Welcome to Italy

Cabin 23AAA was as upmarket as it gets on the good ship Aurelia.  We have a bed each, an ensuite, a three-course dinner and breakfast. The challenge was to find it. We dragged our luggage up and down escalators, lifts and stairs along corridors ending in storage closets and through lounges and bars. We became quite familiar with our surrounds. Of course, we eventually found our lodgings and made ourselves comfortable.

Dinner was at seven and involved an al a carte three course meal with a half bottle of wine each. The Ukrainian staff were attentive and efficient. We ordered steak. Big mistake. It must have been 500g. It covered the plate and it was as tough as boot leather. At least all other courses were delicious.

It would be an early start, so we returned to our cabin. It was freezing!!! The paper-thin blanket did nothing to keep out the cold. Both of us scrambled through our bags and put on more clothes – John, his fleece and me, long pants, a T-shirt, jumper, an anorak with a hood and a scarf. I feel the cold!

Not all travel decisions we make are good ones.

The crossing from Split to Ancona was smooth sailing but we didn’t sleep well and when we arrived at the port we were confused and disoriented. Nothing made sense. Luckily there were a few foot passengers to follow so, like sheep, we headed to what was customs and passport control. Next challenge was to find a bus or the railway station to take us to the airport to pick up the car.

A taxi driver spotted us and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse….welcome to Italy!!! We sped off to the airport. When I say sped…I mean SPED.!!! We were both weary but just minutes into our rollercoaster ride we were wide-awake. I was calculating how many airbags the Mercedes Benz has. John was sitting bolt upright. We were both choked with fear. It was early. There was no traffic.  Apparently, we clocked 175km/h at one stage. Lucky we never got to the Autostrada!!!!

Ummm driving in Italy is going to be fun! The plan was to drive from Ancona to Roca Vecchia – Google said six and a half hours. We were tired. We took out every bit of insurance that we could as well as paying for an extra driver, my amazing internet deal was instantly doubled or was it trebled? I don’t know. Sometimes money is not the issue. Oh yes and one more thing….if an incident occurs in Puglia, you will still pay the first €500 -didn’t find this out until we read the fine print a few hours later. Ahh Italy!

We headed out of the airport. John was navigating. The signage was good. We headed straight for Pesaro. Suddenly he was agitated. ‘No! no! It’s Pescara! We’re going north!!! We have to turn around!’ Right. Exactly where should I do that? I saw a servo. I screamed in and turned across double lines and those other funny criss-crossy lines in the centre of the road. What the hell. There was no traffic. I could feel Italian blood coursing through my veins, or was that just adrenaline?

The autostrada extends as far as Bari and we made good time. It gave us a few hours to study the driving habits of the natives. There seemed to be a few rules-

  1. Never indicate……ever
  2. Lane markings are just a suggestion (I had already demonstrated capacity there.)
  3. When entering from a slip road, never look…someone might be coming.

The further south we got the more adventurous the rules. At one point we saw two cars passing simultaneously each from different directions, ie four cars on a two-way road. Luckily the speed limit was often 50km/h- well that is what the sign said. Nobody, not even me eventually, took any notice.

Oh and at one point we saw a sign saying there were speed cameras ahead. There was. We could see the little green boxes. Someone had climbed the ladder and faced one towards a paddock and the other towards the urban sprawl. Ohh Italy!!!!

Roca Vecchia…we arrived right on 5pm. It had taken us eight hours. We had made three pit stops. One for fuel, another for a sandwich which we ate in the car and another to change drivers. Google lies!!!!

Val was waiting for us with a wonderful spread and a delicious, cold bottle of Salento Rosato. This was more like it.

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