My road trip through Northern England and Scotland aka My British Summer is finished but there is still another road trip with a few stops left. Let´s go two years back to Southern Italy and “my big fat Italian road trip” from Puglia to Basilicata, Calabria and Campania.
I remember starting writing this post the evening before driving to Napoli and being a little nervous about driving in Napoli, even when it was just to return the car. Little did I know back then how driving in Southern Italy would prepare me to drive those single-track roads in Scotland often just a path.
Ok, you´re ready? Let´s hop back two years…..
Tomorrow I will be back in Napoli and say goodbye to my little travel-companion, Adam. Last year I did all my travels around Italy by train – it´s (way) cheaper than renting a car and easily planned on the Trenitalia website. But especially in the south, there are a lot of places without any trains and just some buses and when you really want to be flexible, renting a car is another option.
Renting a Car
I rented my little Opel Adam via ÖAMTC (ADAC) and choose the more expensive option of having insurance without any retention. Take a small car, Italian roads can be very narrow and it also needs less gas. Gas is the second big expense after the rent, but I actually had budgeted more, Adam seemed to be quite frugal in his needs.
Then there are tolls when you use the highway (autostrada) – I didn´t do that very often as I had time and enjoy driving through the countryside. And here´s the thing: Italians do seem to have all the time in the world except when they are behind a wheel! That´s the time when all of them turn into racecar-drivers. If you respect the speed limit you´ll gonna be overtaken all the time. But still driving here was way more relaxed than I had imagined. There wasn´t much traffic and they just pass by.
You almost always have to pay for parking. Funny enough bigger and guarded parking places were less expensive and often offered dayrates.
Roundabouts – they are EVERYWHERE – even when it makes no sense at all – AT ALL! I think there were even more roundabouts than in Ireland and they already seemed obsessed with them. (Edit: The Brits also LOVE their roundabouts!)
Opening Times & Information
Some parts of Puglia and Basilicata are only just on the verge to get a lot of tourism and how to handle it, there are some exceptions like Lecce or Alberobello but quite a lot of the places haven´t come out of hibernation just yet. Which I like and find very charming, but sometimes it´s really hard to get any information. (This might have changed a little bit by now, Matera is the current European Cultural Capital.)
And the season is over at this time of the year, many places have already or are in the middle of closing up. Then there is still the “lunch break” from one to five – I forgot about that on a daily basis. At least it was always possible to get some caffé somewhere.
The Amalfi Coast
Meanwhile, some days have passed and as I was without internet when I had planned to finish this post, I decided to add a little bit more…
Agropoli gave me the first idea of a little bit more traffic, but then there was the first really big town: Salerno – hello “stop & go” and hello Amalfi coast.
The start was kind of easy, I was used to narrowing winding streets, traffic was ok and the first towns were small and cosy. But then I got the “Oh my gosh where are all these people coming from?”-shock. After two weeks of barely any tourists, I was overwhelmed – by the people, the traffic and it´s no fun at all to be sandwiched between a bus and the rocks. I tried to visit Positano but kind of had to flee after 20 minutes. Parking on that day probably cost me more than the two weeks combined, the prices for everything are way higher at the Amalfi coast!
After that exhausting first day I decided to save up and explore the coast by boat next time (just renting a boat for two or three days and explore all the beautiful beaches one even don´t see from above) and just drive all the way through to by hotel near Pompei and visit Pompei instead. There were a lot of other people too, but it was easy to find some calm streets and areas.
Getting around Napoli
And the area around my hotel and Pompei gave me the first idea about driving in and around Naples – it´s kind of crazy! When I got my car I felt a little bit anxious about driving there, but back then there were only three or four turns and I was on the highway to Caserta in minutes. No problem there!
Now it was kind of a different story and I got to understand all the roundabouts. If you reach a crossing more or less everyone is driving in at the same time, no rules about right before left – just drive in confidently (like when crossing a street here) – and believe that it will kind of work out. And don´t mind all the scooters coming from every angle. I was happy to return my little Adam with no new scratches on it the next day and a little proud I´ve found the garage almost at once (ok the navy did – but I wasn´t that certain about it).
Finally to the hardest of them all: public transport in Naples!
I fear it will take me many more trips and visits her to just get a glimpse of understanding it! My apartment is quite in the middle of the city and a lot of places are luckily just a little walk away. So far I only had to use the Metro 1 from the Central Station to Via Toledo and the Funicular when I was too lazy to walk up the steps – and the one nearby isn´t even working at the moment.
I wanted to go to Baia for a glass boat-tour at the “Parco Archeologico Sommerso di Baia” – the sunken city of Sommersa. I found some tips about how to get there online but then I got on the wrong train because there are no signs anywhere, at one time we all had to leave the train and change into another one, I went all the way back and tried it again only to hear that the tour won´t be happening because the sea was too turbulent. Then I wanted to take a bus to the Campi Flegrei, found the right spot but there was no bus coming. Nobody knew why – this just happens…
But still, I miss Naples and would love to go back soon! And visit all the stuff from my list. that´s still missing!