Slovenia

(8th to 12th July)

It felt pretty good as we left the Prosecco hills having a different country set as our destination, especially one that was once part of the Social Federal Rep. of Yugoslavia.  We choose our first Slovenian destination to be the border town Nova Gorcia – for some reason both Sharon and I find border towns fascinating as by taking a few steps you are suddenly changing language, culture, car reg. plates, food, drinks and prices:- the list is endless.

We parked the van up at the free stop over in Gorizia (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy) and then slowly walked through the Italian part of the town.  It seemed quite lively and there was even a youth breakdancing festival happening in the main square and generally everything felt fairly Italian.  About 1.5km from Gorizia’s main square, towards the railway station, lies the border line where the old ‘fences’ used to stand, separating Gorizia and Novo Gorcia.  We felt quite excited and slightly ‘emotional’ as we approached the border, where lies a plaque sunk in the pavement showing the line between the two countries.  The emotion was prompted by the small permanent exposition showing photos of different times: with the dividing fence up, the day it came down and then through to the celebration of the day that Slovenia joined the EU.  There were images of Italian people holding banners welcoming the Slovenians and this was complimented by images of the Slovenians being proud to be part of the EU.  This made me think of the recent Brexit and how it contrasts.

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One foot in Italy the other in Slovenia.  Please note, these are Sharon’s new flip flops.

To contemplate what we saw and felt a Slovenian beer was required so we ventured a little into Nova Gorcia.  We did not need to go very far and soon we were sitting outside a very cool bar still with the Italian border in view.  The beer was Lasko, a light medium strength Slovenian lager, and the price was 2 Euro for half a litre.  In Italy, 200 metres away, this would be 4 Euro minimum – mad isn’t it?

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At the very cool ‘Boarder Bar’ located at Novo Gorcia’s railway station.

After a while we ventured back, only to stop off at bar in Italian Gorizia which had a form of live music.  An energetic singer was paired with a keyboard player (and we assumed that this also supplied the drums) and they marched through all sorts of music from Italian rock and ballads to 60’s American rock and roll.  The local crowd were loving it, dancing and singing, and to be honest we it enjoyed the spectacle of people watching.  I must admit though, there were some points when I too was found on the dance floor…………

The next destination was inland, Postojna, which is famous for it’s caves, but we were more interested in that town centre so that we could absorb some of Slovenia’s society.   When we arrived in the town, we were surprised that is was quite small, but we did manage to find a pretty good restaurant selling typical Slovenian food.  I had Zlikrofi (kind of like a twisted ravioli) as a starter and we both went for calves’ liver as a main, be it mine in a burger bun – I had expected that the liver would have been minced, like a beef burger, which would have been pretty original, but it wasn’t, as it came in thin fried slices.  However, it was still very good, tasty and filling.

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A liver burger, Štorja Pod Stopnicami Restaurant, Postojna.  Slovenian red wine also comes recommended.

Luckily, the town was having a festival on the night time and here proved the perfect place to do some people watching as the town folk came out to see the local dancing and music performances.  We stayed until the end and we felt that we had achieved a little bit of the Slovenian submersion we were hoping for.

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Local traditional dancing at Postojna’s summer festival.

Next stop was the Slovenian coast and we choose Koper.   The parking place is about 1km from the old town, which is pleasant, and the coastal promenade was busy of tourists and local people going for a stroll.  We only had a couple of nights stay in Koper, but you could easily spend a week there on holiday as it has the old town, coast and a nice feel.

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Historic centre, Koper.

We had randomly parked next to an English couple at the aire, Colin and Anne.  In fact, it was Anne’s birthday on the Sunday so we spend the early evening chatting, sharing a splendid sausage and oven chips dinner, all topped off with the European cup football final at a local Kopen bar.  Parabens Portugal!!!  And ‘parabens’ Anne for that matter!

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Seaside promenade at dusk, Koper.

