297-300: Salt, a Pilgrimage and the Gargano Coast

297 – Thursday 11th February 2016:  Some Days Just Go Like That!

Neither of us slept well … our neighbouring motorhome departed at 1.30 am and J heard it did not really get back to sleep after.  The neighbours had arrived the night before in the middle of the night too.  Four adults and left in a Ford transit type van yesterday morning and were out all day until late evening.  All very strange!  AND we were also both of us worrying to varying degrees about the route out of the town.  And it started PEEING down which is like a deluge of conkers on the roof….  All contributed to a third rate night’s sleep.

J, the experienced runner, suggested that we did not run having both put in 6km yesterday and some twinges.  Apparently all the received running wisdom is that you should have at last one rest day a week … my whole life till recently had been a ‘rest day!”.  J washed up and I went to check the driving route out…. our self appointed car park attendant was back, so I asked him …. along the lungomare and then turn right.  I wandered on with the plan of walking the route to verify, but the TIC was open and she in charge actually spoke a few words of English and confirmed the same route.  Sorted … just wish we’d sorted it last night … might have slept better!  I had panned to Pilates, but the rain put paid to that.  I did buy two beautiful Sea Bass from the fish market and he filleted them for me 🙂  One is now frozen and the other currently in the oven on a bed of potatoes, olives and roasted red peppers …

The route out was just fine and we set off for the motorway as it seemed to be our best bet for motorhome services … it was and it had free wifi … two blog posts uploaded and emails up to date.  We loved Arancini in Sicily and they had them here … not a patch and very disappointing … will we have to move to Sicily?   They are seriously addictive.  K spotted an Ipercoop on the outskirts of Barletta … we’d run seriously low on wine.  I also managed to stock up on Marsala at EUR4.30 and bought a bottle of Moscatel di Trani, a dessert wine.  Having been there a MUST to try even at EUR10.50 for 50cl!!!  Will let you know how that went down later!  We then headed for a parking near the centre, but on arrival it was deserted … not comfortable with leaving Chardonnay here and unable to identify an alternative parking, we aborted Barlettta ….. guides book described it as shabby, but it had the LARGEST remaining bronze Roman statue … Ho hum … never mind – can’t see all the biggest and best of everything.

Following the coast road we entered Margherita di Savoia … nothing special except it it the location of the LARGEST salt plains in Europe.  We found the Salt Museum, but it only opened in the morning and we had missed it by 20 mins.  Ho Hum …. Lunch by the salt flats … seriously large ones and massive mounds of salt.

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A seriously huge mound of salt and it was not the only one of them.

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The coast line up to the Gargano Peninsula is really flat and pretty uninteresting and then as you approach you can see the cliffs leading down the to sea.

Onto Manfredonia – one thinks of Manfred Mann and a made up name.  A free parking on the Parkings App … and an easy route to it :).  At the end of the lungomare so a super flat route planned for tomorrow.  We wandered into the town, which is nothing remarkable.  Another huge Swabian castle … shut for renovation and the most huge plastic floats for the carnival procession.  The TIC was shut it opened at 5 till 7.30 … we are still getting used to these odd opening hours.  Back to Chard .. dinner preps and then back out.  What a change.  Lots of people walking out along the main shopping street.  The girl in the TIC did not speak English any better than our Italian.  Nor did she speak French or German.  Do they not get overseas visitors? Or do they expect visitors to speak Italian?   With pigeon this and pigeon that we established that she only covered the town, not the whole peninsula.  But they are the main town in the area?!  Ho hum!  All she could suggest was the castle, we informed her it was closed, and the and shopping street .. already discovered!  Ho Hum!  Back to the van to enjoy the Marsala and the Sea Bass … even though I cooked it, bloody marvellous!

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You can tell from the paving and promenade that this is a seaside town … just not the weather for it in February!

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Yes, we found another one!

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The huge plastic floats will be dragged through the town on Saturday.

298 – Friday 12th February 2016:  Monte Sant Angelo 

We awoke to rain …. it has to happen sometimes and we are conscious we are moving north.  Being a fair weather runner, K snuggled and luxuriated in bed, but about 10.00 a.m the rain ceased and she had no further excuses – a flat 4km for both of us.  We decided to leave Chardonnay where she was and use the bus to get to Monte Sant Angelo, as K had investigated the route and counted 13 hairpin bends … we’ll leave it to the bus driver, since we can!  Again helpful ladies waiting for the bus confirmed we were in the right place.  And we counted 17 mega bends on the way up.

