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We spent Sunday and Monday nights, May 22 and 23, at Mareblu Camping in Fano. Tuesday morning we woke, tidied up the camper and headed out the gate about 10:00 a.m. Our intended destination was Isernia in south central Italy. The trip was mostly south before turning west into central Italy. We were driving on the A14. A is for Autostrada, the Italian version of the Interstate highways in the US except that they are toll roads. They are the only high-speed highways in Italy though you wouldn't know it the way some Italians drive. We stopped to fill up with diesel fuel so we wouldn't have to worry about finding a station along the way. The total distance was about 250 miles, 200 on the Autostrada and 50 a smaller mostly 2 lane road into the mountains. We never drove into the mountains, they made great scenery but the route we took kept us in the valleys. One of the most interesting things about Italian roads is the extraordinary number of tunnels. They have tunnels on the Autostrada, on major highways and even on small roads. There are just so many extreme hills and valleys that it makes tunneling the only option. We didn't count but I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't fifty tunnels in the last two days driving. On the Autostrada they had three lanes for the first 100 miles as we got further south the number of lanes dropped back to 2. There was frequent road work including some tunnels that were under repair so all of three lanes of traffic would squeeze into one lane. The roads are generally in good shape though we have encountered small patches on rural roads where the speed is reduced to 20 km/hr (12 MPH) for rough roads. Our goal for Wednesday was to get to Isernia and contact members of the Lombardi family. Louise’s younger sister married Louis Lombardi. He was born in Italy and brought to the US by his mother, Ida. Louie's father had been in the US for a while and had established a home for the rest of the family. The family home in Italy was near a small village just north of Isernia. Unfortunately, the phone and internet access failed us and we were unable to make contact with relatives in Isernia. We attempted to find a campground and there were none to be found anywhere near Isernia. We ended up spending the night in a parking area near an old, abandoned building. There were some local groups hanging out there, loud music, noisy motorcycles, etc. That quieted down about 11:00 but I wouldn't know. I fell asleep noise and all. The next morning we spotted a dump station on one end of the lot. Our camper is very much like our motor home. Both are happiest if they are plugged into a power source. Our motor home has enough battery power to get us by and of course we have a generator. The camper has one battery to start the engine and one battery to run everything else. In addition, there are some things that will not operate without an electrical hookup. Not plugged in, we have no way to charge our computers. We can charge our phones and i-pads from a USB outlet when the engine is running. There are other USB outlets that won't work unless we are plugged in. By Thursday morning, everything needed charging. With no family contact to guide us we set out with directions that Louise’s sister had provided. We left Isernia headed for Caravilli. We have seen any number of small communities draped across the tops of hills. They make quite a picturesque sight. Caravilli is one of them. Up the hill, around the curve and up the next hill. The view from the village is spectacular. We missed the turn and had to turn around and go back down a way before we took the next road on our quest to the town of Villa San Michelle. Another spectacular drive and we came to Villa San Michelle. People were parked along-side the road on what looked like sidewalks. We made like the natives and parked the van on the sidewalk. We explored the town from bottom to top. Along the way Louise struck up conversations with people who spoke no English. No matter she got her point across to most. One touching encounter happened when we talked with three women. One was able to work with Louise and develop an understanding. There was one very old woman who seemed to make a connection talking about Louie's parents. We had Ida's picture on the memorial card from her funeral. When we mentioned her name and Nickolo, Louie's father, she lit up. Then mentioning Ida's sons, Luigi (aka Louie) and Dominic seemed to really make a connection for her. We had a wonderful time and really enjoyed the experience of a small Italian village. Then it was off to the West Coast, Naples and Salerno. That was about a two-hour trip from Caravilli. We wandered along small roads for a while and then got on the A1 Autostrada. A look at the possible locations of campgrounds set us on our way to Camping Salerno which is where I write from now. Coming through the gate, the asked if we wanted a shaded site or seaside. We jumped at the seaside location. We were guided to our spot at the southeast end of a long line of RV's along the wall overlooking the beach and surf. I'm certain I'll sleep well tonight with the sound of the sea. From this base, we will stay here a week, we plan to explore Naples, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and Capri Island and probably more... It took two tries to get our electric hooked up. The power box is located too far away for our cord, so the park brought an extension. Nothing worked so they brought another, plugged it in and viola! It worked and we once again are powered up. Louise has had her first swim in the Mediterranean and a shower. I need to do the same and then we are planning to have dinner in the restaurant here at Camping Salerno. We left Texas and the US on Wednesday and arrived here on Thursday so this marks day number 8 of our great Italian adventure.