The stay at Koper brought an end to our very short Slovenian 4 day taster and I think it would be really good in the future to dedicate a month or more touring the whole land.  On the motorhoming front, we managed to fill up with LPG in Slovenia and the adapter is the same as the Italian one.

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A totally mad camper from Serbia, complete with a fiberglass roof off a Volkswagen implanted in the roof.  Koper.

As a slight twist to the tour, recently Sharon had received some bad news (RIP Maggie) and was heading back to the UK for a short spell.  This meant we had to get within the vicinity of Venice airport choosing Treviso as a base.

Sharon has now been dropped off at the airport.  At the drop off carpark we had some motorhome drama as there were not any height markers on the roofed entrance barrier, be it this one was easily over 4 metres high.   Once we got into the car park though, the exit barrier had a 2.8 metre restriction on it!  I was pretty baffled by how this could have been planned and obviously we could not get under as we are 3 metres high.

Obviously we did manage to get out of the car park as I am sitting in the van writing this at the Delta Po.   I apologise to all of the people I obstructed whilst I sought help (note to Venice airport, if you are going to employ a Liaison officer, please employ one that speaks both English and Italian, having one that only speaks American is pretty useless I am afraid, leaving me to communicate with the airport Carabinieri with my, by now, very limited self taught Italian).

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Typical Treviso (It) canal vista.

As a side note, what a spectacular town Treviso turned out to be?  It is all encased by a wall and moat, has another mini canal system crisscrossing within the boundaries of the walls and has some classic grand piazzas.  As mentioned above I have returned to the Delta Po for the week whilst Sharon is away.  I plan to do some cycling around this tranquil area and generally chill out for a bit.

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Happy times in Koper sitting in the big hand chair. (I must have smiled straight after the camera clicked!)  Waiting for you to re-join the tour Xxx

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Venice Region

(1st July to 8th July)

Leaving San Marino we headed north and back to the coast, choosing Bosco Mescola, which lies just inside the Venice and Veneto region alongside the river Po.  This was a random choice as it appeared to be set in series of deltas and we supposed it would be similar to Delta Ebra in Spain.   It was certainly quiet and the stop over site only had a few vans parked up.  We took the opportunity to cycle around the delta visiting small port, Goro.  Here I was amazed by the amount of commercial fishing boats that were moored up, there were hundreds.

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Commercial fishing boats at Porto do Goro, Po Delta.

It was at Bosco Mescola where we confirmed that we could fit in a quick trip around Slovenia, which was not on the original route that was sketched out roughly at home.  I was pleased about this as I remember Slovenia being a nice place as I used to visit Zrece (north east of Ljubljana) for work some years ago and I am interested to see the country and it’s people again.

Before Slovenia though, Sharon wanted to see Venice again and that led us to Chioggia which lies south of the famous city.  At Chioggia we could easily day trip Venice on public transport and avoid the high costs of the Venice campsites.  However, Chioggia surprised us and in turn delayed us and we ended up staying 3 nights there.  Chioggia is known to locals as little Venice and it’s old town is encased by a canal network, be it one that is not as polished as it’s bigger sister.  For this reason the old town holds it’s own charms and appears quite a normal town.  The tourism in Chioggia is concentrated on it’s coastline where the familiar Bagnis (beach bathing clubs) line up and down the sea leaving the old town somewhat detached.

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Canals at Chioggia.

On our first exploratory trip into the old town we stumbled across a canal side bar where the ‘aperitivo’ was nearing it’s end.  Even though, the barman made us very welcome by frying some sardines (free) to accompany our wines.  Here we met some party people locals who were very friendly and helpful as I was trying to find yet another tyre place.  That brings me onto the drive to Chioggia – we picked up another puncture!   I could not believe it, we stopped off at a supermarket enroute and sure enough when we left the car park we were on a flat.  This time I changed onto the now good spare by the road side leaving us with a defunct 5th tyre which would need replacing or repairing as soon as.

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At canal side ‘Café Red’ in Chioggia – cheers for the sardines!