Monte Sant Angelo is all about the Santuario di San Michele.  Here in AD490 St Michael the Archangel appeared before a local Bishop and said not to consecrate the site as he had already done so. Thenceforth it became a pilgrimage site.  Apparently Padre Pio, from nearby San Giovanni Rotondo, which we visited on the way down Italy, used to direct people here.  We both certainly found it more ‘religious’ and moving than the modern industry that is Padre Pio.  The site is free to enter and really well laid out.  You descend down the side of the rock, with modern, but mellow buildings to protect and enclose it.  You can see the grotto, which has the Archangel’s footprint in stone, but it has a statue over the top of it.  Apparently some of the graffiti date back to C17 and people used to carve their own footprints.


 Entrance to the Santuario di San Michele



In wandering the town we picked up various brown tourist route signs, so saw a number more churches, the old town with narrow alleyways and the castle.  We had planned to lunch on a small snack and coffee … four bars later with no snacks, we opted for a restaurant!  A set menu for EUR16 each … a pasta starter, a main with a choice of side dish, fruit, water and wine … we’re in!  I’ve mentioned before different food choices … K pasta with mussels, J pasta with ragu sauce.  K sea bass (actually over cooked / mine last night was much better, even if I say so myself!) and grilled veggies, J mixed cheeses and CHIPS!  I did help with thes, is the Pope Catholic?  We even asked for a second carafe of red, passed on the fruit as too full and the bill came to EUR30!  No receipt, so it was a good deal all round.


Behind me was the facade of the Chiesa di San Pietro, which is all that remained of the church after a C19 earth quake. To the right is the C12 Baptistry for total immersion.  The Church ahead, Chiesa Santa Maria, had some medieval frescos.


We were pretty high up and above a cloud line … lots of concrete chimney pots.


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Question about bottles around planters and here a lamp post answered by europeanomad.wordpress.com … to stop dogs piddling!

299 – Saturday 13th February 2016:  A meal to remember!

Following the coast – very slowly – lots of bendy bits, Vieste was our interim destination – several unsuitable parking sites later, we decided not to bother the inhabitants and settled for a lunch in the van on the seafront. Next – Peschici area for our overnight – K had identified a ‘motorhome parking’ at a restaurant called ‘Pane e Vino’ – seemed a relatively clear and unambiguous title…pity it didn’t mention the ‘cane’! More of that later….  Our synchronised Gorgeous Potty Sailors (GPS? How many nanachrychosms can I find for our doughty pair?), didn’t fall out with each other en route – and in short order, the less than imposing entrance appeared. We rumbled in along an uneven track – and parked short of a dodgy looking and very narrow concrete bridge – that didn’t look as if it would pass the BS EN 5400 test! No weight limit advice – we are 3.5+ tonnes….but we knew other vans had been there. I went to seek out the Patrone and check the infrastructure. The restaurant was almost deserted and the boss was busy finishing off a dish for customers. I waited – and waited – he gave me several reassuring signs….. Finally, he and I conversed in our fluent Italian – me – “camper parceggio uno notte?”  He – “So – you’re the little fecker from Dublin then?” No, much as this would have been appropriate, he was more restrained – “Si Signore, ma uno problema – non luce”.  I explained that I didn’t know any Lucys – and then with my brilliant Italian deciphering, decided that an absence of ‘lights’ in the parking area would not obstruct our nocturnal activities, whatever they might be….. (K did explain later that ‘luce’ was electricity and we could produce our own – Whoops!).  I was then shown around the facilities by the owner’s son – who is not called Lucy!  We could park anywhere in a large area with olive trees – a bit muddy – water available – and – a bonus!  Especially for those folk who like a good scrubbing    – a hot water douche!  We haven’t had a good scrubbing or douche – for (in K’s case days – I had one in 2015, I think).   Digression here just to awaken the reader – I once worked with a Chartered Accountant (years ago before the Flood) in a rural area – he proudly informed me that he had a bath every three weeks on a Saturday – with his wife – whether he needed one or not!  I must immediately state that this is not typical of the Chartered Accountancy profession – Clare!   

