety of hilly steep and winding roads and it’s a bloody nightmare! Disappointing really that a policeman waved me off the main coast road just before Sorrento and on to a main trunk road towards Naples. Was all very well but to get from the coast to the main road was more frigging hills. Three hours in I just wanted to cry. By the time I was back on the flat and nursing myself with a coffee and a loaf of bread stuffed with tuna mayonnaise, I was just 5km from Pompeii and that was on my to do list…