To the island of vegetables en fruit

| Leonie | EUROPE, Italy | 11 Reacties (Comments)

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitOur good Italian friends Fabrizio and Cristina assured us that the best vegetables and the best fruit can be found on Sicily. Our destination during our trip through Italy is that island fruits and vegetables. From there we will take the ferry to Tunis in Tunisia. To Africa!

During our days in Rome we booked a ferry from Palermo (on Sicily) that arrives in Tunis about 12 hours later. Palermo is still quite a long drive from Rome, so we also booked a ferry from Salerno on the mainland of Italy to Sicily. Salerno is about 270 km from Rome, a distance we spread over two days. As we leave Rome, we follow the Via Appia for a long time following the Mediterranean coast. We stop in Gaeta at find a room in an artsy B&B overlooking the sea. A beautiful view!

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitThe next morning the alarm goes off a little later than usual, allowing us to sleep in. It is warm enough now to send some of our clothing, like the liners of our motor gear and our thickest winter gloves, home. We fill a plastic bag with all this stuff, add a spare inner tube and spare sunglasses and go in search for a post office. We find one near the harbor in Gaeta.

Peter stays with the bikes, while I take the plastic bag inside. It is very busy, there are at least 40 people in the queue before me. With the help of an Italian granny I pull a ticket from a machine for the ‘Servizi Postale’. Although everyone took a number, most of them still try to skip the queue. From old grannies, to smooth 30 year old guys, they all try to convince the people behind the counters to help them first. A few times they are successful, but most of them are just send to the back of the line.

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitWhen it is my turn I take the plastic bag to the counter. The lady behind the counter hardly speaks any English, but with hand gestures and my limited Italian vocabulary she does understand that the plastic bag has to be send to the Netherlands by mail. She takes out a box and together we stuff the bag in the box and close it with some additional tape. After some more paperwork, I finally walk out off the post office an hour and a half later.

Outside Peter is talking to a small gray man. He explains he was a pilot and saw much of the world during the days he was still flying. When he hears where we want to go on our motorbikes, he raises his hands to the sky smiling. He shakes our hands three times and wishes us a safe journey. After that an older couple passes us, looking at the bikes in admiration. The man talks to Peter and then turns to me: “Sei una donna?!”. When I open my helmet to show that I was indeed a woman, he cheers and says: “Bravo! Bravo! Buon Viaggio!”

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitWe hit the road and drive further south along the Italian coast towards Naples. Earlier, we were warned by Claudio (of B&B Alfieri) about Naples. Not only because it is a big busy city, but also because it apparently is a dangerous city. At the time he did not mention the mafia, but that is what we were thinking of. The GPS seemed to lead us past Naples and not through the city. I am sure that, if we do not get stranded in a suburb without fuel, we will be fine.

On the road signs Naples still seems to be far away, but according to the GPS we are already riding through the outskirts of the city. We keep following the GPS, but at some point he (the GPS has by now turned into a person) seems confused and begins to recalculate. We have gone too far and need to turn around. Once we stop to have a good look at the map, it appears the GPS is leading us right through the city centre after all, instead of leading us around it. Well too bad. If we just keep riding, we will get to the other side of the city eventually.

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitWe drive into the city and turn onto one one-way street after another, turning left, right, right, and left again. It is very busy and it seems nobody adheres to the traffic rules. Cars just riding onto the street without giving way, stopping in the middle of the road, riding through the red light. We have to pay attention to prevent an accident. Fortunately, the bikes are not very wide and easy to handle. At the same time we are overtaken on both sides by the even smaller scooters and motorcycles. The Italians drive a lot faster than we do, trying to be the next Valentino Rossi. I regularly hear Peter shout over the intercom: “Watch your mirror, another one is overtaking you.” That does not mean that the overtaking scooter is driving on my left, he might just as well be at the other side. It is crazy and tiring.

Halfway Naples we decide to fill up and get some fuel. We arrive at a garage near to the port and are surrounded by a number of young men (“dudes” so you will). While I fill my tank we talk about the bikes, our route and soccer match of the night before. In the corner of the garage is a black car. Inside are two bearded Italians with huge sunglasses. One of the young guys runs back and forth to them, seemingly to report about the two motorcycle riders from ‘Ollanda’. Naar het eiland van groente en fruitOnce I want to pay, the guy looks at the men in the black car. Only after a nod from the guy in the passenger seat, does he accept my money. It is unclear what that nod exactly meant, but we pay the price that was on the board and then leave (with all our belongings). I wonder who those guy in the black car were….

The road leads us deeper and deeper into the city centre of Naples. Through a run down part of town where people obviously do not have a lot of money to spend. What is striking is the large amount of waste that is everywhere. Especially in the suburbs the waste was piled up high against the houses next to the road. After more than 1,5 tiring hours we finally hit the main highway and drive out of the city at full speed to leave Naples behind us.

We drive higher into the hills. The hotel that we booked for the night is an ’Agriturismo’, a B&B on a farm. The farmhouse is tucked away in the hills. At some point, the GPS points us toward a very steep and very narrow path up the hill. We drive up in first gear, honking in every corner and hoping there will not be any oncoming traffic. Naar het eiland van groente en fruitIt will be difficult to stop here without dropping the bike. The road continues into a village and gets even more narrow. Just before we ride through a little tunnel, I get off the bike to ask for directions. A lady assures us that this is the right way to the farmhouse. Here and there small cars are parked. If they made it here, so will we! We ride on, while the road becomes even more steep, until we see that the road turns into a staircase in the distance. That is not good! We will not be able to cross that with the bikes! We get off and look for another person to get directions from. It then turns out that the staircase does go to the farmhouse, but that there is another route around the staircase as well. Great!