The day trip to Venice was fairly uneventful and extremely hot.  We walked around the streets, took a look at San Marco square and then ventured off into the Ghetto Nuovo (Jewish quarter).  We ended the day aperetiving with Lynne and Welsh couple Chris and Janet, who were on a cruise ship that had stopped off at Venice port.  This threesome delayed us some what (it was fun – we hope all is well and that Lynne made her flight home!!!) so we caught the last but one bus home and arrived back at the van after midnight.   Again this bus journey saw friendly Italians at their best – whilst looking at the time table to see where and when the bus would be leaving, Venician Matteo, a young barman in the city who was also returning home, asked us if we needed any help and ensured we got on the right bus.  Grazi Matteo!!

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Walking towards Ghetto Nuovo, Venice

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One of Sharon’s arty photos, a Prosecco aperetivo in Venice.

The next day was a bit of a mess to be honest.  We left Chioggia at about 11am once we had visited a supermarket (Eurospar – really expensive when compared to Conad) and then tried to find a tyre place.  This led us on a wild goose chase around Mestre to no avail.  We finally gave up and refuelled ourselves with a very rare visit to Burger King.  Whilst chewing through the burgers we noticed a small Gommista on an industrial site at the back of BK and it was here that the sole mechanic dropped what he was doing and helped us out – the puncture on the spare turned out to be unrepairable and therefore he ordered me a new commercial van tyre that arrived within the hour.

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The van at a tyre place (gommista) again, outskirts of Venice. That is our 3rd tyre purchase since being in Italy.

Finally, we got going and our destination was a vineyard which had great reviews in Camper-Contact.  I set the GPS co-ordinates and about 2 hours later we arrived at this destination.  Something was wrong though as the ‘destination’ appeared to be in a sunflower field and there was defiantly not any access for camper vans.  So we checked the co-ordinates only to find out I was one digit out on the North and that meant we were approximately 250 km away from where we wanted to be.  Sharon admits she was pretty pleased that it was me that entered in the numbers!!!!!  A quick search led us to a nearby campsite Riva d’Oro at Revine Lago near the Prosecco mountains.  Here the highlight for me was getting to know a little the campsite owners Lisa and Tony who as it turned out used to run a restaurant in Breno that was based in an old 1960’s Alitalia airliner during the early 1990s.  I was completely fascinated by this story and I spent some time on the net researching the history behind this plane.  I think it is a very brave idea to pick up an aeroplane and site it on a plot of land as your restaurant base – however, I love it and there should be more of them!!!!

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An old postcard showing the ‘Caravelle’ restaurant that was based in Breno, Brescia.  For any ‘spotters’ the plane no longer exists on this site.  It is thought that it was dismantled and moved to Cergnago in 1997 for use as a piano bar then to moved again to Rivanazzano, Pavia.  It is assumed it was sold for scrap in the mid 2000’s.  Fascinating.

Umbria, Le Marche, Emilia-Romagna and San Marino.

(25th June to 1st July)

After driving through the Montepulciano mountains which concluded our Tuscany tour we ventured into Umbria.  When looking at the map we choose Lake Trasimento as an interesting place to visit and used the lakeside stop over at Castiglione del Lago as a base.  Here, the lake’s water was pleasantly cooling against the strong heat and humidity however it was not the heat that made us uncomfortable but the mosquitoes – there were loads of them!!  We only managed one night due to this and decided that we need to be closer to the sea in an attempt to beat the heat as there was not a breath of wind in the Trasimento valley.

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Our view of Lake Trasimento

The search for sea breeze took us directly east to the Le Marche coast where we attempted to use the free stop over at Falconara Marittima, however on arrival the local vicinity of the GPS co-ordinates did not look too inviting (in fact we could not find the actual car park – we wonder if it has closed?).  We finally arrived at Senigallia late afternoon and were pleasantly surprised.  It seems a favourite with Italian tourists and boasts and great long straight beach complete with an impressive compact old town.  Here on the beach we met young Engineer Luigi and over a few beers in a beach side bar he quizzed us about the Brexit.  Thanks Luigi for translating the commentary in the Italian newspapers for us, it is interesting to hear ‘Europe’s’ reaction.  We hope all goes well with your new job.