Anyway, we parked – at about 3:00 pm and settled…. No, we didn’t settle ! K decided that this would be a good day to do spring cleaning!  When I was employed – in my pre-Chardonnay life, I was given a day off on Saturdays… We exchanged  some views on the subject – and agreed (?) that cleaning was good for the soul… When Stephen Jater texted later that Ireland had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Paris – I was pleased to have been spitting and polishing!   With Chardonnay gleaming from every pore (there must be an anagram here – “pelmaingrope – an after dark adult activity”?)  Maybe not for the Irish Times crossword…  

We napped – having decided to eat in the restaurant later.  K scrubbed up well and I found a shirt !  Well, it was pre-Valentines Day….  The restaurant was buzzing – we had assistance in menu translation from a staff member who’s German was on a par with K’s Italian. 

Ante Pasti – K to describe………. Primo et secundo……..

K here:  So many small dishes … a pukka Italian culinary journey through virtually every vegetable known to man …aubergine parmigiana, artichoke, spinach, cauliflower etc and I think our favourite was cabbage with beans, who’d have thought!  Wafer thin slivers of carrot, courgette and cucumber done agro dolche (sweet and sour).  Dishes just kept coming!  The the hams and cheese course…. we were completely ge-stuffed by now, but a platter of cooked meats arrived … all beautifully tender and previously marinated.  A joy to finally have some lamb, as it seems to elude us in restaurants and in the butchers.  We took out a doggy bag which made supper tonight.  Three small cakes each arrived …. all homemade and then coffee with liqueurs …  Wow.  I reckon this was by far the best and most interesting Italian mean we’ve had.

Limoncello and another house liqueur – did we have coffee ? My memory eludes me at this point – I vaguely remember dancing with Lucy – sorry, Katherine – to my best 1960s style…  All this (and a little extra wine) – for Euro 48…. Actually, the dancing was free…

We had earlier counted 5 cane (dogs) around the restaurant – not wild, we thought. Well, one (or two) of them had stolen my Crocs – and K gave chase – they should have surrendered on the spot!  K 1 – dogs nil.  K:  Works with children too … distraction technique!

Overnight, they got their own back – and nicked K’s running leggings from where I hung them to dry on the back of the van ! Dogs 1 – K- 1!   Lesson – don’t underestimate a Pesticchidog – no more anagrams please…



300 – Sunday 14th February 2016:

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Sun rise …. yep, we were briefly up in time for it!

We rose – still full from an epic meal – K ran and Pilate’d – I meditated….. Arrivederci to our hosts – and on to take a better look at the town of Peschici – mega steps to be climbed – amazing views out to aqamarine seas and islands – beautiful alleyways and narrow streets – and the entire town out walking and having coffee at lunchtime on a Sunday – this is Italy !  Coffee for us – and people watching… – back to our casamobile….


Peschici – looking down to the harbour … a really warm day despite the clouds.



Would that be more steps … up!


People watching.  A lot of Aperol was being consumed. They all cleared off by 1.30 p.m. for lunch.


No computer enhancements … check out the colours of that sea.


You can just make out one of the ancient fishing stations.


A few times we’ve spotted the odd love padlock; they’ve taken off a bit more here.

K:  The scenery along this part of the coast deserves mention …. The road pretty much hugs the coast and the non-driver is rewarded with crystal clear water, rocky bays with sandy beaches.  A number of grottos and a super stone arch out to sea.  Ancient wooden fishing structures cling to the cliffs.  Really worth a detour to do the coast of the Gargano Peninsula.  Others must think so too, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a continuous string of campsites and holiday villages (all shut in Feb) particularly around Vieste – it must be a summer HELL!  We wondered where all the guests come from to occupy these accommodations … we know the Italians love sun bathing, but there is so much Italian coast dedicated to sunbathing, it must attract most of the rest of Europe too.

SPG (I’ll find an acronym somewhere) set for Troia – a few hours driving – and our destination – a free parking – with luce!  The reader who stayed awake for the last episode will know what luce does…..












187-189: In Search of Saints

 187 – Saturday 24th October 2015:  Saint Francis of Assisi

by Katherine 

The Aree di Sosta for EUR5 had full services, so we stuck the hot water for a shower later on, and went to look at the dog show we had spotted on our morning run.  Working dogs, but not hunting dogs.  They had to sniff out truffles for their owners.  We watched the Junior section and fell in love with the Springer … K has had 3 of these … and this one was particularly cute:  only 4 months but he not only sniffed out, but dug up and presented the smelly canisters to his owner!  Best in Show!