After only five minutes, we park in the yard of the Agriturismo. It looks fantastic. In the field are fruit trees and vegetables. We hear geese, cows and sheep. We are warmly welcomed and taken to a beautiful room overlooking the hills and the sea in the distance. After we have freshened up, we have dinner at the restaurant. We are the only guests and enjoy a truly great Italian meal. The Italians surely love their food! After a long, tiring ride through the city, we get to bed early. Tired but happy.

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitThe next morning we enjoy a lovely breakfast of fresh bread, homemade jam, peach juice, fruit and pieces of cake. There is a small table right in front of the window to the kitchen where the cook is working. We see him making fresh pasta for that night. Wish we could stay for another lovely dinner, but we have a ferry to go to.

From the farmhouse it is another 60 kilometers to Salerno. From there we will take the ferry to Sicily later that evening. After a lovely relaxed morning, we leave the farm and ride an absolutely fabulous road along the Amalfi Coast. The coastal road is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The area is even on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. And indeed, it is very beautiful. The sun is shining while we follow the winding road, stopping now and then to take some pictures. It is not busy at all, but what would you expect on a Friday afternoon in December. Life is great!

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitAs dusk falls, we arrive in Salerno and find a place in the parking lot at the harbour. While we are there for a while, the parking lot slowly fills with packed cars. The boat we take to Palermo only makes a quick stop there before it continues to Tunis. The packed cars belong to Tunisians that are going on holiday to Tunisia. All cars have a huge amount of stuff on the roof. In some cases the pile on the roof is as large than the car itself. They take all sorts of things; chairs, tables, cabinets, bicycles and even scooters. The pile is held together by a piece of tarpaulin with a rope around it. The stuff that does not fit in the car, is tied to the rope and dangles behind the car. Each of the cars in very low in its suspension, almost touching the ground. It is a miracle these cars were even able to drive to the harbor.

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitAt 21:30 the first packed cars are allowed through the gate, to the ferry. As we only go to Palermo, we will have to get off the ferry first. This also means that we can only get on the ferry last. Eventually we are allowed through the gate and onto the ferry well after 23:00. We strap down our bikes with the help of the friendly staff and find a place to sleep on the boat. We did not book a cabin, but chose to sit in the ’Luxury Chairs’. It is not very busy, so we both lie down transversely on a row of chairs and try to get some sleep.

After a very short night on our bumpy beds, we eat some cakes for breakfast and watch Sicily become bigger and bigger on the horizon. Two hours later than planned, we disembark in Palermo. The GPS shows us in the direction of the hotel in Santa Flavia. It is Saturday morning and it is busy in the streets, especially with people who are getting their weekend groceries. We drive through the main streets with fruit stalls on both sides of the road, almost blocking the street. We arrive at the hotel in the beginning of the afternoon and lie down for a long deep sleep. We both need to catch up. We get only get of of our beds to get some food.

Naar het eiland van groente en fruitThe next day, we go for a ride around Sicily. The villages are now empty, a huge contrast to the day before. We drive inland from the coast, through rugged and steep mountains and along picturesque villages. Everything is still green and even still in bloom, beautiful! Everywhere we go we see stalls selling fruit and vegetables. Even now, in December, we can get everything we would want to eat.

After a much too short visit to Sicily, we head for the harbor again the next day to take the ferry to Tunis. When we arrive at the harbor, we see a long row of battered old cars with huge packs on the roof. That should be the queue for the ferry to Tunis! The cars that are lined up, have even bigger piles on them that the cars we saw in Salerno. Not only chairs, cabinets and scooters, but now also washing machines and refrigerators are ties onto the roof. After a long wait of more than four hours, we are the first passengers that are allowed onto the ship. We strap our bikes down for the trip to Tunis. This time we did book a nice little cabin with a private bathroom. A very good decision, because while the cars are still being loaded onto the ferry belowdecks, we crawl into our bunk bed and dream about what is to come: Africa!

Click here to view the pictures.

Distance travelled to Sicily: 2,663 km (1,655 miles) Lees meer (Read more)

With the sun in our face to Rome

| Leonie | EUROPE, Italy | 4 Reacties (Comments)

Met de zon in ons gezicht naar RomeAfter we had visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa on Sunday morning 8 December, we ride on to Rome. We booked a hotel on the outskirts of Rome where we would stay several nights.

On the advice of Claudio (of B&B Alfieri) we again follow the Via Aurelia, which appears to be a good choice. We drive over the Tuscan hills to the south. The sun is low in the sky and shining right in our faces. We’re going in the right direction. Lees meer (Read more)

Route Napoléon to Via Aurelia

| Leonie | EUROPE, France, Italy | 9 Reacties (Comments)

Van Route Napoleon naar Via Aurelia It is Friday the 6th of December and still chilly in the shade when we pack up the bikes. Once the sun emerges over the adjacent building it is perfect weather for a ride on the bikes. We replace the “spiderman masks” for sunglasses and get on.

We drive through the countryside of the French Riviera, a few kilometres inland. A winding road through pine forests. Here and there we catch a glimpse of beautiful mansions. Lees meer (Read more)