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Sharon finally wears out the aqua green 3 Euro flip flops she bought in Vila Real, Portugal.  A new pair of blue and silver flip flops were purchased in Senigallia for 1.99 Euros.

After two good nights at Senigallia we were Rimini bound.  This was one of the few ‘milestones’ like Granada and Servile that we highlighted as a place we would like to visit on the tour.   The reasons for this are a little vague, as I did not know too much about the city apart from it’s reputation as been a bit of a trend setter and an important place on the Italian club scene map – I quite like a party!!

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Typical Italian road.  Bone shakers.

However, enroute, disaster struck.  Finally, the Italian roads had started to take a toll on the van and leaving Pesaro I had the sneaking sensation that we had a puncture.  A road side stop proved this with the culprit razor blade sticking out of right hand rear tyre which I had picked up near a kerbside whilst dodging the potholes.  We got directions to the nearest tyre depot, which luckily was only 3 km away, but on arrival it was closed for siesta.  After locating the jack and releasing the spare tyre from underneath the van I embarked on a spare change on the garage’s forecourt only to find that the spare’s tyre walls were very badly perished (the date showed the tyre was 11 years old) and I was hesitant to fit this on a 3500 Kg camper.   Once the garage opened we were informed that getting hold of the correct tyre would be difficult and they offered to drop on ‘something similar’ for 150 euros.  After some debate (the tyre was not the right one and far too much money) we left on the badly perished spare in hope we could find something better in Rimini which was 30 kms up the road.    To cut a long story short, after trying several tyre places around Rimini, we arrived at the camper stop at around 6pm with two new tyres (Pirelli of course, we are in Italy!) and 250 euros lighter.

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The garage ended up moving all the wheels around to get the two new tyres on the front.

The plan was to watch both the Italy Spain and the England Iceland football games in Rimini on that evening.  We did manage to catch the second half of the Italian game in the first bar we walked into and I think I might need to ‘rethink’ my previous observations regarding Italy’s passion for the cup.  When the Italians scored the 2nd goal the whole bar went completely mental and a minute later when the game ended the TVs were turned off and the local crew of bar regulars fired up the DJ turntables and a full on party ensued.  It was under these conditions Sharon and I had to peek at the England game that they put on silent for us one hour later.  To be honest, the England game was that pathetic we were pleased to have another diversion of music, dancing and banter with the lively locals until the early hours.

Rimini is a great place no doubt, our highlight was the ‘Rimini shopping night’ where the old town opened up all the shops, put on about 20 live music acts dotted around the town and had open food stands cooking anything from pizza to massive steaks – it was packed with Rimenese enjoying themselves.

One random event I would like to record is meeting Mario and his partner who were from Brescia.  They were touring in a classic Fiat motorhome that had the ‘swan neck’ at the back, which is very strange.  We got talking and in my excitement I managed to invite them around for an evening meal – we had a lot of fun and quite a lot of wine.  Thanks Mario for the home made Brescian wine and salami – we are still enjoying it!  Also thanks for being polite about my cooking!

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Mario’s 1983 Fiat, with upstairs bedroom at the back. Rimini

After Rimini we did a two country day by visiting and stopping over in San Marino.  We visited the medieval hill topped ‘Citta’ via the cable car and found it to be pretty stunning (UNESCO site) but was slightly alarmed by the ‘bad taste’ that was been sold in the shops (wine bottles with topless and full frontal bottomless women on the labels, beer bottles with Hitler mug shots and shop fronts dedicated to air rifles, large hunting knives and Samurai swords– weird).

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Stunning views from the top of ‘Citta San Marino’

On a motorhoming practical note, we did wonder whether the fuel would be cheaper in San Marino and it is, by about 10 cents per litre when compared to Italy so we used the opportunity to fill up.

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Cool old Iveco A class, Senigallia camper stop.