311 – 313: Mothers and Model Village

311 – Thursday 25th February 2016:  Capua (and unusual nocturnals…)

Morning at the excellent (if a little expensive) Caserta Sosta saw us each running 4 kms on a good path/cycle track. Brekkied, we sorted out the van services and put ‘Bradge’ (it saves typing Brad and Madge – as I just did!) to the onerous task of taking us all of 5 kms to the town of Belvedere San Leucio – home of silk production – and scene of an interesting socio-political experiment. In the 18th century, Ferdinand II of Borbon decided to establish a new town called – you guessed it – “Ferdinandopoli” – a humble man, obviously. Workers were paid according to the amount they worked – not just the hours – divorce was outlawed – and a form of socialism would prevail. Alas, it was never finished as the Borbons were overthrown. But much of the ‘new’ town survives – with neat terraces of houses – probably for the relatively wealthy in the area – socio-capitalism?  The main Palazzo was closed but a kind staff member let us tour the grounds and take photos.  We visited the Piazza del Seta (silk museum/shop) where K made a modest purchase – beautiful silkware on display.



Model houses


The factory and museum complex


View from the top … it might be UNESCO, but that does not stop it being overgrown!


Coffee stop.  Valentine’s day may be over but the sentiment remains.

En route to Capula, K realised we were still in Buffalo Mozzarella country. This is not a place where Bison sit eating nice cheese – but the home of the finest Mozzarella made from buffalo milk, as against that of cow.  K spotted a factory shop and alighted from the van (after it had stopped, fortunately) – and went Buffalo hunting – she’s a dead shot with a fistful of Euros, rarely missing the target!  True enough, my lovely Annie Oakley lady returned with the spoils – Buffalo Mozzarella cheese, Buffalo burgers and Buffalo steaks ! How many times can I get the word Buffalo into one sentence ?  All for a handful of Euros…

We commenced our perambulations (anyone remember Silver Cross prams?) to Capua– nice streets – a twice rebuilt Roman bridge (courtesy of WWII bombings) – and the Museo Campano. We were the only visitors in the afternoon – and we had three members of staff looking after us!  Much of Roman, Greek and a little of Egyptian  artefacts – but the highlight was a display of Madres – ancient (BC) busts of mothers holding babies wrapped as mummified … ex voto shrines to the Goddess of Fertility. When we got to a mother holding 12 babies, we speculated that this may have been the number of children lost, born, or the number wished for? Very impressive and unusual.  On leaving the Museum and thanking the staff, we were treated to a cup of coffee !  

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Roman bridge and Frederick Towers … used to have massive statues atop.

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New cathedral (WWII again)

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Prolific and our sympathy!

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A rather ‘cheeky’ Attic vase.

K cooked one of the Buffalo steaks – a bit chewy and not as nice as beef – but will go nicely in a casserole…

Our overnight location in Santa Marie Capua is a proper ‘Sosta Communale’ – a large parking area nicely paved with grass tiled blocks (discourages young folk doing car wheelies) – special section for motorhomes – all services available – why can’t we have these in UK?  As the evening drew on (we watched an excellent episode of Inspector Morse), the courting couples started to arrive – no nuisance to us, quite discrete – except…..   I went out for a late evening discrete pee – and noticed a car parked quite near – under a lighting column – with a couple engaged in full-on ‘flagrante dilecto’!  And another car nearby watching!!!  The reader doesn’t need much Latin to realise they were not hiding their lights (or much else) under a bushel !  They stuck to their guns…..doggedly ! 


312 – Friday 26th February 2016:  Sitting Still

Friday – rest day…. leisurely awakening – after a most spectacular electric storm between 1:00 and 2:30 am – with heavy rain. Your editor and sub-editor were snug and warm throughout…

We ran – separately – K did more difficult Pilates, followed by hand washing – utilising the excellent service facilities. Then Chardonnay was rendered replete with her services – isn’t that posh for saying we emptied the toilet?  Bum slogging – sorry, some blogging, was appropriate to get the reader up to date.  Lunch – one of K’s mouthwatering soups – then a little more exploration of the citta – very busy – in the town square, men (only) played boules or petanque Italian style – where are all the ladies ?  The obligatory coffee and small cake – at a huge cost of Euro 3.20 !

Our overnight spot came alive with veg, meat et al sellers in the early evening – but it was all pre-ordered only – otherwise Ms Oakley would have reached for the Eurowallet.  

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The amphitheatre – apparently the third largest in Italy … we both ran around here and then walked it later.  Volcanic hills in the distance.

313 Saturday 27th February 2016 – Coastal Route to Montecassino

A longer run for us both … J for 5km and K only 4, but followed by Pilates (I’ve got quite used to the strange looks I get as my mat comes out!).  A leisurely breaky and more services … and we set off for the coast.

Campagne is the home of Mozzarella di Buffa DOP and we saw a lot of manufacturers and shops along the roadside.  But where are the Buffalo that supply the milk????  I had read an online report that stated that many are imprisoned indoors, but we eventually saw a number of herds.  You could not say that they could roam at will or that they had a lot of space;  more like cow shed and pens.  

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Pix from the internet, but you get the idea.