From the dog show looking back at Gubbio


What’s not to love?  James, couldn’t we… ?

Fully serviced, us included (showered that is!), we drove the short way to Assisi.  We had a Parking in the Tourist Bus parking at the town at the bottom of the hill on which Assisi is perched … EUR18!!!  But it did have proper toilets and water etc.  A short walk and a bus up to Assisi.  It is similar to Gubbio in that there are lots of narrow streets, steps etc …. but being a Pilgrimage site, LOTS of shops selling religious kitsch and crowded.  It is impressive and obviously means a lot to a lot of people.

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Basilica of St Francis is comprised of an Upper and Lower Church and the crypt with St Francis’ tomb.  Some amazing frescos and relicts from Saints Francis and Clare.



Cathedral: contains the font both St Francis and St Clare were baptised in


The Font


We heard drumming and horns and managed to catch a glimpse of a procession. We caught up with them again outside St Clare Church. As well as swirling and catching their flags they jumped over each other and then lay down to increase the distance the next combatant had to leap … then the drummed, blew their horns and marched off. Lovely.

We've seen a number of these and they are very iconic.

We’ve seen a number of these and they are very iconic.




188 – Sunday 25th October 2015:  Driving day

James took over from here

We left our Assisi Parking at about midday, after a run and laundry, and headed south for a longish drive to St Giovanni Rotondo. (J here, by the way…)  My family will remember Padre Pio – a monk of this town – he had the ‘Stigmata’ (signs of Christ’s Crucifixion on his hands and feet). Difficult for folk to believe – but he was canonised a Saint in 2002 – he died in the 1960’s. Deborah’s late Aunt Aideen, who passed away last year, she had a lifelong devotion to Padre Pio and visited St Giovanni every year – a wonderful lively lady…

Stopped to buy wonderful farm produce en route as you can see…

Lots of the 'older' farmers parked up with their tractors selling potatoes, onions and garlic. Most of the fields are now ploughed over and some are being planted with next year's crops.

Lots of the ‘older’ farmers parked up with their tractors selling potatoes, onions and garlic. Most of the fields are now ploughed over and some are being planted with next year’s crops.

Total travel time door to door – 8 hours!  Big Brad, our new Sat Nav persona, decide to completely ignore the change from Daylight savings in the UK and  confused his passengers – late on our journey, he added an hour – just for fun ! Our first time on this trip driving in complete darkness on strange roads. Thankfully, the country roads here are actually excellent.  The area sees 8 million pilgrims each year – the second most popular pilgrim site in Italy.  Anyway, Brad (shall his surname be Pitt or Brosnan ?) – woke up and delivered us unerringly to a lovely Parking – at 8:00 pm – just in time for a beer….. James – beer?  Back to adolescence in Walters bar, Dun Laoghaire….


189 – Monday 26th October 2015 – Padre Pio of San Giovanni Rotondo

Completely refreshed, our Italian Parking hostess taxied us to the centre of St Giovanni – only Euro 6 return – we conversed in a mixture of J’s improving Italian – K’s Francais and Deutsch – a truly trilingual menage…

The main church is naturally all about Padre Pio (the whole town is actually) and J attended part of a Mass and saw Padre Pio’s preserved body on a slab behind the main altar – very emotionally moved because of Aideen…such a nice lady.

We visited all the main ecclesiastical sites and then wandered in search of a bus to the nearby coast, which we failed to achieve.  Onto Plan B.


Now those who know us may deduce that we occasionally have a meal out!  We turned a corner ‘a destra’ – and found a small restaurant which we initially thought was ‘chiusio’ – once again our reader is reeling with astonishment at my command of Italiano…   The photos below don’t fully do justice our repast – a shared starter, two large main courses, a bottle of guess what? – vino collapse rossso/blanco – total cost £36 including tip!!!

Taxied back to our bivouac – gentle zzzs for moi – now blogging and relaxing… Bella Italia et la Dolce Vita !!!



K’s postscript:  I do wonder how these saints who practiced and preached abstinence and a simple life would have felt about the massive churches built in their names and the whole industry that has evolved.