It is Saturday afternoon, May 21, 2022. We are in Chioggia, Italy. It is a beach town south of Venice. How we got here is a long story. I'll begin with our flight from the US. Our flight from McAllen was an early one, we left Sandpipiers Resort at 5:30 a.m. for a 30 minute drive to the airport. Check in was a mess. There was a line until things got stopped up, only two agents and both had customers with problems. Skipping details, they held the plane for Louise and I and one other customer. We got to Houston in time to get to our gate for our next flight to Newark, NJ. The airport at Newark is bizarre. We hadn't had breakfast or much more than a snack and were looking forward to food. Apparently they have an airport wide system for food service. Every restaurant or bar had an electronic menu. You scanned a square code for the menu but it wouldn't work well with our phones. They advised us to switch to Google for our browser. We didn't and managed finally to get help so we could get a couple slices of pizza. We boarded our plane, a Boeing 767-400 wide body at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Once in the air, sunset progressed very quickly and after an inflight "meal" everyone settled down for the night. They woke us at about 2:00 a.m., fed us breakfast and landed in Venice at 9:00 a.m. Venice time (all of Italy is the same time). We were processed through Italian customs in a mass of several hundred passengers from our flight and another tour group. They hustled us through as fast as they could. The Venice airport is a really small airport, one runway and one taxiway. There were two planes at gates. We had reserved a room at the Antony Palace Hotel just west of the airport. A short taxi ride and we were at our hotel about10:00 a.m. The room wasn't ready so we waited in the lobby until about 11. Once in our room, we showered and hit the sack. After about 6 hours of sleep, we got up, went to the lobby bar and had a light meal, a plate of assorted prescutto meats with mozzarella cheese balls and a glass of wine (or two). Now it was about 9:00 p.m. Venice time. We went back to the room and back to sleep. Up the next morning about 9:00, showered again and checked out of the hotel. From the hotel we took a taxi to the Indie Camper rental agency, a completely industrial facility. There was no waiting room, they stacked our gear and took us to nearby mall. We explored the mall, got food and drink and found a large well stocked grocery store. We filled a basket with food and supplies and exited the mall just in time to be picked up, our camper was ready. They helped us get our gear into the camper, a quick orientation and they were closed. We spent about a half hour getting things organized before we hit the road. I had the Italy chip for our Garmin GPS we use in the car so the GPS is familiar. We had identified a campground south of Venice but not too far away as our first stop. The camper had a 1/4 tank of diesel and 1/4 tank of DEF which is the added to the exhaust of diesel engines to clean up the exhaust. First stop was a gas station to fill up. Surprise number one, their gas pumps, completely self service, take credit cards but require a four digit PIN. I haven't seen a PIN needed for a credit card in I don't know how many years and had to look up the PIN in my computer. It was three digits and was not accepted. I figured we would find another station and try again. As we pulled out of the station, the engine which had been running normally now was speed restricted to 35 kilometers per hour. Pretty slow for a major thoroughfare. I was driving on the shoulder with flashers and finally when I couldn't get better performance from the engine decided to call for road service. There was a call box and I pulled up and stopped. Talking to someone on the other end who is struggling with his English as I am with Italian, we finally decided to call for a tow truck. It arrived shortly and the camper was loaded onto the back of a slant bed tow truck. It turns out that the 1/4 tank of DEF and Diesel were much less than that. We had gone about 10 kilometers when the tow truck picked us up. He added DEF at their service center, it didn't help. It wasn't until we left and found another fuel station that the problem was solved. So the Fiat diesel engine derates itself for DEF and/or diesel. We stayed on the slower roads and pulled aside for following traffic when possible. Using cash, I put in enough diesel to get it to 3/4 full. Now things were running fine. It was getting late, the sun was setting so we set out for the campground. An hour and a half later we were there. I missed two or three turns which the GPS corrected each time. I'm not sure how much that added to our travels. In at least one case it simply turned us around and put us back on the same road and I got the correct exit that time. We arrived in Chioggia about 10:00 p.m. The town is on the coast, marinas and beaches everywhere. The bars and restaurants were going full swing. There were people walking everywhere. We also had to contend with 100's of bicycles and heavy traffic on narrow roads. Louise was not happy. No matter how many times we tried we could not find the campground. Tom was not happy. We finally drove by a campground, not the intended one, and pulled in, it was now after 11:00 p.m. They had one space. We took it and are staying 2 nights. We explored the campground, found the restrooms and showers. Facilities at this campground were unisex, everything except sinks were in enclosed spaces. Showers are pay showers and require Euro coins. We had none. No showers. The toilets didn't have toilet paper so it was back to the camper. Fortunately we had purchased toilet paper at the above mentioned mall stop. All was good. It took us a while to get the bed made and enough of our gear stowed that we could get to sleep. We opened all the vents, covered the windshield and climbed into bed. After a good night's sleep, the day looked better. We got more groceries, stopped for a snack and drinks on the way back from the Aldi food store and are now relaxing for the afternoon. The beaches are all controlled entry and have huge full parking lots. We haven't been to the beach yet but may try that a little later as some of the beach goers head off to the restaurants and bars mentioned above. Louise is sleeping soundly as I write this. It takes some time to adjust to the overnight flight and a seven hour change in time. We are adjusting. I am pleased that the driving isn't as bad as I had feared. Despite difficulties we were able to get around without accident or incident. We went through some pretty hairy stuff dealing with crowds, narrow roads and oh yes, did I mention that I'm relearning the standard shift of my childhood. There have been a few missed gears but, hey, it's a rental! So that is installment number one of the great Italian adventure. Four days and counting...