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We also did a small shop and bought a bottle of a local liqueur… Alberti Strega – it comes from Benevento nearby and one has to try these things!!!

The coast is pretty dire … all built up and holiday resorts.  No way did we fancy trying to find somewhere to stop so we headed on for Plan B – Montecassino a bit inland.  We arrived at the Parking (with motorhome services – we are so spoilt after the general lack of them in Sicily) up a tight single track with sharp bends …. several gasps later we’d parked.  The series of stupid things are …  J had alighted and walked over to check the road up and K had spotted another route up to the parking on Madge…. but no, we’d blindly followed Bradge’s instructions!

A late lunch and then we walked down the hill (the route we should have taken to get here) to the town, just for a wander.

309 – 310: Stinking Crater and Stinking Rich

309 – Tuesday 23rd February 2016:  A Steaming Stinking Crater

Happy Birthday Louis … not yesterday nor tomorrow, but today!

A sad and fond farewell from Naples – we’re really could not justify staying longer.  The Sulfartic Crater – oops, Sofatara Crater was smelly and very warm in places – 160 c water temp – K thought about bringing our walls to smash – sorry smalls to wash – but we don’t really want socks that would burn and defoliate our legs…..  Impressive place but an hour was sufficient.  In keeping with Brad the Sat Nav … it moves!  Up and down.  Lots of sinking churches and cracked buildings.  It’s called Bradyseism – official!





The above photos show me (J) and Chardonnay practising our latest dance routine! It’s called “Strictly” – novel, eh?  In a very tight space, I say to Chard – “suck your tummy in, girl and hold your breath”… It works!  Once through, she can breathe – and dance around as much as she likes – especially around potholes. It could be a new TV show – “Prickly Some Prancing”!  BBC…? Brucie? 

First we decided to visit a port … far too busy and pay metres everywhere.  Secondly a lake – simple, you say?  Find a lake and drive there… We don’t do simply (facile) …..  down a narrow street – a narrower street – has the reader detected that we’ve been here before ? Road blocked and no obvious place to turn.  Lots of help in fluent Italian from locals and Chard once again sucked in her tummy (should we buy a motorhome whalebone corset?) – reversed in through a (narrow?) gate – and abandoned the Lago search.  All sails set – off to a free overnight parking near Deserta – no, James – Caserta !  The correct order in Italian cuisine – its aunty patsy, then primocaruso, then secondosomething, then deserta – then somnovinoque…zzzz 


310 – 24th February 2016: Caserta Royal Palace 

The parking was good – quiet and peaceful.  K was going to run at dawn – but Dawn said otherwise…..like, stay in bed !  But she did ‘Pilates of the Caribbean’ at about 0900 hours – watched by the local young ladies on their power walks.  Why were they not watching me? Munching cereal and drinking carrot juice – just as exciting…

We drove to a pukka sosta at Caserta and parted with EUR15 to park till the morrow.  Bicycles launched – Caserta Palace in our sights.  After several tours of the town, we joined a long queue for cycle tourists biglietti – tickets to the reader… a long time later, we entered the Palace Park. The entire complex is billed as a smaller Versailles – very true – and not so small either !  The park and English Gardens are beautiful if a bit neglected at this time of year, but well worth a visit (on bikes – lots of ground to cover uphill and down.

Having sold tickets to cyclists, there are no places to park bikes while touring the house!!!  Back to town to seek a bike parking place – we spotted something!  It was a bar – that sold wine! Now then – try locking your bike to a glass of red wine – you may fail – and incur the wrath of the bar owner…. Once refreshed, we found the pike bark – bike park !  It was good wine !  The house was vast, full of frescoes, portraits of Charles II, sculptures, etc.  Not immensely moving.  The portrait we would really like to have seen but was missing – painted by Michaelangelo (I made that up) was on the side of the royal commode!

Not Versailles or Hampton Court – but extremely impressive in it’s scope – and gardens….

Back by varicose routes – to the excellent Sosta for the night – gated and quiet – hush…..


Sadly nearly all of the exterior was shrouded due – and men were actually lavorio in corso … not like in Naples, where scaffolding was rusting and wilting.  Work started in 1752 after Charles of Bourbon wanted to compete in the palace stakes with Versailles.   A few facts … The facade is 250m. 1200 rooms.  1790 windows.  34 staircases.  

The main attraction of the grounds is the English Garden – not sure how many of the species are UK winter hardy!?  However, it was probably the highlight, with a lot of variety and some Magnolia and Camellias in bloom.  K loved the tree shapes ….





The formal gardens comprise a 3+km stretch of water and cascades.  Water was diverted from miles away to feed the garden waterworks.



The grey blob on the horizon is the house … it was quite a serious steady 3 km bike climb to the top!


Diana and her nymphs bathing… K saw Darcey Bustle perform this part at the ENO in Delibes’ Sylvia with Mutt some years ago  :). 


Peeping Tom … comeuppance …. turned into a Stag and his own dogs attracted him!


Part of the 3 km series of cascades.  Lots of carp in the pools.  The ponds were actually used for fish for the Palace.



Could be Spain … Tapas with wine.


The Palace felt really unlived in.  Not a patch on most National Trust properties.   However, you did get the sense of ‘immense’ and how much wealth the Bourbons had.  Very little is on view to the public.